Illinois Facilities

The Department of Astronomy research leverages facilities for which we have institutional access.

Dark Energy Survey: DES is a 5000 deg2 optical imaging survey of the southern sky, conducted with the Blanco 4m telescope at CTIO, aimed at probing dark energy via weak lensing, galaxy cluster counts, baryon acoustic oscillations, and Type Ia supernovae. DES Data Management is operated from NCSA. Faculty contact: Paul Ricker

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope: The LSST will conduct a 10-year, high-cadence survey of the sky using a dedicated 8.4m telescope and state-of-the-art 3.2-gigapixel camera. The LSST data will be processed and archived at NCSA. First light is expected in 2019 with full science operations beginning in 2021. Faculty contact: Athol Kemball

South Pole Telescope: Located at the geographic south pole, the 10-m SPT is the largest telescope dedicated to studies of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the oldest light in the Universe.  Faculty contact: Joaquin Vieira 

Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory: LIGO, the largest and most ambitious project ever funded by the NSF, has now brought us into the exciting new era of gravitational wave astronomy. Astronomers at Illinois are working on advanced computational techniques to detect gravitational wave signals and quickly identify their electromagnetic counterparts. Faculty contact: Gabrielle Allen

Blue Waters Supercomputer: Blue Waters is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, and is one of the fastest supercomputer on a university campus. Astronomers across the country use Blue Waters to tackle a wide range of challenging astrophysical problems, from reducing astronomical survey data to simulating the evolution of the cosmos. Faculty contact: Athol Kemball


Faculty Facilities

In addition, many faculty member have access to specific facilities for projects.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey: The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is a dedicated imaging and multi-object spectroscopic survey in the optical and near-IR. Started around 2000, SDSS has conducted four generations of surveys that have enabled statistical studies of stars, galaxies and supermassive black holes (SMBHs). Starting from ~2020, the SDSS-V survey will perform all-sky, optical and near-IR, multi-epoch spectroscopy for Milky Way stars and distant SMBHs, as well as integral field spectroscopy of the Milky Way and nearby galaxies. Faculty contact: Yue Shen

Prime Focus Spectrometer: The PFS on the Subaru telescope will investigate the distribution of dark matter by measuring the kinematics of one million stars, perform a cosmological survey over 1400 square degrees measuring  the distribution of galaxies within that volume to measure the Hubble rate of the universe and density of the dark energy, and observe a million galaxies over the sky to create a census of early galaxies up to the epoch of star and galaxy formation. Faculty contact: Xin Liu

SOFIA (FIFI-LS/HAWC+): SOFIA is a NASA mission to observe far-infrared light fro the stratosphere using 2.5 meter telescope mounted in a Boeing 747 airplane.   Currently this is the only access to the far-infrared spectrum.   With the ability to switch instruments, SOFIA is a powerful tool to probe star formation and distant galaxies.  Illinois faculty are currently co-I on two instruments.  Faculty Conact:  Leslie Looney

Community Facilities

Illinois researchers are also very successful in acquiring time on public telescopes and computing resources, especially the following observatories and compute services.

ALMA: The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international collaboration (United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile) to build and operate the largest and most powerful radio telescope interferometer in the world.   Consisting of sixty-six 12-meter (39 ft) and 7-meter (23 ft) diameter dishes, the telescope provides a high resolution and sensitivity window in the 9.6 to 0.3 mm wavelength  (31 to 1000 GHz freequency) astronomical window to address all astronomical topics.  

HST: The Hubble Space Telescope (2.4 meter) has been a workhorse of astronomy for decades.

JWST: The Hubble's successor telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope (6.5 meter) will work in the optical, IR, and mid-IR (0.6 to 27 microns), which means it requires cooled instruments that has a nominal mission length of 5 years with a goal of 10 years.

VLA: The Very Large Array is a radio interferometer with  twenty-seven 25-meter radio telescopes operating in the 400 to 0.7 cm wavelength range or (74 MHz to 50 GHz).

XSEDE: The Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) is a powerful integration of digital resource— like supercomputers, visualization and storage systems, collections of data, software, networks, and expert support, which is led by NCSA on campus.