Space interferometry is the inevitable endpoint of high angular resolution astrophysics, and a key technology that can be leveraged to analyse exoplanet formation and atmospheres with exceptional detail. Here, we present a feasibility study into a small scale formation flying interferometric array, flying in Low Earth Orbit, that will aim to prove the technical concepts involved with space interferometry while still making unique astrophysical measurements. We will detail the design of the mission, as well as present orbital simulations that show that the array should be stable enough to perform interferometry with <50 m/s/year Δv and one thruster per spacecraft. We also conduct observability simulations to identify what parts of the sky are visible for a given orbital configuration. We conclude with optimism that this design is achievable, but a more detailed control simulation factoring in a metrology system is the next step to demonstrate full mission feasibility.
Cool stars, especially spectral-type M, are important probes across contemporary astrophysics, from the forma- tion history of the galaxy to the coalescence of rocky exoplanets. Main sequence M-dwarf stars are one of the most abundant stars in the galaxy, and evolved M-giant stars are some of the most distant stars that can be individually observed. The Emu sky survey, described here, will deliver critical stellar properties of these cool stars by inferring the oxygen abundance via measurement of the water band strength at 1.4 μm. A relatively wide field zenith-looking telescope with time delay integration capability can perform such a survey without active pointing but requires a fast and low-noise detector. Emu employs the paradigm-changing properties of the Leonardo SAPHIRA electron avalanche photodiode array, to provide these powerful new observations at the critical water absorption wavelength inaccessible to ground-based telescopes due to the Earth's own atmosphere. Here we will present Emu mission concept, science objectives, instrument details and simulation results.
The MCAO Assisted Visible Imager and Spectrograph (MAVIS), is a new instrument for ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The instrument will be installed at the Nasmyth focus of the UT4 telescope and is comprised of an imager and a spectrograph which will take advantage of the unprecedented angular resolution and sky coverage provided by LGS assisted MCAO correction at visible wavelengths. The Adaptive Optics Module (AOM) is the core engine of MAVIS, devoted to multi-conjugate wavefront sensing and correction, and designed to deliver a 30×30 arcsec2 corrected field of view to the scientific instruments. In this paper we focus on the optical design of the AOM, which has been optimized to perform several tasks including field de-rotation, atmospheric dispersion correction, and adaptive optics closed-loop operations. To maximize sky coverage, the system is designed to deliver a 2 arcmin field of view for the selection of up to 3 NGS for measurement of tip-tilt. The AOM module also includes a multiple LGS WFS for high-order wavefront measurements and two post-focal DMs for wide field turbulence compensation. The proposed design is the result of a trade-off study in which particular care has been devoted to satisfy performance and operational requirements, as well as modularity. We present here a complete description of the selected optical configuration with a summary of the performance analyses.
One of the main challenges for the new generation of extremely large telescopes (ELT) such as the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) is apparent in their ability to phase the segments in their primary mirror. Due to the lack of viability of manufacturing enormous mirrors, these primary mirrors are composed of smaller segments, and therefore they must be phased. Prior to the full construction of GMT, there has been proposal to develop a small-scale laboratory testbed to reproduce elements of GMT’s design, major disturbances, and control systems. This would serve to reduce the risk in cost and time prior to commissioning.
The team at the Australian National University’s (ANU) Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) have developed a design concept for such a miniature version, coined Pocket-GMT. Pocket-GMT is designed to simulate GMT’s segmented primary mirror as well as introduce aberrations and distortions similar to what GMT will experience. This would present an opportunity to optimize the functionality of GMT’s control software and wavefront sensors, and to demonstrate phasing within the laboratory prior to full-scale telescope implementation. Pocket-GMT would also be compatible with later GMT instrument prototypes, thus ensuring its usefulness going into the future.
We present a summary of the cryogenic detector preamplifier development programme under way at the ANU. Cryogenic preamplifiers have been demonstrated for both near-infrared detectors (Teledyne H1RG and Leonardo SAPHIRA eAPD as part of development for the GMTIFS instrument) and optical CCDs (e2v CCD231-84 for use with the AAT/Veloce spectrograph). This approach to detector signal conditioning allows low-noise instrument amplifiers to be placed very close to an infra-red detector or optical CCD, isolating the readout path from external interference noise sources. Laboratory results demonstrate effective isolation of the readout path from external interference noise sources. Recent progress has focussed on the first on-sky deployment of four cryogenic preamp channels for the Veloce Rosso precision radial velocity spectrograph. We also outline future evolution of the current design, allowing higher speeds and further enhanced performance for the demanding applications required for the on instrument wavefront sensor on the Giant Magellan Integral Field Spectrograph (GMTIFS).
