Archived News: 2012

December 17th, 2012: Robo-AO has appeared in the latest issue of Caltech's Engineering and Science magazine. Read the article by Marcus Woo.

November 15th, 2012: Robo-AO made an excellent showing at the 2012 Palomar Science Meeting with a science overview talk (Christoph), three posters (Reed, Shriharsh and Sergi) and description of how the system is verifying Kepler transit candidates during Prof. Johnson's public talk. Coincidentally, Nick presented the recently submitted Robo-AO/PTF results at the University of Toronto the same day.

October 18th, 2012: Robo-AO was recently used to verify a new technique developed by graduating senior Emil Terziev and his mentor, Project Scientist Nick Law, for finding and characterizing binary stars below the seeing limit in large synoptic surveys. The observations are detailed in a recently submitted paper to The Astrophysical Journal.

Robo-AO adaptive-optics images of the binarity test targets. Each image is 10 by 10 arc seconds in size. The ellipses indicate the predicted binary orientation and the color indicates confidence level of the predicted companion (red: no companion; yellow: possible companion; green: very likely companion).

October 8th, 2012: We're currently on night 6 of a 10 night observing run. Reinstallation of the laser went very well, and we're seeing a marked improvement of the telescope transmission after the aluminization of the primary mirror. Shriharsh also has the DIMM-MASS taking data at the 18-inch dome, so we're able to measure the vertical turbulence profile while Robo-AO is operating.

The October 2012 observing team: Reed, Sabyasachi, Christoph and Shriharsh.

September 14th, 2012: The 60-inch telescope primary mirror will be recoated next week and requires the Robo-AO laser projector (which has been mounted on the side of the telescope since January 2011) to be removed first. This was done with the assistance of Palomar Observatory staff during the instrument exchage at the end of our science observing run. We will reinstall the laser when we're back in early October for our next observing session.

The September 2012 observing team with the Palomar staff who assisted with the laser projector removal: Greg, John, Reed, Shriharsh, Karl, Steve and Christoph.

September 10th, 2012: Robo-AO is starting a 4-night science run tonight. We also caputred a time-lapse video of the installation on the 60-inch telescope after the removal of CCD22. The video features software lead Reed, as well as Steve, Mike and John of Palomar Observatory.

September 3rd, 2012: We've returned from a 1000+ target observing run with Robo-AO at the 60-inch telescope (pictured below at sunset). The weather and conditions were generally fantastic and we were able to successfully test (and are now using) Kristina's new auto focusing routine. We've got a few days off until our next run which starts next Monday.

The August/September 2012 observing team: Christoph, Reed and Nick. Not pictured: Kristina and Shriharsh.

August 9th, 2012: We took a number of new time-lapse movies of the Robo-AO system in action. Below is one taken during the last observing run close to the full moon.

August 7th, 2012: The team is returning from a successful observing run at Palomar today. Despite a few challenges and summer storms, we observed approximately 1000 targets including a few target-of-opportunity objects as indicated by observers using the 48- and 200-inch telescopes. In addition, Ashley was able to test the image quality assessment and display software she had developed over the summer on live data captured with Robo-AO.

The July/August 2012 observing team: Christoph, Reed, Shriharsh, Ashley and Nick (not pictured, remote from Toronto).

August 5th, 2012: The Robo-AO team caught the Curiosity landing video feed (while continuing to take data on Kepler targets) during the second-to-last night of our observing run. Go Curiosity!

Shriharsh, Ashley and Reed in the P60 control room just after Curiosity landed on Mars.

July 27th, 2012: Robo-AO is starting a 10-night science observing run tonight.

July 19th, 2012: The Robo-AO observing team has returned from a seven night observing run at Palomar Observatory. During the ~4.5 nights of clear weather, the system completed on order of 700 observations (that's ~150/night). We're also happy to welcome a new member to our ranks, Kristina Hogstrom, who will be developing additional robotic automation routines for Robo-AO (when she's not also working on the MINERVA project).

The July 2012 observing team: Shriharsh, Reed, Christoph and Kristina.

July 8th, 2012: Five members of the Robo-AO team have returned from the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation conference held in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Our recent success with Robo-AO was highlighted during a talk presented by Christoph and also with a poster presented by Reed. Proceedings from the conference are posted here. In the meantime, the team is preparing for another week-long science run with Robo-AO starting on July 11th.

