Digital Telescope Project Secures £3M Grant for Advanced Sky Monitoring

Digital Telescope Project Secures £3M Grant for Advanced Sky Monitoring

The University of Warwick has been awarded a £3 million grant from the European Research Council to develop a groundbreaking digital telescope.

The project, led by Professor Don Pollacco, aims to revolutionize astronomical observations by enabling continuous, high-sensitivity night sky monitoring.

warwick lapalma

The digital telescope, a departure from conventional astronomical setups, will consist of numerous small, fixed telescopes equipped with cutting-edge sensors. Unlike traditional telescopes that rotate to counteract the Earth’s movement, these stationary telescopes will capture the motion of celestial bodies across their field of view. Advanced computer algorithms will compensate for the Earth’s rotation, producing highly precise sky images.

One of the key missions of the digital telescope is to detect explosive astrophysical events in real-time, such as stellar explosions and the merging of black holes.

Professor Pollacco stressed the criticality of early detection, stating, “Most of the crucial physics can only be observed near the time of the initial explosion, so early detection is of utmost importance.” The telescope will also be able to detect and track satellites, asteroids, and potentially hazardous space debris in Earth’s orbit.

The project’s prototype will include data from 52 telescopes and will likely be located in the Canary Islands, near the university’s existing facilities on La Palma. The University of Warwick will contribute an additional £600,000 to support the project.

warwick lapalma scopes

The digital telescope’s advanced algorithms will enable the tracking of objects moving at any speed and in any direction, including near-Earth objects like asteroids and comets. By accurately determining the trajectories of space debris and satellites, the telescope will enhance the clarity of astronomical data and catalogue orbital paths, contributing to the mitigation of the growing threat posed by space debris to orbital satellites.

Professor Pollacco anticipates that the digital telescope’s impact will extend beyond immediate space event detection, benefiting diverse astronomical research areas such as interstellar asteroids and long-period exoplanets. However, he also acknowledged the significant technical challenges involved, particularly in processing the vast data streams necessary for continuous, wide-area sky observation.

This project’s funding is part of the EU’s Horizon Europe program, which supports outstanding research leaders across Europe. Professor Pollacco is one of 255 researchers set to receive an ERC Advanced Grant.

As the project advances, the digital telescope is poised to revolutionize the study of astrophysical explosions and significantly contribute to our comprehension of artificial objects in near space. Its continuous monitoring capabilities will offer invaluable insights into the dynamic nature of our universe, paving the way for new horizons in astronomical research and space situational awareness.



  • University of Warwick secures £3M grant for digital telescope project
  • Innovative setup uses dozens of fixed telescopes with advanced sensors
  • Aims to detect explosive astrophysical events and track space debris in real-time
  • Project to be located in the Canary Islands, with a prototype using 52 telescopes
  • Expected to transform the study of astrophysical explosions and near-space objects
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