MOPTOP schematic
Optical schematic of the current plans for MOPTOP.



Under development is MOPTOP, a Multicolour OPTimised Optical Polarimeter specially designed for time domain astrophysics. It will take the already-novel aspects from the RINGO series of polarimeters (see box below) and add a unique optical dual-camera configuration to both minimize systematic errors and provide the highest possible sensitivity.

RINGO novel aspects

  • fast rotating element for high time resolution
  • very low noise cameras optimising signal to noise
  • dichroic mirrors for multi-wavelength capability

MOPTOP's design enables the measurement of polarisation and photometric variability on timescales as short as a few seconds. Overall the instrument will allow accurate measurements of the intra-nightly variability of the polarisation of sources such as gamma-ray bursts and blazars, allowing the constraint of magnetic field models to reveal more information about the formation, ejection and collimation of jets.

MOPTOP proof-of-concept prototype ("Mini"-MOPTOP) on workbench. The final deployed MOPTOP will include filter wheels. Image © 2019 Andrzej Piascik.

Instrument Description

MOPTOP will be a dual-beam polarimeter (see schematic at right). Incoming collimated light will first pass through a continuously rotating half-wave plate which will modulates the beam's polarisation angle. The polarised light will then pass through a wire-grid polarising beamsplitter. This will split the light into the p and s polarised states and send them through filter wheels to a pair of low-noise fast-readout imaging cameras. Image acquisition will be electronically synchronised to the rotation angle of the half-wave plate. This combination of half-wave plate and beamsplitter will provide about twice as much throughput as a conventional polarimeter using a polaroid filter as the analyser.


MOPTOP is currently under development, with projected deployment in 2020. A proof-of-concept instrument without filter wheels (Mini-MOPTOP, see right) was evaluated on the LT in August 2019.


Optical performance
  • predicted accuracy: ~1% at 19th magnitude in 10 minutes
  • 8 or 16 image positions per revolution
  • Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D imaging lens
  • Andor Zyla sCMOS detectors - science grade CMOS
  • 4.2 megapixel
  • 6.5 µm pixels
  • 82% peak QE
  • 0.9e- read noise
  • ~0.1–1 Hz frame rate
  • 8 arcminute field of view
Half-wave plate
  • ThorLabs Achromatic half-wave plate, 400-800nm
  • Rotation rate 15 rpm (typical), 30 rpm (max)
  • ThorLabs Wire-Gird Polarising Beamsplitter 400-700nm


At time of writing, the specification for the MOPTOP pipeline will probably be similar to that of RINGO3. See the RINGO3 pipeline information for an idea of what the MOPTOP pipeline will resemble.