ULTRASPEC is a high-speed camera employing a frame-transfer electron-multiplying CCD (EMCCD) and the data acquisition system of ULTRACAM. The project is a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield (Vik Dhillon), Warwick (Tom Marsh) and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC), with initial funding for construction provided by the European Union (EU) under the auspices of OPTICON Joint Research Activity 3: Fast readout, high-performance optical detectors. Subsequent funding for operations in Chile and Thailand has been provided by the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Leverhulme Trust.

ULTRASPEC was originally developed for high-speed spectroscopy, where low readout noise is of paramount importance. In fact, ULTRASPEC was the first time an EMCCD had been used to perform astronomical spectroscopy on a large-aperture telescope. It is important to note, however, that ULTRASPEC is not a spectrograph - it is simply a bare EMCCD mounted in a cryostat, which can in turn be mounted on a pre-existing spectrograph. ULTRASPEC was tested for the first time on-sky during a 4-night run in December 2006 on the EFOSC2 spectrograph mounted at the Cassegrain focus of the ESO 3.6-m telescope at La Silla. The first 17-night science run with ULTRASPEC took place in January 2008 on the ESO 3.6-m, and a second 22-night science run on the 3.5m NTT was successfully completed in June 2009.

In a desire to find a permanent home for ULTRASPEC, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, providing Sheffield and Warwick with 30 nights per year on the new 2.4m Thai National Telescope (TNT) in return for access to ULTRASPEC for the Thai astronomical community. Note that ULTRASPEC is used as a permanently-mounted imager on the TNT, employing a 6-position filter wheel and custom-made re-imaging optics to provide single-band imaging in the wavelength range 300-1000nm over a field of view of 7.7'x7.7'. In the course of the move to the TNT, ULTRASPEC's data acquisition hardware and software were upgraded to bring them into line with the latest version of the ULTRACAM data acquisition system. ULTRASPEC saw first light on the 2.4m TNT on 2013 November 5.

More information on ULTRASPEC can be found by following the other links on the homepage. Key (current) personnel include: Vik Dhillon, Trevor Gamble, Liam Hardy, Paul Kerry, Stuart Littlefair, Martin Mcallister (Sheffield), Tom Marsh, Madelon Bours (Warwick), David Atkinson, Naidu Bezawada (UKATC). ULTRASPEC would not have been possible without the major contribution of Derek Ives (ex-UKATC, now ESO), who designed and built the original camera electronics.