The Australian National University (ANU), we are undertaking to deploy a Lucky Imaging instrument on the 2.3 m telescope at Siding Springs using a Leonardo SAPHIRA near-infrared electron Avalanche Photo-Diode (eAPD) array, capable of high cadence imaging with frame rates of 10 - 5,000 Hz over the wavelength range of 0.8 μm to 2.5 μm. compact cryocooler capable of cooling the Leonardo SAPHRA APD and associated cryogenic electronics to temperatures below 100K with little to no vibration. An ideal candidate cryocooler is the Sunpower Cryotel GT with active vibration cancellation. The Cryotel GT is an orientation independent, Stirlng cycle cooler with water jacket heat rejection. This cooler will meet the system cooling requirements. The cryocooler has been integrated with the APD Lucky Imager cryostat through 3 rubber isolating mounts and bellows and tested while suspended from a stable frame. The tethers supporting the cryostat and cooler assembly are not attached to the cryostat and cooler. The exported vibration was measured simultaneously in all 3 axis on the external cryostat wall and internally on the cryostat getter attached directly to the cold tip of the cooler. The test results were collected while the cryocooler was cooling and at the stable set point, at various levels of cooling power and with thermal control enabled and disabled.
We present novel methods for mounting lenses in a pair of instruments that presented challenging optical and mechanical requirements. The first instrument is the replacement Natural Guide Star Sensor (NGS2) for CANOPUS at Gemini South, which incorporates an objective consisting of a stack of six lenses mounted in a common bore. A compliant radial spacer was used to eliminate lens decentre resulting from the additional radial clearance required to accommodate differential thermal strains between the low thermal expansion lenses and a common bore. In the same instrument, tangent contact toroidal spacers were deployed in place of traditional conical spacers to further reduce contact stresses in fragile calcium fluoride lens elements. The toroidal faces were specified with a 10μm profile tolerance to avoid possible edge contact between the spacers and lenses. We investigated milling and turning machining processes for the production of the spacers by comparing their results via Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) measurements. In the second instrument, Veloce, built for the Anglo-Australian Telescope, a lens decentre requirement of 40μm led us to develop a simple means of in-situ centring adjustment of the cell mounted lens. Physical testing of the finished instruments verified the performance of each of these methods. NGS2 produced images at the factory acceptance test in which 94% of encircled energy was captured by a single 16um detector pixel, surpassing the specification of 80%. Bench testing of Veloce during assembly showed that the adjustment mechanism allowed centring of the lens over a range of +/- 0.1mm with a precision of 5μm.
We report on the conceptual design study done for the Ground Layer Adaptive Optics system of the ULTIMATE-Subaru project. This is an ambitious instrument project, providing GLAO correction in a square field of view of 14 arcmin on a side, aiming to deliver improved seeing at the near infrared wavelength. Its client instruments are an imager and multi-IFU spectrograph at Cassegrain and a Multi-Object spectrograph at Nasmyth. In this paper, we introduce the ULTIMATE-Subaru project overview and its science case and report the results of the GLAO performance prediction based on the numerical simulation and conceptual design of the wavefront sensor system.
Veloce is an ultra-stable fibre-fed R4 echelle spectrograph for the 3.9 m Anglo-Australian Telescope. The first channel to be commissioned, Veloce ‘Rosso’, utilises multiple low-cost design innovations to obtain Doppler velocities for sun-like and M-dwarf stars at <1 ms -1 precision. The spectrograph has an asymmetric white-pupil format with a 100-mm beam diameter, delivering R>75,000 spectra over a 580-930 nm range for the Rosso channel. Simultaneous calibration is provided by a single-mode pulsed laser frequency comb in tandem with a traditional arc lamp. A bundle of 19 object fibres ensures full sampling of stellar targets from the AAT site. Veloce is housed in dual environmental enclosures that maintain positive air pressure at a stability of ±0.3 mbar, with a thermal stability of ±0.01 K on the optical bench. We present a technical overview and early performance data from Australia's next major spectroscopic machine.
We report the design evolution for the GMT Integral Field Spectrograph, (GMTIFS). To support the range of operating modes – a spectroscopic channel providing integral field spectroscopy with variable spaxel scales, and a parallel imaging channel Nyquist sampling the LTAO corrected field of view - the design process has focused on risk mitigation for the demanding operational tolerances. We summarise results from prototype components, confirming concepts are meeting the necessary specifications. Ongoing review and simulation of the scientific requirements also leads to new demonstrations of the science that will be made possible with this new generation of high performance AO assisted instrumentation.
Veloce is an ultra-stabilized Echelle spectrograph for precision radial velocity measurements of stars. In order to maximize the grating performance, the air temperature as well as the air pressure surrounding it must be maintained within tight tolerances. The control goal was set at +/-10 mK and +/-1 mbar for air temperature and pressure respectively. The strategy developed by the design team resulted in separate approaches for each of the two requirements. A constrained budget early in the concept phase quickly ruled out building a large vacuum vessel to achieve stable air pressure. Instead, a simplified approach making use of a slightly over pressurized enclosure containing the whole spectrograph was selected in conjunction with a commercially available pressure controller. The temperature stability of Veloce is maintained through a custom array of PID controlled heaters placed on the outer skin of the internal spectrograph enclosure. This enclosure is also fully lined with 19 mm thick insulating panels to minimize the thermal fluctuations. A second insulated enclosure, built around the internal one, adds a layer of conditioned air to further shield Veloce from the ambient thermal changes. Early success of the environment control system has already been demonstrated in the integration laboratory, achieving results that amply exceed the goals set forth. Results presented show the long term stability of operation under varying barometric conditions. This paper details the various challenges encountered during the implementation of the stated designs, with an emphasis on the control strategy and the mechanical constraints to implement the solutions.
