(Credit: Vik Dhillon (Sheffield) and Tom Marsh (Warwick)
Ultracam is an ultra-fast, triple-beam CCD camera which has been designed to study one of the rarely explored parts of observational parameter space - high temporal resolution.
Variations of faint sources on time-scales longer than a few seconds have already been explored with conventional CCD instruments. Ultracam is capable of photometry of faint objects on time-scales of milliseconds to seconds. High-speed imaging is essential to study some of the most extreme astronomical sources in the Universe, including black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs.
The UK ATC provided the novel software that enabled the images from conventional CCDs to be read out at the required high speed and advised on the opto-mechanical design and engineering.
The camera was successfully commissioned on the WHT on 16 May 2002, over 3 months ahead of schedule and will be used on 2m, 4m and 8m class telescopes in Australia, the Canary Islands, Chile, Greece, South Africa and Spain to study astrophysics on the fastest time-scales.
The instrument was funded by PPARC and designed and built by a consortium led by the University of Sheffield and involving the UK ATC and the University of Southampton.