We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD student to work on the commissioning and development of the new StarFox telescope. The PhD project could involve: constructing the mechanical components (possibly machining new parts); developing bespoke robotic software to automate the telescope; making initial observations to assure the optical performance of the system; and astronomical-science projects related to the targeting of StarFox on GAMA groups to detect diffuse intra-halo light and faint galaxies.
In the last few years amateur telescope have been increasingly utilised for professional astronomy. The main research field where advantages have been found is for imaging diffuse light; in particular; low surface brightness galaxies and intra-halo light.
The Dragonfly Array has been built using off the shelf components, including 10 Cannon 400mm f2.8 lenses with nano-coatings. Such modern refractor optics typically have much less collecting area than mirror based telescopes, but the lack of any central obstructions means the final images have little erroneously scattered light, allowing one to probe to very faint light levels in between the obvious bright objects. This has allowed astronomers to discover a large number of new galaxies in the Coma cluster and the M101 group. These systems are very well studied with massive (multiple metre) telescopes, and yet a relatively small array of telescopes has significantly increased the number of known group and cluster members.
Inspired by this success we have received funding to build a single telescope pilot. We have been sponsored by Vixen (astrograph), FLI (medium format camera) and ASA (mount) for the main StarFox components, with a total system value of ~$50k. All the major components have been purchased and assembled.
As well as building a modern telescope from the ground up, the PhD candidate will directly tackle one of the exciting topics in modern astronomy: how much of the stellar mass in Universe sits in faint diffuse halos stretching out to Mpc scales? This will be achieved by conducting a multi-season multi-hundred hour observation of one of the GAMA survey fields. By stacking the low surface brightness images at the locations of known dark matter halos we will extract this signal.