31 July 2014 VISIR upgrade overview and status
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Abstract
We present an overview of the VISIR upgrade project. VISIR is the mid-infrared imager and spectrograph at ESO’s VLT. The project team is comprised of ESO staff and members of the original VISIR consortium: CEA Saclay and ASTRON. The project plan is based on input from the ESO user community with the goal of enhancing the scientific performance and efficiency of VISIR by a combination of measures: installation of improved hardware, optimization of instrument operations and software support. The cornerstone of the upgrade is the 1k by 1k Si:As AQUARIUS detector array (Raytheon) which has been carefully characterized in ESO’s IR detector test facility (modified TIMMI 2 instrument). A prism spectroscopic mode will cover the N-band in a single observation. New scientific capabilities for high resolution and high-contrast imaging will be offered by sub-aperture mask (SAM) and phase-mask coronagraphic (4QPM/AGPM) modes. In order to make optimal use of favourable atmospheric conditions a water vapour monitor has been deployed on Paranal, allowing for real-time decisions and the introduction of a user-defined constraint on water vapour. During the commissioning in 2012 it was found that the on-sky sensitivity of the AQUARIUS detector was significantly below expectations and that VISIR was not ready to go back to science operations. Extensive testing of the detector arrays in the laboratory and on-sky enabled us to diagnose the cause for the shortcoming of the detector as excess low frequency noise (ELFN). It is inherent to the design chosen for this detector and can’t be remedied by changing the detector set-up. Since this is a form of correlated noise its impact can be limited by modulating the scene recorded by the detector. We have studied several mitigation options and found that faster chopping using the secondary mirror (M2) of the VLT offers the most promising way forward. Faster M2 chopping has been tested and is scheduled for implementation before the end of 2014 after which we plan to re-commission VISIR. In addition an upgrade of the IT infrastructure related to VISIR is planned in order to support burst-mode operations. The upgraded VISIR will be a powerful instrument providing close to background limited performance for diffraction-limited observations at an 8-m telescope. It will offer synergy with facilities such as ALMA, JWST, VLTI and SOFIA, while a wealth of targets is available from survey work (e.g. VISTA, WISE). In addition it will bring confirmation of the technical readiness and scientific value of several aspects of potential mid-IR instrumentation at Extremely Large Telescopes.
© (2014) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Florian Kerber, Hans-Ulrich Käufl, Pedro Baksai, Nicola Di Lieto, Danuta Dobrzycka, Philippe Duhoux, Gert Finger, Stephanie Heikamp, Derek Ives, Gerd Jakob, Lars Lundin, Dimitri Mawet, Leander Mehrgan, Yazan Momany, Vincent Moreau, Eric Pantin, Miguel Riquelme, Stefan Sandrock, Ralf Siebenmorgen, Alain Smette, Julian Taylor, Mario van den Ancker, Guillermo Valdes, Lars Venema, Ueli Weilenmann, "VISIR upgrade overview and status", Proc. SPIE 9147, Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy V, 91470C (31 July 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2055172; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2055172
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