ESPRESSO, the VLT rocky exoplanets hunter, will combine the efficiency of modern echelle spectrograph with extreme
radial-velocity precision. It will be installed at Paranal on ESO's VLT in order to achieve a gain of two magnitudes 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 preliminary design
review in November 2011. The spectrograph will be installed at the so-called "Combined Coudé Laboratory" of the
VLT, it will be linked to the four 8.2 meters Unit Telescopes (UT) through four optical "Coudé trains" and will be
operated either with a single telescope or with up to four UTs. In exchange of the major financial and human effort the
building Consortium will be awarded with guaranteed observing time (GTO), which will be invested in a common
scientific program. Thanks to its characteristics and the 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 present the ambitious 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.
ESPRESSO is a fiber-fed, cross-dispersed, high-resolution, echelle spectrograph. Being the first purpose of ESPRESSO
to develop a competitive and innovative high-resolution spectrograph to fully exploit the VLT (Very Large Telescope),
and allow new science, it is important to develop the VLT array concept bearing in mind the need to obtain the highest
stability, while preserving its best efficiency. This high-resolution ultra-stable spectrograph will be installed in the VLT
at the Combined Coudé Laboratory (CCL), fed by four Coudé Trains, which brings the light from the Nasmyth platforms
of the four VLT Unit Telescopes to the CCL. A previous trade-off analysis, considering the use of mirrors, prisms, lenses
or fibers and several possible combinations of them, pointed towards a Full Optics solution, using only conventional
optics to launch the light from the telescope into the front-end unit. In this case, the system is composed of a set of
prisms and lenses to deliver a pupil and an image in the CCL, including an Atmospheric Dispersion Compensator. In this
paper, we present the optical design of the Coudé Trains, the opto-mechanical concept, the main characteristics and
The GRAVITY acquisition camera measurements are part of the overall beam stabilization by measuring each second
the tip-tilt and the telescope pupil lateral and longitudinal positions, while monitoring at longer intervals the full
telescope pupil, and the VLTI beam higher order aberrations.
The infrared acquisition camera implements a mosaic of field, pupil, and Shack Hartman type images for each telescope.
Star light is used to correct the tip-tilt while laser beacons placed at the telescope spiders are used to measure the pupil
lateral positions. Dedicated optimized algorithms are applied to each image, extracting the beam parameters and storing
them on the instrument database.
The final design is built into the GRAVITY beam combiner, around a structural plane where the 4 telescope folding
optics and field imaging lenses are attached. A fused silica prism assembly, kept around detector temperature, is placed
near to the detector implementing the different image modes.
GRAVITY is a VLTI second generation instrument designed to deliver astrometry at the level of 10 μas. The
beam transport to the beam combiner is stabilized by means of a dedicated guiding system whose specifications
are mainly driven by the GRAVITY astrometric error budget. In the present design, the beam is monitored using
an infrared acquisition camera that implements a mosaic of field, pupil and Shack-Hartmann images for each of the telescopes. Star and background H-band light from the sky can be used to correct the tip-tilt and pupil lateral position, within the GRAVITY specifications, each 10 s. To correct the beam at higher frequencies laser guiding beams are launched in the beam path, on field and pupil planes, and are monitored using position sensor detectors. The detection, in the acquisition camera, of metrology laser light back reflected from the telescopes, is also being investigated as an alternative for the pupil motion control.
GRAVITY is an adaptive optics assisted Beam Combiner for the second generation VLTI instrumentation. The
instrument will provide high-precision narrow-angle astrometry and phase-referenced interferometric imaging in the
astronomical K-band for faint objects. We describe the wide range of science that will be tackled with this instrument,
highlighting the unique capabilities of the VLTI in combination with GRAVITY. The most prominent goal is to observe
highly relativistic motions of matter close to the event horizon of Sgr A*, the massive black hole at center of the Milky
Way. We present the preliminary design that fulfils the requirements that follow from the key science drivers: It includes
an integrated optics, 4-telescope, dual feed beam combiner operated in a cryogenic vessel; near-infrared wavefrontsensing
adaptive optics; fringe-tracking on secondary sources within the field of view of the VLTI and a novel metrology
concept. Simulations show that 10 μas astrometry within few minutes is feasible for a source with a magnitude of
mK = 15 like Sgr A*, given the availability of suitable phase reference sources (mK = 10). Using the same setup, imaging of mK = 18 stellar sources in the interferometric field of view is possible, assuming a full night of observations and the corresponding UV coverage of the VLTI.
