“Tour of Duty in the High Desert at VERITAS”, Dr Josh Reynolds, 10 Oct 2022, 8 pm

Not all telescopes capture visible light. Dr Josh Reynolds, a lecturer in the Department of Physical Sciences in MTU, told us about VERITAS – a ground-based very high energy (VHE) gamma-ray instrument.  It operates at the basecamp of the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory 1.3 km above sea level in southern Arizona USA, and consists of four 12 m Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes (IACT) which use Cherenkov shower imaging to detect gamma-ray photons with energies above 85 GeV. 

Josh covered the history and science of VERITAS along with a personal account of tours of duty to the observatory as a VERITAS collaborator, and didn’t neglect to tell us about the poisonous toads that inhabit the site. 

Mirrors on one of the VERITAS detectors, and right, Dr. Reynolds in the VERITAS control room
in the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory

The lecture wase live streamed over Zoom.

About Dr Josh Reynolds

Dr Reynolds has been a member of the VERITAS collaboration since its inception in 2003 (as well as being a member of it progenitor, the Whipple Observatory collaboration) and a co-author of the publication that announced the discovery the Atmospheric Cherenkov Imaging Technique in 1989. He also lectures in the Department of Physical Sciences in MTU.

More about VERITAS

Dr Reynolds took this picture of VERITAS on a research visit at the beginning of September 2022

VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) is an international astrophysics collaboration between the USA, Canada, Ireland and Germany, involving 9 founding institutions and 15 collaborating institutions (MTU is a collaborating institution). It operates a ground-based gamma-ray instrument at the Smithsonian Institution’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory (FLWO) in southern Arizona, USA.  This is an array of four 12m optical reflectors that uses the Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov technique to perform gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV-TeV energy range. Very High-Energy gamma rays are associated with exotic cosmic objects such as supernovae, pulsars, quasars and black holes. Expensive, space-based observatories are normally required to detect gamma rays as they are absorbed in the atmosphere, but VERITAS is able to use the Atmospheric Cherenkov Imaging technique to observe them from the ground.  VERITAS has a prodigious research output, with 162 publications in peer-reviewed journals (44 over the last 5 years) including publications in Science, Nature and Nature Astronomy. 

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