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United Kingdom Infra-Red Telescope (UKIRT) Telescope

The United Kingdom Infra-Red Telescope is the world's largest telescope dedicated solely to infrared astronomy, UKIRT is sited in Hawaii near the summit of Mauna Kea at an altitude of 4194m above sea level. It is owned by the United Kingdom Science and Technology Facilities Council and operated, along with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), by the staff of the Joint Astronomy Centre, which is located in Hilo. The operation and development of UKIRT are overseen by the UKIRT Board.

Photo: Driving up to UKIRT.

UKIRT is a leg of Around the World in 80 Telescopes tour:

Click to play; click  (lower right) to view video full screen

Next stop: Keck Observatory (previous stop: Subaru)

The Infrared Flux Collector, as it was originally called, was proposed by Prof. Jim Ring of Imperial College, London and Gordon Carpenter of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. It was built between 1975 and 1978. It is a classical Cassegrain telescope with a primary mirror which is about half as thick as those of conventional telescopes of its era. The design is derived from that of the 1.5m IR Flux Collector (now the Carlos Sanchez Telescope) in Tenerife, and was originally conceived as an inexpensive "light bucket" with very relaxed specifications.

The mechanical structure of UKIRT was designed and built by Dunford Hadfields of Sheffield, UK, and the optics (originally providing f/9 Cassegrain and f/19 coude foci) were manufactured by the now-defunct firm of Grubb Parsons & Co. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, who pioneered the figuring of large thin mirrors in the process.

The telescope was officially opened in October 1979. Since then it has been steadily improved; by the early '80s it was performing several times better than its specifications required. After a programme of upgrades carried out between 1990 and 1998 it is currently delivering what is believed to be the best imaging performance of any ground-based telescope. Thanks to this and to a state-of-the-art instrument suite UKIRT is currently one of the most scientifically productive telescopes in the world, producing over 80 scientific papers per year.


Recently Updated
United Kingdom Infra-Red Telescope (UKIRT) Telescope - Overview Last Updated on 2009-08-26 00:00:00 The 3.8m United Kingdom InfraRed Telescope (UKIRT) is the largest telescope in the world dedicated solely to observations at infrared wavelengths between 1 micron and 30 microns. Like all large modern telescopes UKIRT is a reflecting telescope. Infrared and visible radiation from an astronomical object (e.g., a star) is collected, reflected and focussed by a concave primary mirror 3.8m in diameter. Just before it gets to the focus a smaller convex secondary mirror at the top of the telescope reflects this steeply converging beam of radiation and directs it downwards, now converging much more slowly, through a central hole in the primary mirror to a flat tertiary mirror, below, which directs it to one of four instrument focal stations. The telescope's current and future instrument suites are described in a separate document . Although UKIRT was originally conceived and built as a low... More »