The first purpose of ESPRESSO is to develop a competitive, innovative high-resolution spectrograph to fully exploit the
potentiality of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory and to allow new science. It is
thus important to develop the VLT array concept bearing in mind the need to obtain the highest stability, while
preserving an excellent efficiency. This high-resolution ultra-stable spectrograph will be installed at the VLT Combined
Coudé Laboratory. A Coudé Train carries the light from the Nasmyth platforms to the Combined Coudé Laboratory,
where it feeds the spectrograph. Several concepts can be envisaged for the Coudé Train depending on the use of mirrors,
prisms and lenses or fibers or any of the possible combinations of these elements. Three concepts were selected for
analysis, one based on purely optical components and two other using fibers (with different lengths). These concepts
have different characteristics in terms of efficiency, stability, complexity, and cost. The selection of the baseline concept
took into account all these issues. In this paper, we present for each concept the optical setups, their opto-mechanical
implementation and analyze the expected throughput efficiency budget, and we also detail the current baseline concept.
ESPRESSO, the Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations, will combine the
efficiency of modern echelle spectrograph design with extreme radial-velocity precision. It will be installed on ESO's
VLT in order to achieve a gain of two magnitudes with respect to its predecessor HARPS, and the instrumental radialvelocity
precision will be improved to reach cm/s level. Thanks to its characteristics and the ability of combining
incoherently the light of 4 large telescopes, ESPRESSO will offer new possibilities in various fields of astronomy. The
main scientific objectives will be the search and characterization of rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of quiet, nearby
G to M-dwarfs, and the analysis of the variability of fundamental physical constants. We will present the ambitious
scientific objectives, the capabilities of ESPRESSO, and the technical solutions of this challenging project.
The VLTI Spectro Imager project aims to perform imaging with a temporal resolution of 1 night and with a maximum
angular resolution of 1 milliarcsecond, making best use of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer capabilities. To
fulfill the scientific goals (see Garcia et. al.), the system requirements are: a) combining 4 to 6 beams; b) working in
spectral bands J, H and K; c) spectral resolution from R= 100 to 12000; and d) internal fringe tracking on-axis, or off-axis
when associated to the PRIMA dual-beam facility.
The concept of VSI consists on 6 sub-systems: a common path distributing the light between the fringe tracker and the
scientific instrument, the fringe tracker ensuring the co-phasing of the array, the scientific instrument delivering the
interferometric observables and a calibration tool providing sources for internal alignment and interferometric
calibrations. The two remaining sub-systems are the control system and the observation support software dedicated to the
reduction of the interferometric data.
This paper presents the global concept of VSI science path including the common path, the scientific instrument and the
calibration tool. The scientific combination using a set of integrated optics multi-way beam combiners to provide high-stability
visibility and closure phase measurements are also described. Finally we will address the performance budget of
the global VSI instrument. The fringe tracker and scientific spectrograph will be shortly described.
