The current generation of precision radial velocity (RV) spectrographs are seeing-limited instruments. In order to achieve high spectral resolution on 8m class telescopes, these spectrographs require large optics and in turn, large instrument volumes. Achieving milli-Kelvin thermal stability for these systems is challenging but is vital in order to obtain a single measurement RV precision of better than 1m/s. This precision is crucial to study Earth-like exoplanets within the habitable zone. iLocater is a next generation RV instrument being developed for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). Unlike seeinglimited RV instruments, iLocater uses adaptive optics (AO) to inject a diffraction-limited beam into single-mode fibers. These fibers illuminate the instrument spectrograph, facilitating a diffraction-limited design and a small instrument volume compared to present-day instruments. This enables intrinsic instrument stability and facilitates precision thermal control. We present the current design of the iLocater cryostat which houses the instrument spectrograph and the strategy for its thermal control. The spectrograph is situated within a pair of radiation shields mounted inside an MLI lined vacuum chamber. The outer radiation shield is actively controlled to maintain instrument stability at the sub-mK level and minimize effects of thermal changes from the external environment. An inner shield passively dampens any residual temperature fluctuations and is radiatively coupled to the optical board. To provide intrinsic stability, the optical board and optic mounts will be made from Invar and cooled to 58K to benefit from a zero coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) value at this temperature. Combined, the small footprint of the instrument spectrograph, the use of Invar, and precision thermal control will allow long-term sub-milliKelvin stability to facilitate precision RV measurements.
We are developing a stable and precise spectrograph for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) named “iLocater.” The instrument comprises three principal components: a cross-dispersed echelle spectrograph that operates in the YJ-bands (0.97-1.30 μm), a fiber-injection acquisition camera system, and a wavelength calibration unit. iLocater will deliver high spectral resolution (R~150,000-240,000) measurements that permit novel studies of stellar and substellar objects in the solar neighborhood including extrasolar planets. Unlike previous planet-finding instruments, which are seeing-limited, iLocater operates at the diffraction limit and uses single mode fibers to eliminate the effects of modal noise entirely. By receiving starlight from two 8.4m diameter telescopes that each use “extreme” adaptive optics (AO), iLocater shows promise to overcome the limitations that prevent existing instruments from generating sub-meter-per-second radial velocity (RV) precision. Although optimized for the characterization of low-mass planets using the Doppler technique, iLocater will also advance areas of research that involve crowded fields, line-blanketing, and weak absorption lines.
The demonstration of efficient single-mode fiber (SMF) coupling is a key requirement for the development of a compact, ultra-precise radial velocity (RV) spectrograph. iLocater is a next generation instrument for the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) that uses adaptive optics (AO) to inject starlight into a SMF. In preparation for commissioning iLocater, a prototype SMF injection system was installed and tested at the LBT in the Y-band (0.970–1.065 μm). This system was designed to verify the capability of the LBT AO system as well as characterize on-sky SMF coupling efficiencies. SMF coupling was measured on stars with variable airmasses, apparent magnitudes, and seeing conditions for six half-nights using the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer. We present the overall optical and mechanical performance of the SMF injection system, including details of the installation and alignment procedure. A particular emphasis is placed on analyzing the instrument's performance as a function of telescope elevation to inform the final design of the fiber injection system for iLocater.
Optical fibers are routinely used to couple high-resolution spectrographs to modern telescopes, enabling important advantages in areas such as the search for extrasolar planets using spectroscopic radial velocity measurements of candidate stars. Optical fibers partially scramble the input illumination, and this feature enables a fiber feed to provide more uniform illumination to the spectrograph optics, thereby reducing systematic errors in radial velocity measurements. However fibers suffer from focal ratio degradation (FRD), a spreading of the beam at the output of the fiber with respect to that at the fiber input, which results in losses in throughput and resolution. Modal noise, a measurement uncertainty caused by inherent fiber properties and evident as a varying spatial intensity at the fiber exit plane, reduces the signal to noise ratio in the data. Devices such as double scramblers are often used to improve scrambling, and better fiber end preparation can mitigate FRD. Many instruments agitate the fiber during an observation to reduce modal noise, and stretching the fiber during use has been shown to offer a greater reduction in that noise. But effects of agitation and stretching on fiber parameters such as total transmission and focal ratio degradation have not been adequately studied. In this paper we present measurements of transmission loss and focal ratio degradation for both agitated and stretched fibers.
