The near-infrared GRAVITY instrument has become a fully operational spectro-imager, while expanding its capability to support astrometry of the key Galactic Centre science. The mid-infrared MATISSE instrument has just arrived on Paranal and is starting its commissioning phase. NAOMI, the new adaptive optics for the Auxiliary Telescopes, is about to leave Europe for an installation in the fall of 2018. Meanwhile, the interferometer infrastructure has continuously improved in performance, in term of transmission and vibrations, when used with both the Unit Telescopes and Auxiliary Telescopes. These are the highlights of the last two years of the VLTI 2nd generation upgrade started in 2015.
ESO is undertaking a large upgrade of the infrastructure on Cerro Paranal in order to integrate the 2nd generation of interferometric instruments Gravity and MATISSE, and increase its performance. This upgrade started mid 2014 with the construction of a service station for the Auxiliary Telescopes and will end with the implementation of the adaptive optics system for the Auxiliary telescope (NAOMI) in 2018. This upgrade has an impact on the infrastructure of the VLTI, as well as its sub-systems and scientific instruments.
At Paranal Observatory in the YEPUN (UT4) telescope, two instruments are installed and equipped
with adaptive optics systems: an infrared spectro imager (CONICA) below the adaptive optics
module NAOS; and an integral field spectrograph (SINFONI). In the same telescope, the Laser
Guide Star Facility (LGSF) is installed to provide a reference star to the adaptive optics systems. The
LGSF is tuned to the sodium D2 line to use the resonance fluorescence of atomic sodium in the
mesospheric layer at an altitude of 90 Km.
The LGSF system has been fully operational for several years now. During this time, important
modifications have been made to the system to increase its availability, simplify its remote operation
and improve its performance.
In this contribution, we report on the latest upgrades in hardware as well as the software of the
system. Some upgrades like the exchange of the cooling system of the VERDI lasers, as well as the
exchange of motors in the PARSEC laser system, have been critical to improve the performance of
the system. We also describe the improvements in the maintenance and operation procedures and
operational constraints we have faced so far. Finally, we present and analyze the latest technical
performance achieved by the LGSF in operational conditions.
The ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) offers access to the four 8 m Unit Telescopes (UT) and the four
1.8 m Auxiliary Telescopes (AT) of the Paranal Observatory located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The fourth
AT has been delivered to operation in December 2006, increasing the flexibility and simultaneous baselines access of the
VLTI. Regular science operations are now carried on with the two VLTI instruments, AMBER and MIDI. The FINITO
fringe tracker is now used for both visitor and service observations with ATs and will be offered on UTs in October
2008, bringing thus the fringe tracking facility to VLTI instruments. In parallel to science observations, technical periods
are also dedicated to the characterization of the VLTI environment, upgrades of the existing systems, and development
of new facilities. We will describe the current status of the VLTI and prospects on future evolution.
Two teams of scientists and engineers at Max Planck Institut fuer Extraterrestrische Physik and at the European Southern Observatory have joined forces to design, build and install the Laser Guide Star Facility for the VLT.
The Laser Guide Star Facility has now been completed and installed on the VLT Yepun telescope at Cerro Paranal. In this paper we report on the first light and first results from the Commissioning of the LGSF.
The ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) is the first general-user interferometer that offers near- and mid-infrared long-baseline interferometric observations in service and visitor mode to the whole astronomical community. Over the last two years, the VLTI has moved into its regular science operation mode with the two science instruments, MIDI and AMBER, both on all four 8m Unit Telescopes and the first three 1.8m Auxiliary Telescopes. We are currently devoting up to half of the available time for science, the rest is used for characterization and improvement of the existing system, plus additional installations. Since the first fringes with the VLTI on a star were obtained on March 17, 2001, there have been five years of scientific observations, with the different instruments, different telescopes and baselines. These observations have led so far to more than 40 refereed publications. We describe the current status of the VLTI and give an outlook for its near future.
The Observatorio Astronomico Nacional at San Pedro Martir is situated on the summit of the San Pedro Martir Sierra in the Baja California peninsula of Mexico, at 2800m above sea level. For as long as three decades, a number of groups and individuals have gathered extremely valuable data leading to the site characterization for astronomical observations. Here we present a summary of the most important results obtained so far. The aspects covered are: weather, cloud coverage, local meteorology, atmospheric optical extinction, millimetric opacity, geotechnical studies, seeing, optical turbulence profiles, wind profiles and 3D simulations of atmospheric turbulence. The results place San Pedro Martir among the most favorable sites in the world for astronomical observations. It seems to be particularly well-suited for extremely large telescopes because of the excellent turbulence and local wind conditions, to mention but two characteristics. Long-term monitoring of some parameters still have to be undertaken. The National University of Mexico (UNAM) and other international institutions are putting a considerable effort in that sense.
We present the dual IR camera CID for the 2.12 m telescope of the
Observatorio Astronomico Nacional de Mexico, IA-UNAM. The system
consists of two separate cameras/spectrographs that operate in
different regions of the IR spectrum. In the near IR, CID comprises a direct imaging camera with wide band filters, a CVF, and a low resolution spectrograph employing an InSb 256 x 256 detector. In the mid IR, CID uses a BIB 128 x 128 detector for direct imaging in 10 and 20 microns. Optics and mechanics of CID were developed at IR-Labs
(Tucson). The electronics was developed by R. Leach (S. Diego). General design, construction of auxiliary optics (oscillating
secondary mirror), necessary modifications and optimization of
the electronics, and acquisition software were carried out at OAN/
UNAM. The compact design of the instruments allow them to share
a single dewar and the cryogenics system.
We report on the ongoing VLT Laser Guide Star Facility project, which will allow the ESO UT4 telescope to produce an artificial reference star for the Adaptive Optics systems NAOS-CONICA and SINFONI. A custom developed dye laser producing >10W CW at 589nm is installed on-board of the UT4 telescope, then relayed by means of a single mode optical fiber behind the secondary mirror, where a 500mm diameter lightweight, f/1 launch telescope is projecting the laser beam at 90 km altitude.
We described the design tradeoffs and provide some details of the chosen subsystems. This paper is an update including subsystems results, to be read together with our previous paper on LGSF design description.
We report in this paper on the design and progress of the ESO Laser Guide Star Facility. The project will create a user facility embedded in UT4, to produce in the Earth's Mesosphere Laser Guide Stars, which extend the sky coverage of Adaptive Optics systems on the VLT UT4 telescope. Embedded into the project are provisions for multiple LGS to cope with second generation MCAO instruments.