Tonight the NEAR commissioning team obtained the first observations with the vortex coronagraph of the revamped VISIR camera, now sitting behind the VLT-UT4 adaptive optics system. The coronagraph seems to behave beautifully, with more than 100 rejection on the peak, while the QACITS pointing loop is not active yet!
We are excited to announce that our new K-band and M-band AGPMs have just seen their first light on NIRC2 at the Keck Observatory. The new vortex phase masks seem to behave optimally, which -combined with the new set of custom-made Lyot stops- opens new possibilities in terms of exoplanet imaging (especially for not-so-warm planets at M band).
In preparation to the forthcoming upgrades of the NIRC2 camera at the Keck Observatory, we have just delivered a K-band AGPM to the NIRC2/KPIC team at Caltech. This is so far our only science-grade AGPM working at wavelengths around 2µm. We are very excited of this opportunity to enlarge the spectrum covered by AGPMs.
A couple of new L-band AGPMs, combined with new custom-made Lyot stops, saw first light on Xmas day at the Large Binocular Telescope (Mt Graham, AZ). Each of the two 8-m apertures of the LBT were focused separately on the two vortex phase masks. The rejection ratio now reaches an impressive 80:1. Let us now hope that this wonderful combination of exquisite AO correction and vortex coronagraphy will be used for ground-breaking scientific observations!
A couple of new M-band AGPMs have been sent for installation on NIRC2 (Keck Observatory) and ERIS (Very Large Telescope). The installation in NIRC2 is expected to happen in March 2019, while ERIS is still in its integration phase and should have its first light in 2021.
See dedicated page here.
L-band AGPM delivered to the VLT/ERIS consortium. It will now be integrated to the instrument in the UK. First light expected in 2021.
Based on observations of the young star MWC758 obtained with the vortex coronagraph on Keck/NIRC2, we have detected the presence of a point-like source in the protoplanetary disks, which most probably corresponds to a forming protoplanet. See paper here.
On April 2nd, a 3-min report on the use of the vortex coronagraph within the Breakthrough Watch project was shown during the prime time evening news of the Swedish national television. The Swedish journalist travelled to Liège to witness live vortex testing on the VODCA bench. The report can be accessed here for a couple of weeks. The segment starts after 19 minutes.
ESO has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for Earth-like planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. Such planets could be the targets for an eventual launch of miniature space probes by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative. The VORTEX team will provide a new vortex phase mask with enhanced performance to enable this ambitious project.