The recent availability of large format near-infrared detectors with sub-election readout noise is revolutionizing our approach to wavefront sensing for adaptive optics. However, as with all near-infrared detector technologies, challenges exist in moving from the comfort of the laboratory test-bench into the harsh reality of the observatory environment. As part of the broader adaptive optics program for the GMT, we are developing a near-infrared Lucky Imaging camera for operational deployment at the ANU 2.3 m telescope at Siding Spring Observatory. The system provides an ideal test-bed for the rapidly evolving Selex/SAPHIRA eAPD technology while providing scientific imaging at angular resolution rivalling the Hubble Space Telescope at wavelengths λ = 1.3-2.5 μm.
GMTIFS is the first-generation adaptive optics integral-field spectrograph for the GMT, having been selected through a competitive review process in 2011. The GMTIFS concept is for a workhorse single-object integral-field spectrograph, operating at intermediate resolution (R~5,000 and 10,000) with a parallel imaging channel. The IFS offers variable spaxel scales to Nyquist sample the diffraction limited GMT PSF from λ ~ 1-2.5 μm as well as a 50 mas scale to provide high sensitivity for low surface brightness objects. The GMTIFS will operate with all AO modes of the GMT (Natural guide star - NGSAO, Laser Tomography – LTAO, and, Ground Layer - GLAO) with an emphasis on achieving high sky coverage for LTAO observations. We summarize the principle science drivers for GMTIFS and the major design concepts that allow these goals to be achieved.
The Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics have been developing adaptive optics systems for space situational awareness. As part of this program we have developed satellite imaging using compact adaptive optics systems for small (1-2 m) telescopes such as those operated by Electro Optic Systems (EOS) from the Mount Stromlo Observatory. We have focused on making compact, simple, and high performance AO systems using modern high stroke high speed deformable mirrors and EMCCD cameras. We are able to track satellites down to magnitude 10 with a Strehl in excess of 20% in median seeing.
NGS2 is an upgrade for the multi-natural guide star tip-tilt & plate scale wavefront sensor for GeMS (Gemini Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics system). It uses a single Nüvü HNü-512 Electron-Multiplied CCD array that spans the entire GeMS wavefront sensor focal plane. Multiple small regions-of-interest are used to enable frame rates up to 800Hz. This set up will improve the optical throughput with respect to the current wavefront sensor, as well as streamline acquisition and allow for distortion compensation.
To achieve the high adaptive optics sky coverage necessary to allow the GMT Integral-Field Spectrograph (GMTIFS) to access key scientific targets, the on-instrument adaptive-optics wavefront-sensing (OIWFS) system must patrol the full 180 arcsecond diameter guide field passed to the instrument. The OIWFS uses a diffraction limited guide star as the fundamental pointing reference for the instrument. During an observation the offset between the science target and the guide star will change due to sources such as flexure, differential refraction and non-sidereal tracking rates. GMTIFS uses a beam steering mirror to set the initial offset between science target and guide star and also to correct for changes in offset. In order to reduce image motion from beam steering errors to those comparable to the AO system in the most stringent case, the beam steering mirror is set a requirement of less than 1 milliarcsecond RMS. This corresponds to a dynamic range for both actuators and sensors of better than 1/180,000.
The GMTIFS beam steering mirror uses piezo-walk actuators and a combination of eddy current sensors and interferometric sensors to achieve this dynamic range and control. While the sensors are rated for cryogenic operation, the actuators are not. We report on the results of prototype testing of single actuators, with the sensors, on the bench and in a cryogenic environment. Specific failures of the system are explained and suspected reasons for them. A modified test jig is used to investigate the option of heating the actuator and we report the improved results. In addition to individual component testing, we built and tested a complete beam steering mirror assembly. Testing was conducted with a point source microscope, however controlling environmental conditions to less than 1 micron was challenging. The assembly testing investigated acquisition accuracy and if there was any un-sensed hysteresis in the system. Finally we present the revised beam steering mirror design based on the outcomes and lessons learnt from this prototyping.
A representative range of the rotary mechanisms proposed for use in GMTIFS is described. All are driven by cryogenically rated stepper motors. For each mechanism, angular position is measured by means of eddy current sensors arranged to function as a resolver. These measure the linear displacement of a decentered aluminum alloy target in two orthogonal directions, from which angular position is determined as a function of the displacement ratio. Resolver function and performance is described. For each mechanism, the mechanical design is described and the adequacy of positioning repeatability assessed. Options for improvement are discussed.