The National Science Platform (NSP) FOTONIKA-LV of the University of Latvia is an open research platform that welcomes other photonic research organizations in Latvia that share the platform’s vision and research strategy. Currently NSP FOTONIKA-LV includes the following research units – Quantum Optics Laboratory and Laboratory of Atomic Physics, Atmospheric Physics and Photochemistry of Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy and the Institute of Astronomy.
Quantum Optics Laboratory, Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy of University of Latvia
Leader – academician Dr. Janis Alnis. Personnel ~ 7 (FTE).
Research themes: whispering gallery mode microresonators, optical frequency metrology with a femtosecond optical frequency comb; development of optical frequency standards and comparison with radio-frequency standards; development of ultra-stable resonators for laser stabilization; free-space optical frequency transfer and distance measurements; global network of sensors, Internet of Things.
The laboratory received 2 financed ERDF projects and one Latvian National Science Council Projects.
Laboratory of Atomic Physics, Atmospheric Physics and Photochemistry, Institute of Atomic Physics and Spectroscopy of University f Latvia
Leader – Dr. Arnolds Ubelis, Personnel ~ 20,
Research themes: high temperature flash photolysis of sulphur, selenium, tellurium vapour, vapours of tin and lead salts; recombination and photorecombination of sulphur, selenium and tellurium atoms in the ground and metastable states; secondary photolysis and photochemical processes in the vapours of tin and lead salts; lifetime and branching ratio studies of energy states of sulphur, selenium, tellurium, arsenic and phosphorus atoms by UV, VUV and laser spectroscopy; studies of various negative ions, molecular beam research; processes of photochemistry in polluted atmosphere; interdisciplinary studies of environmental problems.
The laboratory as a member of NSP FOTONIKA-LV (formerly Association FOTONIKA-LV) has remarkable success rate in the competition for financed FP6 and FP7 projects and is persistently targeting relevant calls of H2020 Widening calls, ERC grants, MSCA PEOPLES programme, FET-open and SMEs disruptive innovations) with many competitive project proposals in the role of coordinator and for more than 6 proposals having marks above quality threshold.
Institute of Astronomy
The Astrophysical Observatory (code 069) of the Institute of Astronomy, University of Latvia in Baldone, Riekstukalns began its activities in 1958, by separating the Astronomy sector from the Institute of Physics of the Latvian Academy of Sciences (LAS) as an independent structure. A year later, the first building of the Laboratory of Astrophysics was built in the territory of the next observatory, 5 km from Baldone town near Riekstu Hill, the so-called “White House”. The founder and first director of the Observatory, Jānis Ikaunieks (1912–1969), planned to develop two directions of research: to create a
large base interferometer in radio astronomy and in red optics, and investigations of stars in the last evolutionary stage. In 1959, an agreement was signed with Carl Zeiss of East Germany on the construction of a Schmidt telescope to ensure the performance of optical observations.
In 1967 the name of the Laboratory of Astrophysics was changed by decision of LAS to Latvian SSR AS Radioastrophysical Observatory with an objective – creation of a 2 km ridge for a multi-antenna variable base radio interferometer. This project was not realised due to premature death of Jānis Ikaunieks; the development of the area of radio interferometry, the placement of 30 m rotating radio antennas on Roņu Island, Engure and Salacgrīva was stopped also. These plans were developed twelve years earlier than in England, where a radio-like interferometer of similar size recorded radio signals from distant galaxies for the first time resulting in a Nobel Prize (1974). Thanks to the efforts of Arturs Balklavs (1933–2005), the next long-term director of the Observatory, the direction of radio astronomy studies remained, and 10 m radio antenna was bought in 1972 to study solar activity at ranges 755, 610 and 326 MHz.
The development of optical astronomy is in line with Jānis Ikauniek’s idea. At the beginning of January 1965, the 1.2 m large field of view (19 m2 field of view) Schmidt system telescope with an input aperture of 0.8 m was added to the Observatory’s infrastructure. It is the twelfth largest Schmidt telescope in the world still to date.