The VLTI Spectro Imager (VSI) was proposed as a second-generation instrument of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer
providing the ESO community with spectrally-resolved, near-infrared images at angular resolutions
down to 1.1 milliarcsecond and spectral resolutions up to R = 12000. Targets as faint as K = 13 will be imaged
without requiring a brighter nearby reference object; fainter targets can be accessed if a suitable reference is
available. The unique combination of high-dynamic-range imaging at high angular resolution and high spectral
resolution enables a scientific program which serves a broad user community and at the same time provides the
opportunity for breakthroughs in many areas of astrophysics. The high level specifications of the instrument are
derived from a detailed science case based on the capability to obtain, for the first time, milliarcsecond-resolution
images of a wide range of targets including: probing the initial conditions for planet formation in the AU-scale
environments of young stars; imaging convective cells and other phenomena on the surfaces of stars; mapping
the chemical and physical environments of evolved stars, stellar remnants, and stellar winds; and disentangling the central regions of active galactic nuclei and supermassive black holes. VSI will provide these new capabilities
using technologies which have been extensively tested in the past and VSI requires little in terms of new
infrastructure on the VLTI. At the same time, VSI will be able to make maximum use of new infrastructure as it
becomes available; for example, by combining 4, 6 and eventually 8 telescopes, enabling rapid imaging through
the measurement of up to 28 visibilities in every wavelength channel within a few minutes. The current studies
are focused on a 4-telescope version with an upgrade to a 6-telescope one. The instrument contains its own
fringe tracker and tip-tilt control in order to reduce the constraints on the VLTI infrastructure and maximize
the scientific return.
The Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) built by ESO with the contribution of two external consortia
is a powerful test bench for proving the feasibility of Multi-Conjugate (MCAO) and Ground Layer Adaptive Optics
(GLAO) techniques both in the laboratory and on the sky. MAD is based on a two deformable mirrors correction system
and on two multi-reference wavefront sensors (Star Oriented and Layer Oriented) capable to observe simultaneously
some pre-selected configurations of Natural Guide Stars. MAD corrects up to 2 arcmin field of view in K band. After a
long laboratory test phase, it has been installed at the VLT and it successfully performed on-sky demonstration runs on
several astronomical targets for evaluating the correction performance under different atmospheric turbulence conditions.
In this paper we present the results obtained on the sky in Star Oriented mode for MCAO and GLAO configurations and
we correlate them with different atmospheric turbulence parameters. Finally we compare some of the on-sky results with
numerical simulations including real turbulence profile measured at the moment of the observations.
This paper presents the integration and first results for the CAMCAO NIR camera. The camera was built
for the ESO Multi-conjugate Adaptive optics Demonstrator, where it is presently operating, to evaluate the
feasibility of this Adaptive Optics technique. On a second phase it will work directly at the Nasmyth focus of the
VLT. CAMCAO is a high resolution, wide field of view NIR camera, that is using the 2k×2k HgCdTe HAWAII-
2 infrared detector from Rockwell Scientific, controlled by the ESO IRACE system. The camera operates in
the near infrared region between 1.0 μm and 2.5 μm wavelength using an eight position filter wheel with J, H,
K', K-continuum and Brγ filters. Both the integration experience and the results obtained in the mechanical,
vacuum, cryogenics and optical tests are presented, including all relevant parameters in the ESO specifications.
The requirement of mechanical stiffness together with light weight was achieved yielding a total weight of less
than 90 Kg. The camera fulfills both cryogenic and vacuum stability requirements. The temperature within
the detector is maintained at 80K by an accurate control loop, ensuring mK stability, after cooling down the
detector at a rate kept below 0.5 K/min. The optical performance tests were made using a Fizeau interferometer
both for the individual optical components and complete setup. The infrared optical validation measurements
were performed by re-imaging a point source in the camera focal plane and measuring the PSF with the detector.
The computed Strehl ratio reached 95% in the central region of the FoV, with values larger than 90% in a area
covering 88% of the focal plane.
The Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) built by ESO with the contribution of two external consortia is a powerful test bench for proving the feasibility of Ground Layer (GLAO) and Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics (MCAO) techniques both in the laboratory and on the sky. The MAD module will be installed at one of the VLT unit telescope in Paranal observatory to perform on-sky observations. MAD is based on a two deformable mirrors correction system and on two multi-reference wavefront sensors (Star Oriented and Layer Oriented) capable to observe simultaneously some pre-selected configurations of Natural Guide Stars. MAD is expected to correct up to 2 arcmin field of view in K band. MAD is completing the test phase in the Star Oriented mode based on Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensing. The GLAO and MCAO loops have been successfully closed on simulated atmosphere after a long phase of careful system characterization and calibration. In this paper we present the results obtained in laboratory for GLAO and MCAO corrections testing with bright guide star flux in Star Oriented mode paying also attention to the aspects involving the calibration of such a system. A short overview of the MAD system is also given.
