The design and construction of CARMENES has been presented at previous SPIE conferences. It is a next-generation radial-velocity instrument at the 3.5m telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory, which was built by a consortium of eleven Spanish and German institutions. CARMENES consists of two separate échelle spectrographs covering the wavelength range from 0.52 to 1.71μm at a spec-tral resolution of R < 80,000, fed by fibers from the Cassegrain focus of the telescope. CARMENES saw “First Light” on Nov 9, 2015.
During the commissioning and initial operation phases, we established basic performance data such as throughput and spectral resolution. We found that our hollow-cathode lamps are suitable for precise wavelength calibration, but their spectra contain a number of lines of neon or argon that are so bright that the lamps cannot be used in simultaneous exposures with stars. We have therefore adopted a calibration procedure that uses simultaneous star / Fabry Pérot etalon exposures in combination with a cross-calibration between the etalons and hollow-cathode lamps during daytime. With this strategy it has been possible to achieve 1-2 m/s precision in the visible and 5-10 m/s precision in the near-IR; further improvements are expected from ongoing work on temperature control, calibration procedures and data reduction. Comparing the RV precision achieved in different wavelength bands, we find a “sweet spot” between 0.7 and 0.8μm, where deep TiO bands provide rich RV information in mid-M dwarfs. This is in contrast to our pre-survey models, which predicted comparatively better performance in the near-IR around 1μm, and explains in part why our near-IR RVs do not reach the same precision level as those taken with the visible spectrograph.
We are now conducting a large survey of 340 nearby M dwarfs (with an average distance of only 12pc), with the goal of finding terrestrial planets in their habitable zones. We have detected the signatures of several previously known or suspected planets and also discovered several new planets. We find that the radial velocity periodograms of many M dwarfs show several significant peaks. The development of robust methods to distinguish planet signatures from activity-induced radial velocity jitter is therefore among our priorities.
Due to its large wavelength coverage, the CARMENES survey is generating a unique data set for studies of M star atmospheres, rotation, and activity. The spectra cover important diagnostic lines for activity (H alpha, Na I D1 and D2, and the Ca II infrared triplet), as well as FeH lines, from which the magnetic field can be inferred. Correlating the time series of these features with each other, and with wavelength-dependent radial velocities, provides excellent handles for the discrimination between planetary companions and stellar radial velocity jitter. These data are also generating new insight into the physical properties of M dwarf atmospheres, and the impact of activity and flares on the habitability of M star planets.
The CARMENES instrument is a pair of high-resolution (R⪆80,000) spectrographs covering the wavelength range from 0.52 to 1.71 μm, optimized for precise radial velocity measurements. It was installed and commissioned at the 3.5m telescope of the Calar Alto observatory in Southern Spain in 2015. The first large science program of CARMENES is a survey of ~ 300 M dwarfs, which started on Jan 1, 2016. We present an overview of all subsystems of CARMENES (front end, fiber system, visible-light spectrograph, near-infrared spectrograph, calibration units, etalons, facility control, interlock system, instrument control system, data reduction pipeline, data flow, and archive), and give an overview of the assembly, integration, verification, and commissioning phases of the project. We show initial results and discuss further plans for the scientific use of CARMENES.
CARMENES (Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with Near-infrared and optical Échelle Spectrographs) is an instrument consistent in two ultra-stable high resolution (R~82,000) spectrographs covering simultaneously the visible (0.5 – 1.0μm) and near-IR (1.0 - 1.7μm) ranges to provide high-accuracy radial-velocity measurements (∼1 m/s) thanks to the long-term stability. CARMENES was the initiative of a consortium of eleven German and Spanish institutions. CARMENES has been built for the 3.5m telescope at the Centro Astronómico Hipano- Alemán (CAHA), Calar Alto Observatory (Almería, Spain) and is currently in operation. CAHA is jointly operated by the Max-Planck-Society (MPG) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
The project received the green light in October 2010 and in February 2013 passed a Final Design Review. Six months later, the MPG and CSIC, the observatory’s owners, made an independent evaluation concluding that CARMENES had to be ready for operations at the end of 2015. Since then, fulfilling the calendar was the driver of all project decisions. Moreover, the observatory’s survival was linked to the instrument’s success: should the instrument fail, the observatory would be closed. On the contrary, the instrument’s success would give unique capabilities to the Observatory for Big Science. Such a challenge became to be our private Olympic Games: we had to be on time. This decision definitively impacted on the project dynamics, there was no room for a delay. The deadline, December 31st, 2015, was controlled by a strict tracking of the critical path; calendar deviations were corrected with risky decisions while fast tracking or even crashing methods were applied.
The management scenario was far from optimum: most key people in the project shared their time with other duties; the observatory funding cuts; the budget was tight and distributed among the 11 partner centers with their own different rules, etc. Despite these difficulties, the close coordination among the project manager, the system engineer and the work package managers, the hard work of the whole team, and the support from the observatory were our best bets.
