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.

FIRST@LICK: Setting up the prototype

On July 14 (Bastille day), shortly after we received the crates, Guy Perrin, astronomer at the Observatoire de Paris and Elsa Huby, a graduate student at the observatoire de Paris, arrived  the first time at the Lick Observatory. The picture below was taking as they were climbing the stairs of the Shane telescope building at their arrival during the sunset. An important event not as “glamorous”  than the climbing of the stairs of the famous Cannes festival but definitely more important for a lot of us… 🙂

Guy Perrin and Elsa Huby as they arrived at Lick Observatory on July 14 2010
Guy Perrin and Elsa Huby as they arrived at Lick Observatory on July 14 2010

FIRST@LICK: The Project

On July 13, I received a short email from Elinor Gates, my colleague at Lick Observatory: “The two crates arrived. I will have them moved into the lab later today.” Below a picture of these mysterious black crates. What can we find inside these crates shipped from Observatoire de Paris-Meudon? Not a vampire as you may think, but the parts of an innovative instrument. That’s a long story that I summarize  briefly today.