Investigations of carbon stars: B, V, R, I photometry, low resolution spectroscopy
More than 5% carbon stars in Milky Way Galaxy were discovered in Baldone Observatory. Main photometric characteristics of these stars were obtained. New type of variability of late stars – DY Per with irregular dimming by 2–5 magnitudes was selected. “General Catalogue of Galactic Carbon Stars” was prepared in 2001 and the catalogue data now are continuously updated. On the basis of the Schmidt telescope low resolution objective prism spectrum analysis, a method for estimating the absolute size, surface temperature, distance and evolution stage of carbon stars has been developed (Fig. 1). This method uses the latest achievements of carbon star research in the Great Magellan Cloud and estimates of the magnitude of interstellar absorption. The results of the method are currently being tested using Gaia’s space telescope measurements. The distribution of the carbon star is believed to be related to the structure of the Milky Way galaxy arms. The hypothesis that the Galaxy has another, more distant arm than the “outer arm” is being checked. The loss of matter from the C stars forms carbon-rich shells – space areas with a high concentration of a vital chemical element.
Monitoring of small bodies of Solar
system CCD observations of the asteroids with Baldone Schmidt telescope began in 2008. In the Minor Planet Circulars and the Minor Planet Electronic Circulars were published 5434 astrometric positions of 1488 asteroids to now. Among them, 77 asteroids were newly discovered at Baldone Observatory. Eleven asteroids were named. The accurate orbits of asteroids were calculated with OpenOrb 4.2 and for two interesting asteroids (428694) 2008 OS9 from the Apollo group and the Centaur (330836) Orius (2009 HW77),
the evolution of orbital elements was calculated. The results of the project will provide an opportunity to predict the probability of collision of dangerous asteroids and small bodies of the Solar System with the Earth, as well as to analyse the chemical composition of the observed small bodies of the solar system, thus obtaining information about useful minerals on the cosmic bodies.
Digitisation of Baldone Schmidt
telescope wide field 22000 direct astroplate archive Digital processing of photographic plates of star fields allows determining the coordinates and stellar magnitudes with high accuracy, 0.5” and 0.1 mag respectively, for all registered objects on these plates. The images were processed using advanced
complex of LINUX / MIDAS / ROMAPHOT programmes. Modern approach to processing of early photographic observations with new technologies is an effective instrument for rediscovery of asteroids, correction of their orbits, investigation of variable stars of different type and obtaining proper motion of stars. Approbations of this software complex are the catalogues of stars coordinates and their U-magnitudes. In addition, the project ensures the preservation of a unique national database with international access.
Upgrading the Baldone Schmidt telescope
Upgrade of Baldone Schmidt telescope mechanics and optical system using “fly eye” technologies allows looking forwards to participate in projects of investigation of carbon stars, blazars, and studies of Solar system small bodies. Two 1 square-degree of view CCD cameras were installed in the main focus of the Baldone Schmidt telescope.
Main research infrastructure of the member of NSP FOTONIKA-LV – Institute of Astronomy, University of Latvia: Baldone Schmidt telescope’s building, Baldone Schmidt telescope, Riga Satellite Laser Ranging station.
Laboratory of Nonlinear Optics
Leader – ERA Chair in quantum optics and photonics Dr. Rashid Ganeev. Personnel 3 (FTE).
Research themes: Nonlinear optics (high-order harmonic generation of laser radiation, investigation of the nonlinear optical properties of various media); Investigation and construction of coherent extreme ultraviolet radiation sources; Laser – surface interactions; Nanostructuring, nanofabrication and characterization of small-sized species.
The laboratory is implementing European Regional Development Fund refinanced Horizon 2020 ERA Chair project No. 22.214.171.124/19/A/003 “The Development of Quantum Optics and Photonics at the University of Latvia”. In 2021 R. Ganeev applied for ERC Advanced grant.