The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is a fixed-elevation, 9.2-m telescope with a spherical primary mirror and a tracker at prime focus to follow astronomical objects. The telescope was constructed for $13.9M over the period 1994-1997. A series of extensive engineering upgrades and corrective actions have been completed recently, resulting in significantly improved delivered image quality and increased operational efficiency. The telescope's Spherical Aberration Corrector (SAC) optics were recoated with a highly reflective and durable broadband coating at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The software mount model that maintains optical alignment of the SAC with the 11-m primary mirror array was recalibrated and improved. The acquisition and guiding optics for both the High Resolution Spectrograph (HRS) and the Low Resolution Spectrograph (LRS) were reworked and improved, allowing for better focus and SAC alignment monitoring and control. Recoating of the primary mirror segment array was begun. Telescope images of 0.82 arcseconds have been recorded for sustained periods in preliminary testing following the engineering upgrade, an improvement of 50% over previous best performance. Additional engineering upgrades are scheduled to consolidate these performance gains and to continue improving delivered image quality, throughput, and telescope operational efficiency. The HET is now capable of the science performance for which it was designed.
A long term program to quantify the intrinsic site seeing at McDonald Observatory, using two differential image motion monitors (DIMMs) has been initiated on Mt. Fowlkes where the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is located. Raw DIMM data are corrected to the zenith and to a uniform 10msec integration time. Nightly median seeing measurements (FWHM) along with the max/min range are presented for 186 nights over the 13 month period between July 2001 and July 2002. A definite seasonal effect is present in the dataset with the median seeing in the spring-summer-fall months (0.93±0.18 arcsec) being significantly better than the winter months (1.24±0.33 arcsec). The measured seeing was better than 0.70 arcsec about 9% of the time. Since DIMM units were operated at ground level these data are not quite lower limits to the site seeing performance. Even so, the seeing of this West Texas continental site at 6,650ft (2,027m) elevation in the Davis Mountains is superior to what has been assumed in the past, based on less direct seeing measurements.
Future plans are described for moving a DIMM telescope to a tower mounted, semi-automated observatory to sample the site seeing at an elevation above the ground similar to the HET mirror.
The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is a fixed-elevation, 9.2-m telescope with a spherical primary mirror and a tracker at prime focus to follow astronomical objects. The telescope was constructed for $13.9M over the period 1994-1997. A number of telescope performance deficiencies were identified and corrected following construction. Remaining problems included: 1) Dome seeing, 2) inadequate initial mirror segment alignment accuracy, and 3) mirror segment misalignment with time. The HET Completion Project was created in May 2001 to attack these problems and to identify and solve the next tier of problems. To address dome seeing, large louvers were installed and in operation by May 2002. Efforts are also underway to eliminate or suppress heat sources within the dome environment. To address segment alignment accuracy, a prototype Shack-Hartmann device, the Mirror Alignment Recovery System (MARS), was built and is in routine use at HET. The Segment Alignment Maintenance System (SAMS) is in early operation and has markedly improved telescope performance. Two Differential Image Motion Monitor (DIMM) telescopes were brought into regular operation in July 2001 to quantify atmospheric seeing at HET. As these improvements have been implemented, telescope image quality has improved significantly. Plans are in place to address additional performance issues.
A sensing and control system for maintaining the optical alignment of the ninety-one 1-meter diameter hexagonal segments forming the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) primary mirror array has been developed by NASA - Marshall Space Flight Center (Huntsville, AL) and Blue Line Engineering (Colorado Springs, CO) and implemented. This Segment Alignment Maintenance System (SAMS) employs 480 edge sensors to measure the relative shear motion between each segment edge pair and compute individual segment tip, tilt and piston position errors. Error information is sent to the HET primary mirror control system, which then corrects the physical position of each segment every 90 seconds. On-site installation of the SAMS sensors, ancillary electronics and software was completed in September 2001. Since that time, SAMS has undergone engineering testing. The system has operated almost nightly, improving HET's overall operational capability and image quality performance. SAMS has not yet, however, demonstrated performance at the specified levels for tip, tilt, piston and Global Radius of Curvature (GRoC) maintenance. Additional systems development and in situ calibration are expected to bring SAMS to completion and improved operation performance by the end of this year.
