Astronomers are
poised to take another giant leap into some of the coldest regions
of space following the announcement that Canada will join the UK in
developing a new generation camera for the James Clerk Maxwell
Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii – the world’s largest telescope for
studying astronomy at sub-millimetre wavelengths.

The announcement today (26 September 2003) of a
grant of £5.5 million (12.3 million Canadian Dollars) from
the Canadian Foundation for Innovation will contribute to the
development of a new instrument, SCUBA 2. The UK, through the
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) will also
contribute some £4 million to the development of the
instrument with a further £2.3 million coming from the JCMT
partner Agencies contributions (UK, Canada and the

The project is lead by the UK Astronomy
Technology Centre (UK ATC) at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. The
new instrument will supersede the original groundbreaking
Sub-millimetre Common User Bolometer Array (SCUBA) frequently cited
as one of the most important ground-based astronomical instruments
ever. SCUBA was also designed and constructed at the Royal
Observatory, Edinburgh in collaboration with Queen Mary, University
of London.

Professor Ian Halliday, Chief Executive of PPARC
commented “SCUBA 2 will enable the JCMT to maintain its position as
one of the world’s leading facilities in the exotic field of
sub-millimetre astronomy. We are delighted that our Canadian
colleagues have joined with us to spearhead its development.”

Dr Wayne Holland, SCUBA 2 Project scientist at
the UK ATC said “To work in this challenging field requires special
techniques and cutting-edge technology. With a much larger field of
view and the capability to limit background ‘noise’,
SCUBA 2 will map large areas of sky up to 1000 times faster than
the current SCUBA camera. Sub-millimetre detectors must be cooled
to a fraction of a degree above absolute zero (-273 decrees C). The
UK ATC has considerable experience of producing electrical and
optical systems that deliver a high level of performance at these
extreme temperatures.”

Dr Adrian Russell, Director of the UK ATC said:
“SCUBA 2 will be a second revolution in sub-millimetre astronomy
and will build on the ground-breaking science that its predecessor
SCUBA (1) has already delivered. The JCMT community will have
access to a tremendously powerful tool which will not only carry
out world class science, but will put them in an enviable position
to exploit the new ALMA telescope when it comes online. “

Sub-millimetre astronomy is a new and rapidly
developing field that allows scientists to probe the composition of
comets, the birthplaces of stars and the most distant galaxies.
Sub-millimetre wavelengths lie between those of traditional radio
astronomy and those of the newer but now fairly well understood
infrared astronomy. Astronomers detect light at sub-millimetre
wavelengths in order to penetrate clouds of cosmic dust.

The vast majority of light from young galaxies
in the distant universe is absorbed by dust, and is only observable
by astronomers at sub-millimetre wavelengths. The quantity of dust
in young galaxies reveals whether stars formed gradually, or mainly
in sudden bursts, in the early history of the Universe.

SCUBA 2 will actually have two cameras – each
operating simultaneously at a different wavelength in the
sub-millimetre band. The 6400 pixels in each camera will cover an 8
x 8 arc-minute patch of sky (about a third of the full moon) or
some 16 times the area of the existing SCUBA instrument. The
improved sensitivity and imaging power will mean that observations
that now take weeks of telescope time with SCUBA will be made in
only a few tens of minutes.


Gill Ormrod – PPARC Press Office

Tel: 01793 442012. Email:

Eleanor Gilchrist
– Royal Observatory Edinburgh Press Officer

Tel: 0131 668 8397. Email:

Damian Audley, UK
ATC – SCUBA 2 Instrument Scientist

Tel: 0131 668 8364. Email:

Suzanne Quinn,
External relations, Canada Federation for Innovation

Tel: 001 613 996 3160. Email:

Professor Walter Gear, Head of the
Astronomical Instrument Group, University of Wales

Tel: 02920 875526. Email:

Professor Mike Fich,
Canadian Consortium Principle Investigator, University of

Tel: +1 519 888 4567 x2725. Email:

Dr Douglas Pierce
Price – James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

Tel: +1 808 969 6524. Email:


Images of the SCUBA 2 sub array test piece,
SCUBA 2 and the JCMT are available from the PPARC website:-


Development of SCUBA
2 will be led by the UK ATC at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh in
collaboration with groups at the University of Wales Astronomical
Instrument Group, Cardiff, the Scottish Microelectronics Centre at
the University of Edinburgh, the United States National Institute
for Standards and Technology at Boulder, Colorado and a consortium
of nine Canadian Universities led by Professor Mike Fich at the
University of Waterloo, Ontario.

