Universiteit LeidenZegel Universiteit Leiden

Home > research > instrumentation 

Leiden Observatory

Instrumentation avatar



First-class astronomical research and the development of state-of-the-art instruments have always been closely connected. Many fundamental discoveries have been made by astronomers who had preferred access to new, better instruments and the knowledge of how to utilize them. Or who had designed and built an instrument to specifically address a certain problem in observational astronomy. The best instrumental concepts have often been developed by astronomers who actually use these instruments for their own research. The importance of this close symbiosis between instrumentation and world-class research has been recognized by many leading astronomical institutions, including Leiden Observatory.

The cost and complexity of complete astronomical instruments for today's 10m-class telescopes (and larger) often exceed the technical, financial, and personnel capabilities of an individual University institute. In practice, most instrumentation projects have become collaborative efforts on a national, European, and world-wide basis. Leiden Observatory is involved in numerous projects, from radio to optical wavelengths, and at different levels of involvement. Those vary from the definiton of the science goals of new projects to the actual design, construction and testing of soft- and hardware. A new laboratory for optical/IR instrumentation has recently been set up at Leiden Observatory, and is being used for large scale developments as well as student projects. In addition, complementary research in astro-chemistry is done in the Sackler Laboratory.

Faculty active in this area

Brandl, Brinchmann, Brown, de Graauw, Franx, Hogerheijde, Jaffe, Keller, Kenworthy, Kuijken, le Poole, Linnartz, Miley, Röttgering, Schaye, Snellen, Stuik, van der Werf, van Dishoeck

Projects and Collaborations

The following list provides an overview of the various activities with links for more detailed information.


The Atacama Large Millimeter Array / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international collaboration between Europe, North America and East Asia to build a synthesis radio telescope that will operate at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. (van Dishoeck/ Hogerheijde)


The "Atacama Pathfinder Experiment" is a 12-meter radio telescope at the best accessible site for submillimeter observations, Llano de Chajnantor in Chile's Atacama desert.(Hogerheijde)


ASSIST is the Adaptive Secondary Setup and Instrument STimulator , a testbench for testing parts of the ESO's VLT Adaptive Optics Facility, especially GALACSI (MUSE AO System) and the Deformable Secondary Mirror (DSM).(Stuik)


Gaia is an ambitious ESA mission which aims to produce a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way by measuring precise positions, parallaxes and proper motions, complemented with photometry and radial velocities, for all stars brighter than 20th magnitude. The targeted astrometric precision is 20-25 micro-arcseconds at 15th magnitude. For more information, please look here or here. (Brown)


The high-order adaptive optics test bed to implement and test fast high-order AO algorithms with a real AO system (set up in the Leiden Optical Lab). (Stuik)


Together wiht the TUD and SRON we are studying designs or virtually noiseless detectors for applications in near- and mid- infrared instruments. (Brandl/Jaffe)


LOFAR is a revolutionary new radio telescope that will observe at the extremely low radio frequencies. It will consist of 40 antenna fields placed in the North of Holland and 8 in neighbouring countries. (Miley/Röttgering)


The Multi-AperTure mid-Infrared SpectroScopic Experiment MATISSE is a four beam combiner for the VLTI. It will measure closure phase relations, thus offering an efficient capability for image reconstruction at milli-arcsecond resolution. (Jaffe)


The Mid-IR E-ELT Imager and Spectrograph METIS will provide diffraction limited imaging, IFU spectroscopy and coronagraphy at wavelengths longward of 3 microns. The project has just successfully completed the phase A study and is preparing for phase B to become an early instrument on the ESO's 42m E-ELT. (Brandl/Stuik/Kenworthy)


MICADO is the MCAO Imaging Camera for Deep Observations for the E-ELT. The instrument is intended to image, through selected wide and narrow-band near-IR filters, an approximately 30" wide field at the diffraction limit of the ELT. (Kuijken)


MIRI is the mid-IR instrument on board the James-Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope to be launched in 2014. The work on the flight hardware has been completed and will soon undergo final testing and performance characterization before its delivary to NASA. (van Dishoeck/Brandl)


MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) is an Adaptive Optics Assisted Integral Field Spectrograph, 2nd generation VLT instrument. (Brinchmann, Franx, Schaye, Stuik)


OmegaCAM is a 1 square degree wide field, optical, 16k X 16k camera for the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), which is expected to become operational at Paranal early 2009. (Kuijken)


We have been designing a prototype, and hope to participate in the fabrication of a Fringe Tracker that will allow the ESO VLTI facility to reach sources 30 times fainter than the current limits. (Jaffe)


The Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research (SPHERE) instrument for the VLT main goal is the discovery and study of new extra-solar giant planets orbiting nearby stars by direct imaging of their circumstellar environment. (Snellen)

Sackler Laboratory for Astrophysics

Eight different experimental setups are used to simulate conditions in space and to characterize processes that are responsible for the formation of complex species in the interstellar medium. The focus is on solid state astrochemistry, studying the chemistry in inter- and circumstellar ice analogues upon UV irradiation and atom bombardment, and the spectroscopic characterization of transient species of astrophysical interest. Detailed information is available from http://www.laboratory-astrophysics.eu(Linnartz)