FIRST@LICK: first photons from a star

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After two long days of work we decided to point the telescope on the bright star called Eta Pegasi (Matar). I remind you that it was already 4am PDT so we were all quite exhausted and we had only a short amount of time before the sunrise.

To keep this post short I am showing this picture that I took at 5:11am on July 25.

First Light of a star on the control camera of FIRST

First Light of a star on the control camera of FIRST

The blurry and tiny dot that Elsa is pointing on the screen and which makes us all happy (despite the fact that we are all exhausted), is the first picture of a star on the control camera of FIRST. For the first time, our prototype collected the light of a star!!

Takayuki and Elsa spent countless hours in a lab at the observatoire de Paris and at Lick Observatory aligning the instrument using a laser source. So for them, it was an emotional moment to witness for the first time this instrument receiving photons from a star located 215 light-years away from us. It is also a big deal  for all of us since it confirmed that instrument was properly mounted and aligned on the telescope, so ready to be used.

At the end of the first night we were about to optimize the instrument and start the injection of the light into the fibers. However we realized that because of flexures on the bench and considering that we had only 30 min of observation before the sunrise, we had to postpone this important task to the following night.

I would like to thank the motivated telescope operator (Kris Miller)  and the astronomer resident (Elinor Gates) for waiting for us to be ready during the entire night.

Almost there!

About Franck Marchis

Dr. Franck Marchis is a Senior Researcher and Chair of the Exoplanet Group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute since July 2007. Over the past 19 years, he has dedicated his research to the study of our solar system, specifically the search for asteroids with moons, using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics. More recently, he has been also involved in the definition of new generation of AOs for 8 -10 m class telescopes and future Extremely Large Telescopes. He has developed algorithms to process and enhance the quality of images, both astronomical and biological. His currently involved in the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey, which consists in imaging exoplanets using an extreme AO system for the Gemini South telescope. This new instrument is capable of imaging and recording spectra of young Jupiter-like exoplanets orbiting around nearby stars.

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