Major projects



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.
In the process of setting up the extragalactic distance scale, the greatest difficulty leading to the currently largest contribution on the systematic uncertainty of the Hubble constant lies in the determination of accurate absolute distances to nearby galaxies.
The principal reason for this persisting difficulty is in the ill-known dependences of stellar standard candles, used to measure the distances of nearby galaxies, on the environmental properties of their host galaxies (metallicity, age of the stellar populations).
The Araucaria Project is an effort to remedy this situation for several of the most important stellar candles, including Cepheid variables, RR Lyrae stars, red clump giants, and blue supergiants which all have the potential to provide accurate distance determinations to nearby galaxies once their environmental dependences are well calibrated.

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.


Teleskopy Solaris w RPA


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).

Read more on official Solaris pages.



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.
The present generation of imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes (H.E.S.S., MAGIC and VERITAS)
has in recent years opened the realm of ground-based gamma ray astronomy in the energy range above a few tens of GeV. The Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) will explore our Universe in depth in Very High Energy (VHE,  E > 10 GeV) gamma-rays and investigate cosmic non-thermal processes, in close cooperation with observatories operating at other wavelength ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum, and those using other messengers such as cosmic rays and neutrinos.

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 telescope


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.

Satelita LemBRITE-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.


Herschel sattelite


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 IIXMM-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.


HESS telescope


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.


Las Campanas Observatory


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.

More on Gaia-ESO page.



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.
For many years, Polish engineers are building different satellite components. We have been invited by researchers from Max Planck Institute to participate in the design and construction of WFI/ATHENA detector. Also French Space Agency has been invited us to make elements of X-IFU/ATHENA instrument.  
Polish participation in the preparation of the satellite is extremely important. ATHENA science covers all important topics of modern high energy astrophysics. The implementation of ATHENA for launch in 2028 will guarantee a transformation in our understanding of the Hot and Energetic Universe, and establish European leadership in high-energy astrophysics for the foreseeable future.

To read more about the ATHENA telescope please see the Polish ATHENA website and the ATHENA official website:


Integral satellite


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.