The Segment Alignment Maintenance System (SAMS) was installed on McDonald Observatory's Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) in August 2001. The SAMS became fully operational in October 2001. The SAMS uses a system of 480 inductive edge sensors to correct misalignments of the HET's 91 primary mirror segments when the segments are perturbed from their aligned reference positions. A special observer estimates and corrects for the global radius of curvature (GRoC) mode, a mode unobservable by the edge sensors. The SAMS edge sensor system and GRoC estimator are able to maintain HET's primary figure for longer durations than previously had been observed. This paper gives a functional description of the SAMS control system and presents performance verification data.
The HET is unique among 9-meter class telescopes in featuring an Arecibo-like design with a focal surface tracker. The focal surface tracker causes image quality and pointing/tracking performance to interact in a complex way that has no precedent in astronomical telescope system design and that has presented unusual demands upon commissioning. The fixed-elevation, segmented primary-mirror array offers some simplifications over traditional telescope design in principle, but has presented challenges in practice. The sky access characteristics of the HET also place unique demands on observational planning and discipline. The HET is distinguished by uniquely low construction and operating costs which affected commissioning. In this contribution, we describe those aspects of our commissioning experience that may impact how similar telescopes are designed, especially those with larger aperture, and review the challenges and lessons learned from commissioning a 9-meter class telescope with a small technical team.
To improve the image quality performance of the Hobby-Eberly Telescope's (HET) segmented primary mirror and to assist in the requirements definition for an optical alignment sensing and control system, multiple engineering tests have been designed and executed. The most significant of these tests have been the alignment maintenance baseline and solid mount tests. Together, these engineering tests defined the complex thermal and non-thermal response modes of the steel HET primary mirror truss and quantified the performance of the segment support system. We discuss the configuration and performance of the HET primary mirror, and discuss our engineering test motivation, goals, design, implementation and results. We also discuss the implications of our primary mirror performance test results for conceptually similar next generation telescope designs, such as the Extremely Large Telescope.
The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is an innovative, low cost 9- meter telescope that specializes in queue mode spectroscopic observing. Because of the HET's unique design, careful day- time and night-time thermal conditioning of the interior dome environment is essential to optimizing the telescope's performance on the sky during astronomical research operations. In this contribution, we describe the past and present thermal conditioning techniques that have been developed and employed at HET to optimize the telescope's scientific performance.
The Hobby-Eberly telescope (HET) is an innovative, low cost 9- meter class telescope that specializes in visible and near- infrared, queue observing mode spectroscopy. The operations costs for this telescope follow the capital cost model, being approximately 15 - 20% that of other 9-meter telescopes. In this contribution we describe the HET operations model and our early operations and scientific experience with this telescope, emphasizing those aspects that most directly impact the scientific productivity of the HET and describing the actions we have taken to optimize the telescope's scientific return.
A sensing and control system for maintaining optical alignment of ninety-one 1-meter mirror segments forming the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) primary mirror array is now under development. The Segment Alignment Maintenance System (SAMS) is designed to sense relative shear motion between each segment edge pair and calculated individual segment tip, tilt, and piston position errors. Error information is sent to the HET primary mirror control system, which corrects the physical position of each segment as often as once per minute. Development of SAMS is required to meet optical images quality specifications for the telescope. Segment misalignment over time is though to be due to thermal inhomogeneity within the steel mirror support truss. Challenging problems of sensor resolution, dynamic range, mechanical mounting, calibration, stability, robust algorithm development, and system integration must be overcome to achieve a successful operational solution.
The Hobby-Eberly telescope (HET) is a recently completed 9- meter telescope designed to specialize in spectroscopy. It saw first light in December 1996 and during July 1997, it underwent its first end-to-end testing acquiring its first spectra of target objects. We review the basic design of the HET. In addition we summarize the performance of the telescope used with a commissioning spherical aberration correlator and spectrograph, the status of science operations and plans for the implementation of the final spherical aberration corrector and facility class instruments.
Experience in bringing into operation the 91-segment primary mirror alignment and control system, the focal plane tracker system, and other critical subsystems of the HET will be described. Particular attention is given to the tracker, which utilizes three linear and three rotational degrees of freedom to follow sidereal targets. Coarse time-dependent functions for each axis are downloaded to autonomous PMAC controllers that provide the precise motion drives to the two linear stages and the hexapod system. Experience gained in aligning the sperate mirrors and then maintaining image quality in a variable thermal environments will also be described. Because of the fixed elevation of the primary optical axis, only a limited amount of time is available for observing objects in the 12 degrees wide observing band. With a small core HET team working with McDonald Observatory staff, efficient, reliable, uncomplicated methodologies are required in all aspects of the observing operations.