GRAVITY acquisition camera implements four optical functions to track multiple beams of Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI): a) pupil tracker: a 2×2 lenslet images four pupil reference lasers mounted on the spiders of telescope secondary mirror; b) field tracker: images science object; c) pupil imager: reimages telescope pupil; d) aberration tracker: images a Shack-Hartmann. The estimation of beam stabilization parameters from the acquisition camera detector image is carried out, for every 0.7 s, with a dedicated data reduction software. The measured parameters are used in: a) alignment of GRAVITY with the VLTI; b) active pupil and field stabilization; c) defocus correction and engineering purposes. The instrument is now successfully operational on-sky in closed loop. The relevant data reduction and on-sky characterization results are reported.
The GRAVITY Acquisition Camera was designed to monitor and evaluate the optical beam properties of the four ESO/VLT telescopes simultaneously. The data is used as part of the GRAVITY beam stabilization strategy. Internally the Acquisition Camera has four channels each with: several relay mirrors, imaging lens, H-band filter, a single custom made silica bulk optics (i.e. Beam Analyzer) and an IR detector (HAWAII2-RG). The camera operates in vacuum with operational temperature of: 240k for the folding optics and enclosure, 100K for the Beam Analyzer optics and 80K for the detector. The beam analysis is carried out by the Beam Analyzer, which is a compact assembly of fused silica prisms and lenses that are glued together into a single optical block. The beam analyzer handles the four telescope beams and splits the light from the field mode into the pupil imager, the aberration sensor and the pupil tracker modes. The complex optical alignment and focusing was carried out first at room temperature with visible light, using an optical theodolite/alignment telescope, cross hairs, beam splitter mirrors and optical path compensator. The alignment was validated at cryogenic temperatures. High Strehl ratios were achieved at the first cooldown. In the paper we present the Acquisition Camera as manufactured, focusing key sub-systems and key technical challenges, the room temperature (with visible light) alignment and first IR images acquired in cryogenic operation.
The acquisition camera for the GRAVITY/VLTI instrument implements four functions: a) field imager: science field imaging, tip-tilt; b) pupil tracker: telescope pupil lateral and longitudinal positions; c) pupil imager: telescope pupil imaging and d) aberration sensor: The VLTI beam higher order aberrations measurement. We present the dedicated algorithms that simulate the GRAVITY acquisition camera detector measurements considering the realistic imaging conditions, complemented by the pipeline used to extract the data. The data reduction procedure was tested with real aberrations at the VLTI lab and reconstructed back accurately. The acquisition camera software undertakes the measurements simultaneously for all four AT/UTs in 1 s. The measured parameters are updated in the instrument online database. The data reduction software uses the ESO Common Library for Image Processing (CLIP), integrated in to the ESO VLT software environment.
The GRAVITY Instrument Software (INS) is based on the common VLT Software Environment. In addition to the basic Instrument Control Software (ICS) which handles Motors, Shutters, Lamps, etc., it also includes three detector subsystems, several special devices, field bus devices, and various real time algorithms. The latter are implemented using ESO TAC (Tools for Advanced Control) and run at a frequency of up to 4 kHz. In total, the instrument has more than 100 ICS devices and runs on five workstations and seven vxWorks LCUs.
GRAVITY is the four-beam, near-infrared, AO-assisted, fringe tracking, astrometric and imaging instrument for the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). It is requiring the development of one of the most complex instrument software systems ever built for an ESO instrument. Apart from its many interfaces and interdependencies, one of the most challenging aspects is the overall performance and stability of this complex system. The three infrared detectors and the fast reflective memory network (RMN) recorder contribute a total data rate of up to 20 MiB/s accumulating to a maximum of 250 GiB of data per night. The detectors, the two instrument Local Control Units (LCUs) as well as the five LCUs running applications under TAC (Tools for Advanced Control) architecture, are interconnected with fast Ethernet, RMN fibers and dedicated fiber connections as well as signals for the time synchronization. Here we give a simplified overview of all subsystems of GRAVITY and their interfaces and discuss two examples of high-level applications during observations: the acquisition procedure and the gathering and merging of data to the final FITS file.
The GRAVITY acquisition camera has four 9x9 Shack-Hartmann sensors operating in the near-infrared. It measures the slow variations of a quasi-distorted wavefront of four telescope beams simultaneously, by imaging the Galactic Center field. The Shack-Hartmann lenslet images of the Galactic Center are generated. Since the lenslet array images are filled with the crowded Galactic Center stellar field, an extended object, the local shifts of the distorted wavefront have to be estimated with a correlation algorithm. In this paper we report on the accuracy of six existing centroid algorithms for the Galactic Center stellar field. We show the VLTI tunnel atmospheric turbulence phases are reconstructed back with a precision of 100 nm at 2 s integration.
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.