WIYN Observatory

The WIYN Observatory supports the current and future research and education needs of its scientists by operating and maintaining the WIYN facilities at a superb level of performance, and by developing opportunities to enable frontier astrophysical research.

For current status of instrumentation and potential operational impact please see the WIYN Operational Status page.

Science News from WIYN

The visit of the interstellar interloper 1I/2017 U1, recently spotted streaking through the Solar System, gives the people of Earth their first chance to study up close an object from another planetary system. In a study carried out with the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands, astronomers find that despite its foreign origins, U1 is familiar in appearance — its size, rotation, and color are similar to that of asteroids in our Solar System. Its familiar appearance supports the long-held view that our Solar System once ejected its own flotilla of such messengers out into interstellar space.

U1 was found to be highly elongated, but otherwise similiar to other solar system objects.

More information can be found on the full press release. Or read the published paper.


NASA Selects Penn State Team to Build a Planet-finding Spectrometer for WIYN

NASA has selected a Pennsylvania State University research group led by Dr. Suvrath Mahadevan to build a new, cutting-edge instrument for the 3.5-m WIYN telescope at KPNO. By measuring the subtle back-and-forth motion of stars that is induced by their orbiting companions, the new instrument, an extreme precision radial velocity spectrometer, will detect and characterize worlds beyond our solar system.

Further information can be found in the NOAO Press Release. See also the NASA Press Release and the Pennsylvania State University Press Release.

Figure 1: Very high velocity precision is needed to measure the mass of low mass planets through the subtle motion, the “wobble”, that a planet induces in its host star. The extreme precision radial velocity spectrometer (EPDS) destined for Kitt Peak will measure stellar motions with a precision of 0.1 - 0.5 m/s (or 0.2 - 1 mph), velocities comparable to the running speed of a desert tortoise or gila monster. With such high precision, the spectrometer will be able to detect and characterize Jupiter- and Neptune-sized gas giant planets as well as super-Earth and Earth-sized rocky planets.

Continuing Community Access to WIYN Through NOAO

Two federal agencies, NASA and NSF, have joined together to continue community access to WIYN through a program of research related to exoplanets known as NN-EXPLORE. NN-EXPLORE will be managed on behalf of the federal agencies by NOAO, which will remain a WIYN partner.

Phase 1 of this program will offer access to WIYN's existing suite of instruments for exoplanet related research. This will launch in the 2015B semester, which has just been scheduled.

Phase 2 will entail the design, construction, and deployment on WIYN of a NASA-funded Extreme Precision Doppler Spectrometer (EPDS), as detailed in the announcement of opportunity. NASA's goal is to have the instrument operational on WIYN during fiscal year 2018, commensurate with the anticipated onset of data flow from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission. This program is described in a recent NOAO press release.

NASA has selected two instrument concepts for the new EPDS instrument to study in detail. The selected instrument concepts were proposed by teams from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Pennsylvania State University. For more information please see the official announcement.

Last modified: 21-Nov-2017 08:20:52 MST