Existing planet-finding spectrometers are limited by systematic errors that result from their seeing-limited design. Of particular concern is the use of multi-mode fibers (MMFs), which introduce modal noise and accept significant amounts of background radiation from the sky. We present the design of a single-mode fiber-based acquisition camera for a diffraction-limited spectrometer named “iLocater." By using the “extreme" adaptive optics (AO) system of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), iLocater will overcome the limitations that prevent Doppler instruments from reaching their full potential, allowing precise radial velocity (RV) measurements of terrestrial planets around nearby bright stars. The instrument presented in this paper, which we refer to as the acquisition camera “demonstration system," will measure on-sky single-mode fiber (SMF) coupling efficiency using one of the 8.4m primaries of the LBT in fall 2015.
Facility Instruments at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) include two spectrograph pairs, the LBT
Near-IR Spectroscopic Utility with Camera and Integral Field Unit for Extragalactic Research (LUCI), a
near-infrared imager and spectrograph pair, and the Multi-Object Double Spectrograph (MODS), a pair of
dual-beam long-slit spectrographs. Both spectrograph designs utilize focal plane masks for long-slit and
multi-slit observations. This paper describes the mask configuration and specification process for each
instrument, as well as the steps in mask fabrication, handling, and installation.
Facility Instruments at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) include the Large Binocular Camera (LBC), a pair of wide-field imagers at the prime focus, the LUCIFER (or LUCI) near-infrared imager and spectrograph pair, and the Multi-Object Double Spectrograph (MODS), a pair of long-slit spectrographs. The disciplines involved in instrument support are reviewed, as well as scheduling of support personnel. A computerized system for instrument maintenance scheduling and spare parts inventory is described. Instrument problems are tracked via an online reporting system, and statistics on types of instrument problems are discussed, as well as applicability of the system to troubleshooting.
The use of optical fibers to couple spectrographs to telescopes has been important in the search for extrasolar planets using radial velocity measurements. The ability of an optical fiber to partially scramble the input illumination enables a fiber feed to provide more uniform illumination to the spectrograph optics, but a limiting factor in fiber coupling is modal noise. Agitation of the fiber has been shown to reduce modal noise, but altering fiber transmission parameters by varying the length of the fiber may offer advantages. We report on tests comparing some of the alternative devices for reducing modal noise.
The use of spectrographs with telescopes having high order adaptive optics systems offers the possibility of
achieving near diffraction-limited spectral resolving power. The adaptively corrected echelle spectrograph
(ACES) couples the AO-corrected stellar image to the instrument with a near single mode fiber (SMF) for
resolution of R~190,000. The First Light Adaptive Optics system (FLAO) at the Large Binocular Telescope
(LBT) achieves Strehl of >80% in H band, and also delivers useful Strehls in V and R bands. In this paper
we explore the possibility of using ACES with the LBT for simultaneous high resolution, high throughput,
and broad wavelength coverage.
The Adaptively Corrected Echelle Spectrograph (ACES) high resolution echelle spectrograph was
originally developed at Steward Observatory to couple adaptively-corrected stellar images to the instrument
using a near single mode optical fiber to give R~190,000 at V band. We explore here the feasibility of
using the spectrograph with the 2x8.4m Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), preserving the fiber coupling
for instrument isolation and illumination stability, but employing either a narrow slit or image slicer to
offset the smaller component size and thereby preserve high resolution. Such a combination could offer
simultaneously higher resolution with greater wavelength coverage per exposure than the configuration of
NASA's Phoenix Mars lander employs a suite of instruments to investigate the properties of the planet's North polar
region. A Robotic Arm is used to retrieve subsurface samples for analysis, and a Robotic Arm Camera mounted on the
wrist of the arm provides images of the surface and of material in the scoop. The RAC and the Optical Microscope both
utilize LEDs, which enable the generation of true color imagery and provide higher illumination levels at lower power
levels than the incandescent lamps used on a predecessor instrument. Although red, green and blue LEDs were
available when the instruments were being developed, the manufacturers had not tested the devices in all the
environments the spacecraft would encounter. This paper details the results of a series of tests conducted to qualify the
lamps for the temperature, vibration, and radiation environments they would encounter during the mission.
