FIRST@LICK: First fringes! Finally...
Published 8/11/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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. On Tuesday July 27, I had... read more ❯

FIRST@LICK: Two nights hunting for the fringes
Published 8/10/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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. [caption id="attachment_857" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A mysterious hand tightening up  an optics  is seen through the periscope mirror... read more ❯

FIRST@LICK: first photons from a star
Published 8/9/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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. 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),... read more ❯

FIRST@LICK: Getting ready for the first night
Published 8/9/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
After a complicated mounting of the instrument on the telescope, we spent the entire first 2 days and a large part of the beginning of the night, reinstalling and realigning the FIRST instrument. JUly 23 and July 24 were  busy days with zillion of problems to solve. I am going to share you the "joy" of instrumentation in this post. This picture above summarizes in a few words our... read more ❯

FIRST@LICK: Setting up the prototype
Published 7/25/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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... :-) [caption id="attachment_798" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Guy Perrin and Elsa Huby as they arrived at Lick... read more ❯

FIRST@LICK: The Project
Published 7/24/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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. During a long stay at Keck Observatory in Hawaii in Janury 2009 (see my post here and here), I mentioned my friends and colleagues Olivier Lai  from CFHT... read more ❯