The Niels Bohr Institute has a long legacy of developing and building telescopes, instrumentation and detector systems.
The Instrument Development group is currently working on the SONG project - a new network of small advanced telescopes that will be placed strategically around the world.
Early developments were the construction of telesopes and four/six color photometers at the Brorfelde Observatory, for observatories around the world. Notably, the worlds first fully digitally controlled telescope, the Danish 50cm telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory, was constructed at the institute. This telescope later became the worlds first robotic telescope.
The expertise is continously developed and enhanced within a team of astronomers, engineers and technical staff, by taking on new and exciting instrument projects aimed at exploring the universe. Among other things, The group is currently deeply engaged in establishing a world-wide network of telescopes that will look for planets around other stars.
Research in astronomy depends heavily on new and better instruments. These new instruments cannot be developed without the astronomers, as only they understand the scientific requirements of an instrument. Astronomy is by nature an opportunistic dicipline and one key task of astronomers is to discover and help utilize the new 'opportunity space' that emerge with new technology developments. New and important scientific developments are often a result of the conquest of new opportunity space. Scouting new opportunity space is therefore also a key task for astronomers.
X-shooter and the SONG project
One example of a result of scouting new opportunity space is the X-shooter spectrograph at the ESO VLT Observatory. X-shooter is able to, nearly optimally, record the full spectrum from ultraviolet to infrared light in a single exposure of a single object. This is the optimum way of recording the light from a single interesting source, and in the case of a quickly changing phenomena like gamma-ray bursts, it is an essential feature.
The instrumentation staff at the Niels Bohr Institute have today expertise within mechanics, optics, electronics, detector systems and software and is therefore able to complete instrument projects within the group.
The group is currently working on the SONG project - a new network of small advanced telescopes that will be placed strategically around the world. These telescopes will have two instruments, both developed and build at the Niels Bohr Institute in cooperation with Institute for Physics and Astronomy at Aarhus University. One instrument uses advanced electronics and optics to split up and analyse the light from stars to measure how their properties. The other instrument uses cutting edge camera technology to search for Earth-like planets around other stars. The first telescope is expected to be ready and operational in 2012.