June 23rd, 2012: During our observing run last week, we took a set of time lapse images of the Robo-AO UV laser propagating from the 60" telescope dome. Each image is 25 seconds long, taken every 30 seconds, and compiled into the video below. Over the course of the approximately three and a half hours of the video, we observed a total of 63 targets.

June 22nd, 2012: Christoph Baranec presented the Robo-AO project to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory during their Summer FLASH series of talks.

June 20th, 2012: The Robo-AO team welcomes its newest student members: Ashley Villar (MIT), Corinne Vassallo (Carnegie Mellon) and Dan Filler (Univ. of Utah).

Robo-AO 2012 summer students: Ashley, Corinne and Dan.

June 19th, 2012: The first Robo-AO science observing team has just returned from Palomar with a record haul of AO observations. On June 17th, the robotic software (coded and debugged almost exclusively by software lead Reed Riddle) was able to complete >120 scientifically useful observations all by itself:

Reductions of the automated AO observations executed by Robo-AO on the night of June 17th, 2012. Each box represents a 2 by 2 arc second field of view, and each observation totals 90 seconds of open shutter time on the visible camera in i-band.

The June 2012 observing team: Reed, Christoph, Nick and Shriharsh.

June 8th, 2012: The Robo-AO team is getting prepared for a four night observing run next week. We'll be starting our massive binary survey and Kepler KOI follow-up programs.

May 23rd, 2012: Robo-AO PI, Christoph Baranec, has been awarded funds from the NSF-ATI program for the integration, testing and deployment of a wide-field, low-noise infrared camera for Robo-AO (link). The camera dewar will be engineered by IUCAA under the direction of Robo-AO Co-I, Prof. A. N. Ramaprakash. We expect the new camera to be operating as part of the Robo-AO system by mid-2013, and not only will it execute very sensitive infrared observations, but it will also enable infrared tip-tilt sensing using adaptive-optics sharpened stars, allowing for very deep diffraction-limited imaging at visible wavelengths.

May 15th, 2012: We've returned from another awesome observing run at Palomar. While we are busily working away at reducing all of our data, here are a few gems we captured while testing the brand new eyepiece:

Mars imaged on the night of May 9th.

And the May 2012 commissioning team: Christoph, Shriharsh and Reed.

May 3rd, 2012: We are busy preparing for our last commissioning run at Palomar starting next week during which we'll be testing the pointing of the refurbished secondary mount, the new eyepiece, and the automated observing software.

April 19th, 2012: One of our SURF students from 2011, Ankit Arya (Mississippi State '12), won first place in the Research Presentation category of MSUís Undergraduate Research Symposium with his presentation entitled, "Data Reduction and Analysis Software for Robo-AO LGS Adaptive Optics System."

March 9th, 2012: Robo-AO is available for use in 2012B through Caltech's TAC and JPL's JPAC. Please contact Christoph or Nick for more information and before submitting any proposal.

March 7th, 2012: Robo-AO's PI has been awarded funds from the Mount Cuba Astronomical Foundation to enable the completion of software necessary to make Robo-AO fully robotic. This will allow us to execute several automated science programs later this year.

February 7th, 2012: Robo-AO is featured in another article, "Eyes on the sky," by Greg Blackman in Electro Optics magazine.

February 2nd, 2012: We've uploaded more images from our last run onto our Astro Gallery.

January 29th, 2012: Robo-AO captured high-resolution images of SN2012A in NGC3239 on the night of January 9th PST. After being notified of this target of opportunity, JSpOC was able to send us open-windows for safe lasing of the target within 3 hours. Our thanks to JSpOC for the quick turnaround!

SN2012A imaged with Robo-AO on January 10, 12:25 UT in r'-, i'- and z'-bands.

January 18th, 2012: Robo-AO has captured some of the sharpest real-time visible-light images of Jupiter from the ground:

January 16th, 2012: Data from our last observing is rapidly being reduced. Below is one of our favorite globular clusters: M3.

The core of M3 imaged with and without the Robo-AO adaptive optics system operating.

January 12th, 2012: We've just returned from another very technically and scientifically productive commissioning run. We'll hopefully be able to share some of our exciting images and movies in the next few weeks.

The January 2012 Robo-AO commissioning team (left to right): Reed, Sujit and Christoph. Not pictured: Shriharsh.

January 3rd, 2012: What better way to start off the new year than a commissioning run at Palomar. We've made some tweaks to the hardware which we'll be checking out, but primarily we'll be testing and debugging the robotic software and automations. We're leaving tonight and will be back late next week.