#SPIEastro: The mega telescope & instrumentation international conference

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The SPIEastro logo

Time for another blogpost started on the plane. This time on my way from Manchester to Montreal, Canada, for the Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation biennial conference organised by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics.

This meeting is the biggest of its kind and brings together thousands of engineers and scientists who work on making instrumentation for some of the world’s largest telescopes. All the major observatories and companies that provide them are represented. I’ve already met a lot of ex-colleagues from ESO who are here to take part in discussions on instrumentation for the VLT in particular. People from NASA, ESA, but also NAOJ, NRAO, the big Hawaiian telescopes, and major observatories in Chile and elsewhere are all here. It is the Mecca of big telescopes.

My badge for the conference!

My badge for the conference!

Talks discuss the latest cutting-edge technology in telescope design and instrumentation and how this can help achieve groundbreaking observations. The future James Webb Space Telescope, the successor of Hubble, ESA’s Gaia mission, the ALMA Observatory in Chile and others gave some very impressive examples of ultimate engineering and operation in extreme environments, a testimony to the hardwork of engineers around the world, pushing the limits of what we can do to help us better understand the Universe.

The conference is mainly directed at the optical fields (telescopes that observe in visible light, but also in infrared and X-ray) but radio astronomy has made a small place for itself.

Indeed the SKA has been invited to give a plenary talk on the morning of the first day of the conference, immediately following that of the James Webb Space Telescope, a clear sign the project is fact becoming reality. It was an opportunity to update the community on the progress achieved so far on designing the telescope, and mention some of the huge numbers associated with the project, to a packed room of over 1000 professionals!

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The SKA Director General’s Plenary talk at SPIE

Tomorrow the conference’s exhibition starts and the SKA will be well represented with a massive 27m2 stand and plenty of information for people interested in knowing more about the progress and the work done on designing the specific elements of the telescope, a work that is done by international teams from over 100 institutions and 20 countries, representing around 500 people in a global effort.

In short, SPIE+SKA= an exciting few days in Montreal!

You can follow the conversation on Twitter here.

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