The use of spectrographs with telescopes having high order adaptive optics (AO) systems offers the possibility of achieving near diffraction-limited spectral resolution with ground-based telescopes, as well as important advantages for instrument design. The use of an optical fiber to couple the instrument to the telescope affords additional advantages such as flexibility in the placement of the instrument and improved homogeneity of the input illumination function. In the case of Steward Observatory's Adaptively Coupled Echelle Spectrograph (ACES), the instrument is normally coupled to the telescope with an 8 micron diameter near single-mode optical fiber, although the instrument can be used at fixed focus locations without the fiber for telescopes so equipped. The use of a fiber coupler results in the phenomenon known as 'modal noise', where the transmission of multiple modes in the fiber leads to a wavelength-dependent variation in illumination that limits flat fielding precision. We have largely eliminated this effect through the use of an automated fiber stretcher device. We report here on improvements to the fiber feed optics and on interim observations made with the instrument at a conventional telescope not equipped with adaptive optics.
Radial velocity studies represent the most successful method to date for the detection of extrasolar planets. Although radial velocity (vr) measurement precision of 3 m s-1 is routinely achieved in some programs, it is important to understand and minimize sources of experimental error. Furthermore, velocity variations resulting from astrophysical processes contribute to velocity errors, and must be removed if precision is to be further improved. The use of spectrographs with telescopes having high order adaptive optics (AO) systems offers the possibility of achieving near diffraction-limited very high spectral resolution at visible wavelengths on ground-based telescopes. The small stellar image diameters obtained with adaptively corrected systems allow high resolution without a large loss of light at the spectrograph entrance aperture. The Adaptively Corrected Echelle Spectrograph (ACES), designed at Steward Observatory for a spectral resolution R ~ 200,000, couples the telescope image to the instrument with an 8-10μm diameter near single-mode optical fiber. The shorter effective slit permits the placement of more echelle orders on the detector after cross dispersion, with a correspondingly greater wavelength coverage per exposure. This simultaneous high resolution and large wavelength coverage can be used to improve the precision of radial velocity studies by improving wavelength calibration, reducing dataset internal errors, and permitting better characterization and removal of effects intrinsic to the stars themselves.
The use of spectrographs with telescopes having high order adaptive optics (AO) systems offers the possibility of achieving near diffraction-limited spectral resolution on ground-based telescopes, as well as important advantages for instrument design. The small stellar image diameters obtained with adaptively corrected systems allow high resolution without a large loss of light at the spectrograph entrance slit, as well as greater spectral coverage per exposure. The adaptively corrected echelle spectrograph (ACES), designed at Steward Observatory for a spectral resolution R ≈ 200,000, couples the telescope pupil to the instrument with a 10 mm diameter near single-mode optical fiber. Initial observations at the 2.5m telescope on Mt. Wilson validated the concept of achieving high spectral resolution with an adaptively corrected telescope and fiber coupled spectrograph. However the transmission of multiple modes in the fiber lead to a wavelength-dependent variation in illumination that made flat fielding impossible. In this paper we describe instrument design improvements, the installation and testing of a new CCD detector, and testing aimed at understanding and eliminating the fiber-related transmission problems to permit science quality imaging.
The Imager for Mars Pathfinder is a stereo multispectral CCD camera designed to support a variety of science experiments from the Martian surface. The camera combines a straightforward imaging system based on a pair of Cooke triplets, fold optics, and a divided 512 by 256 pixel CCD with a complement of spectral and solar filters on two filter wheels. Aluminum and titanium component mountings on an aluminum optical bench provide for a complete pointing and imaging system having a mass of less than 3 kg. The az-el gimbal utilizes gearhead stepper motors to provide a field of regard of 370 degrees in azimuth and 156 degrees in elevation, in support of stereo and monoscopic panoramas and atmospheric studies. This paper discusses mechanical aspects of the optical component mountings and adjustments, as well as structural and mechanical aspects of the gimbal.