Category Archives: Astronomy

LDSS at the Las Campanas Observatory

It’s amazing. I’m at the Las Campanas Observatory, using the LDSS (low Dispersion Survey) spectrograph. A triumph of North East engineering, she was built in Durham University in 1991 by a team of “real” engineers, ┬áincluding John Webster. It was one of the first instruments to allow astronomer to survey the distant Universe and to see galaxies when the Universe was only a fraction of its present age.

In 2001, John and I moved LDSS to its new home at the incredible 6.5m Magellan Clay telescope. The instrument has evolved for strength to strength, using its solid engineering as a plot form for the latest technological developments in optics and, most recently, its CCD detector. LDSS is still at the leading edge of cosmology.

Now, here I am looking for some of the faintest galaxies in the Universe. Our new ‘Deep Depletion’ detector lets us find galaxies at even higher redshift, and clever electronics allow us to detect lower mass galaxies than ever before, revealing the secrets of how galaxies, and the nuclear elements they contain (such as the carbon and oxygen that we are made of) have been created over the history of time.