The Araucaria Project, started in 2000, is a collaboration between astronomers from institutions in Chile, the US and Europe. Its principal aim is to provide an improved calibration of the local extragalactic distance scale.
Group of astronomers from the Copernicus Astronomical Center, participating in the project i lead by Grzegorz Pietrzyński. Other members of the group are: Bogumił Pilecki. Radosław Smolec, Mónica Taormina, Piotr Wielogórski, Bartłomiej Zgirski.
To read more about the ARAUCARIA project visit the official website: ARAUCARIA.
The project has to main goals: (1) to detect circumbinary planets around a sample of up to 350 eclipsing binary stars using eclipse timing and precision radial velocities.(2) to characterize the binary stars with an unprecedented precision to test the stellar structure and evolution models.
In order to achieve these goals a global network of four 0.5-meter robotic telescopes (Australia, Africa, South America) has been constructed, to collect high precision, high cadence light curves of the binaries.
The first telescope was constructed thanks to the "FOCUS" grant (170 kEuro) from the Foundation for Polish Science, the additional three telescopes and the overall costs of the project for the 5 years has been covered from the highly competitive and prestigious "Ideas" Starting Grant of the European Research Council (1.5 mln Euro).
Virgo is an European project devoted to direct detection of gravitational waves. Together with the US-based LIGO project they form the LIGO-Virgo collaboration to search for gravitational waves predicted by the general theory of relativity by Albert Einstein. In addition to the data analysis and the development of the statistical signal detection theory, Polish part of the Virgo team is modeling the astrophysical sources of gravitational waves, make predictions about the population of these sources, search for the electromagnetic waves emission accompanying the gravitational waves and take part in the construction of the Virgo interferometer.
Gravitational waves astrophysics is a new and promising field of research of the Universe. In contrast to the observations of the electromagnetic waves (radio waves, visible light, X-rays and gamma), which are the main source of our current knowledge, we ''listen'' to the Universe by registering minor disturbances of the space-time curvature using the LIGO and Virgo laser interferometric detectors. Gravitational waves are emitted during the largest cosmic cataclysms: mergers of binary systems of neutron stars or black holes, explosions of supernovae, and by other sources, e.g., unstable or deformed rotating neutron stars. The direct detection of gravitational waves allows the study of objects that are dark (do not shine in electromagnetic waves), testing the theory of gravity in the dynamic regime of strong gravitational field, and the direct study of the interior of neutron stars which contain the densest and most extreme matter existing currently in the Universe. These informations cannot be currently obtained using other methods.
Astrophysicists form the Copernicus Center are members of VIRGO-POLGRAW group - a part of the LIGO_VIRGO consortium.
Cherenkov Telescope Array
The Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) project is an initiative to build the next generation ground-based very high energy gamma-ray instrument. It will serve as an open observatory to a wide astrophysics community and will provide a deep insight into the non-thermal high-energy universe.
Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center is a member of the CTA Consortium consisting of over 500 scientists working in 25 countries: Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Namibia, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.
Read more on CTA official pages.
SALT ( Southern African Large Telescope) is an international project to build and use an optical telescope of 11m diameter observing the southern sky. A similar telescope is already operating in Texas. Polish astronomers are participating in the project, with Poland having a 10% share in the construction and running costs. In return we will have access to one of the largest and most modern instruments in the world. CAMK is the Polish coordinator for the project. More on the SALT pages.
BRITE-PL (BRight Target Explorer)
The BRITE project is aimed at studying bright stars (brighter than the Sun) in order to determine their structure and physical processes (most importantly convection) in the range of parameters which is otherwise difficult to study (there is a lot of telescopes to study faint stars but they cannot study bright stars!). The project is realized by a consortium of Canadian, Austrian and Polish institutes. The idea is to use constellation of six small (nano-) satellites, able to perform precise mesurements of changing brightness of oscillating stars. Light variations from such stars are analyzed by the methods of stellar seismology by, among others, the stellar seismology group at the Copernicus Center. Total number of suitable observation targets (stars) is about 500-800.
Each consortium country build and send to orbit two satellites. The Polish Consortium BRITE-PL was established in October 2009 by two institutes of thre Polish Academy of Sciences: Space Research Centre and Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre. The consortium is financed by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and National Science Center with a total budget above 14 million PLN. Both Polish satellites have been already built. The first satellite (Lem) was launched into orbit on November 21, 2013. The second one Heweliusz, has been launched on August 19, 2014.
Read more on BRITE-PL.
The Herschel Space Observatory was a space observatory built and operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). It was active from 2009 to 2013, and was the largest infrared telescope ever launched, carrying a single 3.5-metre (11.5 ft) mirror and instruments sensitive to the far infrared and submillimetre wavebands (55–672 µm). Herschel was the fourth and final cornerstone mission in the Horizon 2000 programme, following SOHO/Cluster II, XMM-Newton and Rosetta. Astronomers (including astronomers from the Copernicus Astronomical Center) are still analyzing data collected with Herschel Telescope. More information on the Herschel pages.
H.E.S.S. is a system of Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes that investigates cosmic gamma rays in the 100 GeV to 100 TeV energy range. The name H.E.S.S. stands for High Energy Stereoscopic System, and is also intended to pay homage to Victor Hess , who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936 for his discovery of cosmic radiation. The instrument allows scientists to explore gamma-ray sources with intensities at a level of a few thousandths of the flux of the Crab nebula (the brightest steady source of gamma rays in the sky). H.E.S.S. is located in Namibia, near the Gamsberg mountain, an area well known for its excellent optical quality. More on H.E.S.S. pages.
The Cluster AgeS Experiment (CASE) is a long term project aiming at determination of accurate ages and distances of nearby globular clusters (GC) by using observations of detached eclipsing binaries. The project consists of two parts. The first part is an extensive photometric survey of about 10 Galactic GCs with the aim of identifying eclipsing binaries (EB) located near or below the main-sequence turnoff (MSTO). The survey is conducted on the 1.0-m Swope telescope at Las Campanas Observatory. The second part of the project is devoted to determination of absolute parameters (masses, radii, ages and luminosities) of selected EBs. It includes derivation of precise radial velocity curves as well as photometric follow up observations in the optical and near IR domain. More on the CASE pages.
Gaia-ESO Public Spectroscopic Survey
The Gaia-ESO Survey is an ambitious spectroscopic survey that is observing more than 100000 Galactic stars. Spectra of medium- and high-resolution are being collected with the FLAMES multi-fiber spectrograph of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), at the 8 meters Very Large Telescope (VLT), in Cerro Paranal, Chile.
The Survey is observing stars in all components of the Milky Way (the thin and thick disks, the bulge, and the halo), and in 80 open clusters of different ages and metallicities. The targets include stars of several spectral types (from O- to M-type) and in distinct stages of their evolution (giants, dwarfs, and pre-main-sequence stars).
The goal is to provide a large overview of the kinematics and chemical composition of stars in the Galaxy. This is an important information to understand the history of formation and evolution of the Milky Way. In addition, studying the open cluster stars will contribute to improve our understanding of stellar evolution from the pre-main sequence to the red giant stage.
ATHENA is the new generation X-ray telescopes which has been accepted by European Space Agency as a large mission with a launch foreseen in 2028.
In 2002 the orbiting gamma-ray laboratory known as INTEGRAL was launched. It is expected that its observational data will help answer many important questions regarding gamma ray bursts, active galactic nuceli, supernovae and the properties of the interstellar medium. Astronomers from the N. Copernicus Astronomical Centre and the Space Research Centre are involved in the mission. More on the INTEGRAL pages.