In addition contributions to the SCUBA 2 design
and development are being made by Leiden University and the
National Institute of Astronomy, The Netherlands.

The UK ATC will carry out the design and
development of the instrument optics, cryogenic cooling systems,
super-cooled electronics and software and the necessary interfacing
of the instrument to the existing JCMT computer control

The Astronomical Instrument Group at the
Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Wales will
carry out the detailed design, development and manufacture of the
Focal Plane Unit. They will also conduct optical testing of the
prototype arrays and support commissioning of the instrument at the

The Canadian Universities consortium will assume
responsibility for the construction and testing of the detector
array control and ‘room temperature’ electronics. They will also
develop the software for these electronics along with image
processing and archiving software.

The Canadian Consortium will also make their own
unique contribution to the project by the design, development and
manufacture of two scientific instruments, a polarimeter and a
Fourier Transform Spectrometer (FTS), which will enhance the
science capability of the SCUBA 2 instrument. The polarimeter will
enable SCUBA 2 to probe magnetic fields that exist during star
formation. The FTS will enable astronomers to use SCUBA 2 to study
the existence and abundance of different types of molecules within
star forming regions.

Sub-millimetre Astronomy

The relatively recent development of
ground-based sub-millimetre astronomy can be attributed to two main
factors: atmospheric limitations and the lack of key technologies.
Even from dry high-altitude sites most of the sub-millimetre
radiation from space is absorbed by the atmosphere and the sky
itself emits vast amounts of sub-millimetre radiation which drowns
the faint signals from space. However, enormous technological
advances have been made during the past decade. Single-dish
telescopes (looking rather like radio telescopes or satellite
dishes 10-15 metres in diameter) are now routinely operating in the
sub-millimetre. On the other hand, instrumentation has only
recently advanced from the single-pixel photometer to the first
generation multi-element arrays.

The impact of the first SCUBA camera on the 15m
JCMT has been immense. In particular, it has led to major advances
in our understanding of the how planets, stars and galaxies form.
In cosmology SCUBA has been described as having an impact “as big
or bigger than the Hubble Space Telescope” having shown that the
far infrared/sub-millimetre background is in fact composed of the
combined light from distant dusty galaxies. The value of SCUBA is
demonstrated by a recent survey carried out by the Space Telescope
Science Institute, in which SCUBA came a close second to the Hubble
Space Telescope in terms of scientific impact. However, despite
making several pioneering breakthroughs in this previously
unexplored field, it is fair to say that SCUBA has really only
given us a glimpse of what is still to come. With only 128 pixels
in two arrays, surveying large areas of sky, or imaging to any
great depth, is still painfully slow.

James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

The JCMT is the world’s largest single-dish submillimetre
telescope. It collects faint submillimetre signals with its 15
metre diameter dish. It is situated near the summit of Mauna
Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, at an
altitude of approximately 4000 metres (14000 feet) above sea level.
It is operated by the Joint Astronomy Centre, on behalf of the UK
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the Canadian
National Research Council, and the Netherlands Organisation for
Scientific Research.

UK Astronomy Technology Centre

The UK Astronomy Technology Centre is located at
the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh (ROE). It is a scientific site
belonging to the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council
(PPARC). The mission of the UK ATC is
to support the mission and strategic aims of PPARC and to help keep
the UK at the forefront of world astronomy by providing a UK focus
for the design, production and promotion of state of the art
astronomical technology.

Canada Foundation for Innovation

The CFI is an independent corporation
established by the Government of Canada in 1997. The Foundation’s
goal is to strengthen the capability of Canadian universities,
colleges, research hospitals, and other not-for-profit institutions
to carry out world-class research and technology development. By
investing in research infrastructure projects, the CFI supports
research excellence, and helps strengthen research training at
institutions across Canada.


The Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) is an international
collaboration between Europe and the North America to build a
synthesis radio telescope that will operate at millimetre and
sub-millimetre wavelengths. Since joining the European Southern
Observatory (ESO) in July 2002 the UK is set to benefit from
increased involvement in the design, construction and scientific
discoveries of the ALMA, a network of 64 twelve-metre radio
telescopes to be sited in Chile.For further information please see


The Astronomy Technology Centre SCUBA 2

Canada Foundation
for Innovation website

The James Clerk
Maxwell Telescope website