HARP, the Heterodyne Array Receiver Programme, is a spectrometer for the JCMT (link opens in a new window) which will enable astronomers to study the spectra of objects visible at submillimetre wavelengths. This will give them an insight into the chemistry and physics inside clouds of interstellar gas and dust.
The UK ATC has built a cryostat that will cool the super-conducting detectors inside HARP to 4 degrees Kelvin (-269 degrees Celsius). Cooling the detectors to this extreme temperature is essential to make them operate and to reduce stray 'light' from within the instrument itself.
Another UK ATC project, ACSIS, the Auto-Correlation Spectrometer and Imaging System, will convert the data from HARP into digital images. The UK ATC is writing the data analysis software for ACSIS.
The UK ATC is also involved in writing the software for a new Observatory Control System for the JCMT that will allow astronomers to pre-programme their observations using HARP, and also other JCMT instruments such as SCUBA.
The HARP project is a collaboration between the UK ATC, Cavendish Astrophysics (MRAO) at the University of Cambridge UK, The Joint Astronomy Centre (JAC) at Hilo in Hawaii (operators of the JCMT) and The Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA) of the National Research Council Canada.
HARP is due to be delivered to the Hawaiian telescope in 2004.