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.

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.

Science News from WIYN

Steven Janowiecki (Indiana University) et al used WIYN-pODI to discover an ultra-low surface brightness galaxy in a huge HI cloud approximately 25 Mpc away. The ALFALFA survey identified this HI source as having almost as much gas mass as nearby spiral galaxy M33, but with no visible optical counterpart in SDSS imaging. With deep images from WIYN-pODI, they discoverd an extremely faint blue galaxy at the center of the hydrogen cloud. This galaxy has the most extreme gas-mass-to-light ratio ever measured with this precision, and has a peak surface brightness of only 26.4 mag/arcsec in g'. It may be an example of a galaxy which has just started to form stars out of its gas, or a galaxy which has only experienced a small amount of star formation due to quenching or other processes inhibiting gas collapse.

Read more about this exciting discovery with pODI or read the full paper as published in ApJ.


Last modified: 06-Oct-2017 10:30:29 MST