For applications like direct imaging detections of Exo-Planets from the ground e.g. in the CHEOPS project, extreme adaptive optics (XAO) systems using DMs with > 1000 actuators and correction frequencies of ~2kHz are proposed to be used in combination with coronographic devices. If the XAO and science channel work at the same wavelength it is a natural idea to combine the coronograph with the XAO's beam splitter (BS) to make use of the light that would otherwise just be lost. However, the location of the BS in the focal plane and the severe field limitation of the AO by a small (~0.3'') aperture in the focal plane imposes a spatial filtering on the wavefront sensor signal. In this paper, we examine the effect of the spatial filter on the "AO control radius" and the Strehl ratio provided by the system in a semi-analytical way, numerical simulations for various wavefront sensor types and a laboratory verification experiment.
Extreme adaptive optics (XAO) systems are highly specialized systems
to achieve very high Strehl numbers on comparatively small fields of
view, e.g. for high-contrast applications like planet finding. We
present a study of an XAO system using a pyramid wavefront sensor
on telescopes of 8m aperture diameter and above. We used standard
(CAOS) and custom numerical simulation tools to examine the influence
of the number of basis functions in a modal correction model,
the control loop frequency of the XAO system, and atmospheric
The CAMCAO instrument is a high resolution near infrared (NIR) camera conceived to operate together with the new ESO Multi-conjugate Adaptive optics Demonstrator (MAD) with the goal of evaluating the feasibility of Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics techniques (MCAO) on the sky. It is a high-resolution wide field of view (FoV) camera that is optimized to use the extended correction of the atmospheric turbulence provided by MCAO. While the first purpose of this camera is the sky observation, in the MAD setup, to validate the MCAO technology, in a second phase, the CAMCAO camera is planned to attach directly to the VLT for scientific astrophysical studies. The camera is based on the 2kx2k HAWAII2 infrared detector controlled by an ESO external IRACE system and includes standard IR band filters mounted on a positional filter wheel. The CAMCAO design requires that the optical components and the IR detector should be kept at low temperatures in order to avoid emitting radiation and lower detector noise in the region analysis. The cryogenic system inclues a LN2 tank and a sptially developed pulse tube cryocooler. Field and pupil cold stops are implemented to reduce the infrared background and the stray-light. The CAMCAO optics provide diffraction limited performance down to J Band, but the detector sampling fulfills the Nyquist criterion for the K band (2.2mm).
CHEOPS is a 2nd generation VLT instrument for the direct detection of extrasolar planets. The project is currently in its Phase A. It consists of an high order adaptive optics system which provides the necessary Strehl ratio for the differential polarimetric imager (ZIMPOL) and an Integral Field Spectrograph (IFS). The IFS is a very low resolution spectrograph (R~15) which works in the near IR (0.95-1.7 μm), an ideal wavelength range for the ground based detection of planetary features. In our baseline design, the Integral Field Unit (IFU) is a microlens array of about 250x250 elements which will cover a field of view of about 3.5x3.5 arcsecs2 in proximity of the target star. In this paper we describe the instrument, its preliminary optical design and the basic requirements about detectors. In a separate contribution to this conference, we present the very low resolution disperser.
We present results from a phase A study supported by ESO for a VLT instrument for the search and investigation of extrasolar planets.
The envisaged CHEOPS (CHaracterizing Extrasolar planets by Opto-infrared Polarization and Spectroscopy) instrument consists of an extreme AO system, a spectroscopic integral field unit and an imaging polarimeter. This paper describes the conceptual design of the imaging polarimeter which is based on the ZIMPOL (Zurich IMaging POLarimeter) technique using a fast polarization modulator combined with a demodulating CCD camera. ZIMPOL is capable of detecting polarization signals on the order of p=0.001% as demonstrated in solar applications. We discuss the planned implementation of ZIMPOL within the CHEOPS instrument, in particular the design of the polarization modulator. Further we describe strategies to minimize the instrumental effects and to enhance the overall measuring efficiency in order to achieve the very demanding science goals.