RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY | for researchers and engineers

SEE MORE

RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY | for researchers and engineers

SEE MORE

RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY | for researchers and engineers

SEE MORE

RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY | for researchers and engineers

SEE MORE

RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY | for researchers and engineers

SEE MORE

The Astrophysics programme at SRON is headed by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Deputy head is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The Astrophysics science group attached to this programme consists currently of 45 persons, largely filled in by externally funded positions and guest scientists.

xmm1.jpg
XMM-Newton at ESTEC, being prepared for an Ariane 5 launch at Kourou

High-energy astrophysics

The Astrophysics programme in Utrecht represents historically SRON's efforts in astrophysical research in the X-ray/gamma-ray regime. This regime covers about 8 decades of the electro-magnetic spectrum  - from about 0.1 keV to 10 GeV  -  that can only be studied with instruments in space.

SRON has been active over this entire spectral range with contributions to various space missions and many scientific studies since the 1960's. The Astrophysics programme initiates/studies new ideas in worldwide collaborations, participates in the follow-up developments towards designing/building a new instrument, and subsequently prepares for the scientific data analysis in collaboration with colleagues worldwide.

Current activities

Among the most recent instrumental track records are the Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS) on ESA's XMM-Newton satellite and the Low Energy Transmission Grating (LETG) on NASA's Chandra. SRON is PI of both these grating instruments. Both satellites are still operational and continue to be signficantly overscribed by observing proposals from all over the world.

Research in the Astrophysics programme in Utrecht focuses on observational studies of topics/objects for which the understanding depends critically on the emitted X-ray and gamma-ray radiation. These topics/objects include the hot tenuous gas within/near clusters of galaxies, the nuclei of galaxies containing supermassive black holes, Galactic neutron stars and black holes that accrete matter from a nearby companion star, isolated neutron stars with high magnetic fields, interstellar dust, and protostars. This research draws on data gathered with the instruments built by SRON, supplemented by other instrumentation on e.g. INTEGRAL, RXTE, and Swift, as well as [optical] observatories on the ground.

SRON's focus in high-energy astrophysics for the future is on Athena.

History

XMM-Newton and Chandra (both launched in 1999) were preceded within SRON by COMPTEL (the Compton gamma-ray telescope on NASA's Gamma-Ray Observatory, GRO) and the Wide Field Camera's (WFCs) on Beppo-SAX in an Italian-Dutch collaboration. Also these satellites were launched in the 1990's (in 1991 and 1996 respectively), which clearly was a period with  many milestones.

Before that, in the 1970's/80's, COMIS/TTM (1987), EXOSAT (1983), COS-B (1975), and ANS (the Astronomical Netherlands Satellite, 1974) were the Dutch activities in high-energy astrophysics in space. COS-B was ESA's first scientific satellite.

But there was more, in the 1960's already. Predecessors of SRON, namely the "Space Research Laboratory" of the Astronomical Institute at Utrecht and the "Cosmic-Ray Working Group" in Leiden, particpated e.g. with proportional counters for soft X-rays in various rocket flights and the ESRO II satellite and with an cosmic-ray electron experiment on OGO-5. Together with the "Space Research Department" of the Kapteyn Astonomical Instititute in Groningen (e.g. responsible for the UV experiment on ANS), these research groups were combined into SRON.

More info:

herschel_ready.jpg
Herschel ready for launch
hifi_instr.png
The HIFI instrument on Herschel
herschel_separation.jpg
Herschel separation
spica.jpg
SPICA artist impression

 

Low-energy astrophysics

The Astrophysics programme in Groningen covers historically SRON's activities in astrophysical resarch in the infrared/sub-mm regime, which ranges from ~2.5 to ~1000 µm and can only scarcely be explored from Earth. Several types of detection techniques are necessary to cover this broad spectral interval.

SRON has been active in this field with contributions to various space missions and many scientific studies since the 1970's. The Astrophysics programme initiates/studies new ideas in worldwide collaborations, participates in the follow-up developments towards designing/building a new instrument, and subsequently prepares for the scientific data analysis in collaboration with colleagues worldwide.

Current activities

Focus of the Astrophysics programme in Groningen has been on the HIFI instrument aboard ESA's Herschel satellite for many years, which has completed the post-operations phase in the meantime, and is currently mainly on SPICA/SAFARI. Another project SRON is participating in is the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), with funding by NOVA, the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy. The NOVA/ALMA group that develops receivers for the frequency range 620-720 GHz ( {divinfo div='25',opt='number'} persons) is hosted by SRON in Groningen.

  • HIFI is the high-resolution sub-mm spectrometer on Herschel, launched in May 2009. SRON is PI of this instrument. After many years of development, building, and testing (with ~25 institutes and university departments involved in a dozen countries), HIFI has been observing the universe with unprecedented spectral accuracy at sub-mm wavelengths.
  • SAFARI is the far-infrared imaging spectrometer (30-210 µm) foreseen for the SPICA mission. SPICA is a next-generation infrared astronomy observatory, a joint ESA-JAXA (Japan) mission with instrument contributions from European and Japanese consortia.

History

Infrared

In the years 1967 to 1985, SRON participated in the ultraviolet instrument for ANS and a number of infrared instruments (Inframap, BIRAP, and IRAS). Two of the instruments on IRAS (launched in 1983) were built by SRON: the Low Resolution Spectrometer (LRS) and the Chopped Photometric Channel (CPC). In November 1995 the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) was launched. One of the 4 instruments on board the satellite, the Short Wavelength Spectrometer (SWS), was built by SRON (PI) and the MaxPlanck Institut für extraterrestrische Pysik in Garching. Many breakthrough observations were obtained with these instruments for various fields of research in astronomy.

Sub-mm

Very high spectral resolution can be reached with heterodyne techniques, but the smallest wavelength was a few mm in the early days. Because of the astronomical importance of measurements with a resolution of a few hundred m/s at sub-mm wavelengths, a research program was started at SRON in the 1970's for the detection of electromagnetic radiation at 300 GHz (1 mm) to 3 THz (100 µm). This research played an increasingly important role and SRON started cooperating with the RUG group of Prof. Klapwijk "Physics of Thin Layers", first located in Groningen, now in the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience in Delft. SRON also cooperates with IREE (Moscow) in the area of integrated receivers. SRON belongs to the few groups in the world that can make low-noise sub-mm mixers at the highest frequencies.

The sub-mm techniques developed at SRON are important for stratospheric research as well. Together with the Earth programme at SRON and a group at the University of Bremen, a succesful program of observations from an airplane has been executed and a program was started to perform such measurements from a balloon platform (TELIS), together with a German (DLR-IMK) and a UK group (RAL).

More info:

 

 



SCROLL TO TOP