The Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton is involved in building the hardware and software for a number of astronomical instruments: LSSTHSCPFS, CHARISHATPI, and TESS; we also expect to be involved in both the imaging and coronographic channels of WFIRST. Starting with its work on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Princeton astrophysics has developed one of the strongest astronomical software groups in the world, and is currently playing major roles in several large survey projects.

The National Science Foundation's LSST project is building an 8.4-m telescope at Cerro Pachon in Chile with a 3.2-Gigapixel camera, which can image the entire accessible sky every 3 nights. Over the course of its 10-year survey, it will image 18,000 deg of high-latitude sky to r~27.5 mag, discovering hundreds of thousands of asteroids, mapping the structure of the Milky Way, and measuring the distribution of dark matter. Michael Strauss and Robert Lupton spend a lot of their time working on LSST: Michael is the chair of the LSST Science Advisory Committee and Robert is the lead for pipelines and algorithms within the data management group; both are members of the LSST's Project Science Team. Astronomical Software Specialist Jim Bosch is the lead for LSST's "yearly" processing, working with about 10 other astronomical software scientists in Peyton Hall to construct the pipelines that will produce calibrated photometric and shape catalogues.

The Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) is an 800 Mpixel camera with a 1.8 deg^2 field of view installed on the 8.2m Subaru telescope in Hawai'i.  Princeton is playing a major role in the HSC pipelines, using a prototype of the LSST codes. In January 2016 we delivered a catalog with 2.57e8 objects covering 100 deg^2 in five filters (g, r, i, z, y); the seeing is spectacular, with a significant fraction having FWHM in the range 0.4-0.6 arcseconds.

The Prime Focus Spectrograph (PFS) is a unique instrument, also being built for Subaru. No other project combines the number of simultaneous targets (2394), spectral range (380-1260 nm spread over 12,000 pixels), mirror diameter (8.2m), and seeing (median c. 0.7 arcseconds). Princeton is deeply involved in the cameras, spectrographs, and science design of the project, and is responsible for the software that will produce calibrated 1-dimensional spectra.

Following the very successful exoplanet and disk imaging program SEEDS, the University of Tokyo and Princeton are building the Coronagraphic High Angular Resolution Imaging Spectrograph CHARIS as part of the second-generation exoplanet instrument suite on the Subaru telescope. CHARIS uses an integral-field spectrograph imaging a 2 x 2 arcsecond field of view across the JHK spectral region at spectral resolutions of 20 and 70, an angular resolution and inner working angle of 80 mas and a contrast of 10^6 to image and characterize giant exoplanets on solar-system scales. The hardware, data acquisition software and data reduction software are being built at Princeton by a joint group from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Department of Astrophysical Sciences headed by Jeremy Kasdin and Tyler Groff, and is expected to be commissioned on the telescope in Summer 2016.

Please consult the research page on planetary astrophysics to learn more about our efforts in instrumentation to facilitate current and future surveys of extrasolar planets.

Department faculty members with major research interests in instrumentation:

Gaspar Bakos

Peter Melchior