Two frenetic years after the calendar decision, we had manufactured, integrated and tested the two spectrographs and we were commissioning the instrument. The instrument first light took place on November, 9th, 2015 and CARMENES entered in operation at the end of December 2015. This paper describes the keys to success.
This paper gives an overview of the CARMENES instrument and of the survey that will be carried out with it
during the first years of operation. CARMENES (Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths
with Near-infrared and optical Echelle Spectrographs) is a next-generation radial-velocity instrument
under construction for the 3.5m telescope at the Calar Alto Observatory by a consortium of eleven Spanish
and German institutions. The scientific goal of the project is conducting a 600-night exoplanet survey targeting
~ 300 M dwarfs with the completed instrument.
The CARMENES instrument consists of two separate echelle spectrographs covering the wavelength range
from 0.55 to 1.7 μm at a spectral resolution of R = 82,000, fed by fibers from the Cassegrain focus of the telescope.
The spectrographs are housed in vacuum tanks providing the temperature-stabilized environments necessary to
enable a 1 m/s radial velocity precision employing a simultaneous calibration with an emission-line lamp or with
a Fabry-Perot etalon. For mid-M to late-M spectral types, the wavelength range around 1.0 μm (Y band) is the
most important wavelength region for radial velocity work. Therefore, the efficiency of CARMENES has been
optimized in this range.
The CARMENES instrument consists of two spectrographs, one equipped with a 4k x 4k pixel CCD for
the range 0.55 - 1.05 μm, and one with two 2k x 2k pixel HgCdTe detectors for the range from 0.95 - 1.7μm.
Each spectrograph will be coupled to the 3.5m telescope with two optical fibers, one for the target, and one
for calibration light. The front end contains a dichroic beam splitter and an atmospheric dispersion corrector,
to feed the light into the fibers leading to the spectrographs. Guiding is performed with a separate camera;
on-axis as well as off-axis guiding modes are implemented. Fibers with octagonal cross-section are employed to
ensure good stability of the output in the presence of residual guiding errors. The fibers are continually actuated
to reduce modal noise. The spectrographs are mounted on benches inside vacuum tanks located in the coud´e
laboratory of the 3.5m dome. Each vacuum tank is equipped with a temperature stabilization system capable
of keeping the temperature constant to within ±0.01°C over 24 hours. The visible-light spectrograph will be
operated near room temperature, while the near-IR spectrograph will be cooled to ~ 140 K.
The CARMENES instrument passed its final design review in February 2013. The MAIV phase is currently
ongoing. First tests at the telescope are scheduled for early 2015. Completion of the full instrument is planned
for the fall of 2015. At least 600 useable nights have been allocated at the Calar Alto 3.5m Telescope for the
CARMENES survey in the time frame until 2018.
A data base of M stars (dubbed CARMENCITA) has been compiled from which the CARMENES sample can
be selected. CARMENCITA contains information on all relevant properties of the potential targets. Dedicated imaging, photometric, and spectroscopic observations are underway to provide crucial data on these stars that
are not available in the literature.
Fiber-fed spectrographs dedicated to observing massive portions of the sky are increasingly being more demanded
within the astronomical community. For all the fiber-fed instruments, the primordial and common problem is the
positioning of the fiber ends, which must match the position of the objects of a target field on the sky. Amongst
the different approaches found in the state of the art, actuator arrays are one of the best. Indeed, an actuator
array is able to position all the fiber heads simultaneously, thus making the reconfiguration time extremely short
and the instrument efficiency high. The SIDE group* at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, together with
the industrial company AVS and the University of Barcelona, has been developing an actuator suitable for a large
and scalable array. A real-scale prototype has been built and tested in order to validate its innovative design
concept, as well as to verify the fulfillment of the mechanical requirements. The present article describes both
the concept design and the test procedures and conditions. The main results are shown and a full justification
of the validity of the proposed concept is provided.
SIDE (Super Ifu Deployable Experiment) is proposed as second-generation, common-user instrument for the GTC. It
will be a low and intermediate resolution fiber fed spectrograph, highly efficient in multi-object and 3D spectroscopy.
The low resolution part (R = 1500, 4000) is called Dual VIS-NIR because it will observe in the VIS and NIR bands (0.4
~V 1.7 microns) simultaneously. Because of the large number of fibers, a set of ~10 identical spectrographs is needed,
each with a mirror collimator, a dichroic and two refractive cameras. The cameras are optimized for 0.4 - 0.95 microns
(VIS) and 0.95 - 1.7 microns (NIR) respectively.
SIDE (Super Ifu Deployable Experiment) will be a second-generation,common-user instrument for the Grantecan (GTC)
on La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain). It is being proposed as a spectrograph of low and intermediate resolution, highly
efficient in multi-object spectroscopy and 3D spectroscopy. SIDE will feature the unique possibility of performing
simultaneous visible and IR observations for selected ranges. The SIDE project is leaded by the Instituto de Astrofsica de
Andaluca in Granada (Spain) and the SIDE Consortium is formed by a total of 10 institutions from Spain, Mexico and
USA. The feasibility study has been completed and currently the project is under revision by the GTC project office.