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26 September 2013 ESPRESSO, an exo-Earths hunter for the VLT
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Abstract
ESPRESSO is the next European exoplanets hunter. It will combine the efficiency of modern echelle spectrograph with extreme radial-velocity precision. It will be installed at Paranal's VLT in order to achieve two magnitudes gain with respect to its predecessor HARPS, and the instrumental radial-velocity precision will be improved to reach 10 cm/s level. We have constituted a Consortium of astronomical research institutes to fund, design and build ESPRESSO on behalf of and in collaboration with ESO, the European Southern Observatory. The project has passed the final design review in May 2013. The spectrograph will be installed at the Combined Coudé Laboratory of the VLT, it will be linked to the four 8.2 meters Unit Telescopes through four optical "Coudé trains" and will be operated either with a single telescope or with up to four UTs, enabling an additional 1.5 magnitude gain. Thanks to its characteristics and ability of combining incoherently the light of 4 large telescopes, ESPRESSO will offer new possibilities in many fields of astronomy. Our main scientific objectives are, however, the search and characterization of rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of quiet, near-by G to M-dwarfs, and the analysis of the variability of fundamental physical constants. In this paper, we will present the scientific objectives, the capabilities of ESPRESSO, the technical solutions for the system and its subsystems, enlightening the main differences between ESPRESSO and its predecessors. The project aspects of this facility are also described, from the consortium and partnership structure to the planning phases and milestones.
© (2013) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
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