Astronomical Instrumentation

Professors DeRoo, Halekas, Howes, Jaynes, Kaaret, Kletzing, Miles, and Mutel

VERITAS - Gamma-Ray Telescope Array

Prof. Kaaret

UI is a collaborating institution on the VERITAS array of ground-based telescopes for gamma-ray astronomy located in Southern Arizona.  Iowa built the VERITAS pointing monitors and is actively engaged in development of a next generation gamma-ray observatory, the Advanced Gamma-ray Imaging System (AGIS). 

Robotic Optical Telescope

Prof. Mutel

The University of Iowa was one of the first Universities to operate a robotic telescope primarily for the use of students, both for instruction and research. The present instrument was installed in May 2002, and consists of an  OMI design 37-cm f/14 Cassegrain reflector on an equatorial mount, 8-position filter wheel, and 9 megapixel CCD camera (FLI 09000). It is located at the Winer Observatory in southern Arizona and operated over the Internet using a web-based scheduler. Telescope control software is Talon, originally written by Elwood Downey, and modified by Kevin Ivarsen and Steven Ohmert. 

The telescope is scheduled more than 200 nights per year, with observing requests ranging from routine undergraduate laboratory projects to research projects such as a search for small comets, planetary searches around white dwarfs, and a supernova search in late-type spiral galaxies. More details can be found on the Iowa robotic telescope (Rigel) website

VERITAS telescope:  The University of Iowa is a collaborating institution on VERITAS, an  array of ground-based telescopes for g
RESUN data acquisition module
Rigel image of M42
Casey DeRoo

X-ray astronomy; X-ray telescopes & instrumentation; optical design; machine learning for astronomy

  •  X-ray spectroscopy of supernova remnants
  •  Instrument design / raytracing for sounding rockets, CubeSats, Explorer, and flagship missions
  •  X-ray grating fabrication and testing
  •  Grazing incidence mirrors
  •  Identification of unusual astronomical sources using machine learning
  •  Students interact with collaborators at NASA, Harvard-Smithsonian, and other institutions around the world
Jasper S. Halekas

Experimental space physics.

  • Space plasma physics around moons and planets and in the interplanetary medium
  • Development of spaceflight instrumentation to make high-resolution measurements of charged particles
  • On-campus facilities include a laboratory for spaceflight hardware assembly and calibration
  • Students participate in the development of spaceflight instruments, in collaboration with engineers, scientists, and technicians at Iowa and partner institutions
  • Students  also analyze spacecraft data from the Earth, the Moon, Mars, the Sun and solar wind, and outer planets
  • Students gain skills in spaceflight hardware development, programming, and data analysis
 Gregory G. Howes

Theoretical and computational plasma physics.

  • Turbulence in the magnetized plasmas found in laboratories, space and astrophysics
  • Analysis of spacecraft data from the turbulent solar wind
  • Students develop skills including high-performance computing on the nation's fastest supercomputers, analysis of simulation and observational data, and development of simple analytical models to interpret results
  • Students also interact with group members including a postdoc and collaborators around the world
Allison Jaynes

Experimental space physics

  • Inner magnetosphere and radiation belts particle dynamics, particularly high-energy electrons and protons
  • The physics of the aurora in Earth’s ionosphere
  • Relativistic particle effects throughout the magnetosphere in the vicinity of magnetic reconnection
  • Solar driving of the near-Earth space environment
  • Co-Investigator on NASA’s Van Allen Probes and MMS missions
  • Hardware and instrument development focused on the above science questions
Philip E. Kaaret

X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy and instrumentation; CubeSats; black hole binaries; galactic X-ray halos.

  • X-ray binaries, ultraluminous X-ray sources, intermediate mass black holes
  • Galactic X-ray halo, missing baryon problem
  • Instrumentation for space-based astronomy, CubeSats
  • Students build instruments for launch into space
  • Students use satellite based observatories
  • Students develop skills in electronics, data analysis, and programming
Craig A. Kletzing

Experimental space plasma physics; laboratory plasma physics.

  • Experimental measurements of wave electric and magnetic fields in the Earth's Van Allen radiation belts
  • Plasma wave and particle processes that occur in the aurora
  • Electric field measurements near regions of magnetic reconnection
  • Students get hands-on experience with spaceflight hardware
  • Laboratory experiments to test theory for Alfvén waves, turbulence, and collision operators
  • Experiments are prepared at Iowa and then performed at UCLA's Large Plasma Device (LAPD) user's facility
  • On-campus facilities include: two vacuum chambers, an electronics lab, and spaceflight hardware assembly lab
  • Students perform both laboratory and rocket experiments and work on data from satellite missions
  • Students also interact with other group members including two research scientists, and electronics system engineer, postdocs, as well as scientists at other institutions including those at UCLA
David Miles

Experimental space physics and spaceflight instrumentation

  • Space weather, solar-terrestrial physics, and auroral dynamics

  • Interpretation of space-based magnetic field measurements

  • Development of spaceflight instrumentation to make high-resolution measurements of magnetic fields

  • Instrument Co-PI of the magnetic field instrument on the Cassiope/e-POP Spacecraft

  • Instrument PI and student mentor for the Ex-Alta 1 CubeSat

Robert L. Mutel

Radio astronomy; space physics; plasma astrophysics.

  • Observations using radio telescopes and spacecraft
  • Astronomical instrumentation, especially optical spectroscopy
  • Stellar and planetary redio emission
  • Students use radio telescopes: Very Large Array (VLA), Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), Arecibo; and an optical telescope (Iowa Robotic Observatory) located in Arizona
  • Students develop programming skills using Python and CASA (radio astronomical imaging)
  • Students also interact with peer group members and other astronomy faculty