SONThe Searchlight Observatory Network

Leads a worldwide campaign for doing ultra-sensitive polarimetry. Using novel instrumentation SON has a network of telescopes that, while of modest aperture, now have unique capabilities to do 1e-5 broadband polarimetry. With this new capability we are able to detect extrasolar planets that are otherwise invisible and can begin to study their atmospheres.To support our science objectives the telescopes are located at some of the world’s finest mountain top observatory locations, providing both dark sky’s and stable atmospheres.

To support our science objectives the telescopes are located at some of the world’s finest mountain top observatory locations, providing both dark sky’s and stable atmospheres. Our site’s pages hav details of the observatory location.

The network is setup to support photometric and polarmetric monitoring and survey projects.  The SON role is to coordinate obsevations and facilitate access to the telescope network for member’s research programs. The supported research areas include monitoring variable stars, searching for exoplanets and minor planets. Members are mostly advanced amateur and professional astronomers. The network has been setup to support these science projects.     


InnoPolInternational Cooperation for Innovations in Sensitive Polarimetry

Project Profile
Polarimetry is a powerful technique for revealing two- and three-dimensional structures in astrophysical objects beyond the spatial resolution provided by direct imaging at any telescope.

The goals of this cooperation are

  • to explore novel physical mechanisms for polarized light,
  • to develop an innovative polarimetric system with advanced modulation schemes and employ it on new-technology 1-2m class telescopes dedicated for polarimetric surveys,
  • to establish a lasting cooperation between two superior astronomical observatories on Canarias and Hawaii

The distinctive international partnership established in this project will enable scientific and technological developments well beyond the current state-of-the-art.

Key questions
This project brings together some of the world experts in theoretical and experimental polarimetry within an inter-disciplinary context of solar and night-time astrophysics. We concentrate our effort on adressing the following fundamental questions:

  • How magnetic fields are generated in objects having very deep convection zones or being fully convective?
  • How the circumstellar environment evolves during the dynamic process of star and planet formation?
  • What are the properties and inner structure of exoplanets?


Hot molHot Molecules in Exoplanets and Inner Disks

Advanced grant of the European Research Council (ERC). The ERC is a european fundinig initiative, designed to support the best scientists, engineers and scholars in Europe. Its advanced grant scheme is highly competitive and awarded on the sole criterion of excellence to promote frontier research with unconventional approaches and at the interface between established disciplines.

Professor Svetlana Berdyugina receives 2,5 Million Euro for her 5-year project to study the gaseous environment of extrasolar planets and their precursors-protoplanets. She will develop innovative approaches for sensitive detection of molecules, such as water, methane or others, in warm planetary atmospheres. These "hot" molecules will be the key to understanding the formation of earth like planets and habitable environments. Earlier, in 2008, she and her team were first to detect reflected light from an extrasolar planet with the help of polarimetry. This technique will be further employed for detecting molecules in exoplanetary atmospheres. 



COLOSSA 74 m filled aperture interferometric telescope

The Colossus Consortium is a world leading group of innovative entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers developing technology innovations allowing 50-100m class dedicated optical structures to be built with the resources now being allocated for general-purpose astronomical telescopes of significantly smaller aperture.         

Vision: To develop the concept and enabling technology for the world-largest telescope Colossus capable to detect extrasolar life and extraterrestrial civilizations.         

Mission: To balance the Colossus design against the probability of success with limited resources, time to completion, and the overall cost. To achieve these ingredients of a fundable design in a short time period.

The problem:

The technology needed to build enormous telescopes requires innovation to:
- decrease the mirror weight per square meter,
- provide dynamic mirror "phasing" to allow a large telescope structure that can be much less stiff (and less massive) than conventional structures.

The solution:

The Colossus innovates large telescope technology by creating an imaging instrument that can be as large as 80m across while combining elements of "telescope" optics with "interferometer" design.

This new technology has been developed by Innovative Optics Ltd.

The Colossus consists of 60 independent off-axis 8m telescopes which effectively merge telescope-interferometry concepts, yielding 74m diameter effective resolution.