Close encounters

I am now sitting in the control room of the Very Large Telescope. The night is quiet. The Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) is currently in use, and our unit telescope (UT2, Kueyen, the Moon) is busy. This gives me some time to write a few lines. The site is wonderful, as usual. Soon I

Looking to Lani in Hawaii

Hello Cosmic Diary readers! I have recently started writing (here’s hoping for more consistency…) for NASA Goddard’s ‘Blueshift’ blog, particularly about travel and astronomy….both of which I love. Just the past few months, I’ve been on work-related trips to Germany, Hawaii, Santa Cruz, and New York City. You can read about my Hawaii trip (as

Decadal Survey

Every 10 years the US astronomy community ranks proposed projects for the next decade. The 2010 report was released today, 13 Aug 2010, at 08:00 PDT. The top recommendations were the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), formerly known as the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM), and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). I was

FIRST@LICK: First fringes! Finally…

Already three nights on the telescope and we still have no fringes… It looks worrisome but in fact we anticipated difficulties in installing FIRST prototype which is essentially a lab testbench on the Shane telescope. The good news is that every night we have made significant progresses and we identified several sources of problems. So we remained positive and continued  improving the instrument and understanding how to use it on sky.

FIRST@LICK: Two nights hunting for the fringes

As I mentioned before, the Grail of our experiment called FIRST, is to record patterns of interference fringes. Using these “images” we should be able to reconstruct an image with a high dynamic at proximity of the star, allowing us to explore the close vicinity of a nearby star. This is an interesting area, unknown to astronomers and where exoplanets form. To validate this technique we mounted FIRST on the Shane-3m telescope. As predicted this hunt for fringes was a long and tedious task.

A mysterious hand seeing through the periscope mirror that we installed on the Shane adaptive optics system.
A mysterious hand tightening up an optics is seen through the periscope mirror recently installed on the Shane adaptive optics system.