Category Archives: Observing

Here we update what the current status of the observing period is.

Hazy skies overhead and HPF discovers the first warm Jupiter around an M dwarf

In the past couple weeks we’ve noticed significant (30-60%) reductions in the amount of starlight reaching the telescope, due to the smoke overhead:

https://hwp-viz.gsd.esrl.noaa.gov/smoke/index.html

It makes the sunsets eerie and washes out the Milky Way at night, too. Hopefully this situation will improve soon! The extinction seems worst at the blue wavelengths (like those that VIRUS uses) and is not bad for redder light (HPF observations are mostly unaffected).

 

 

On the brighter side, yet another HPF paper has been accepted and published – this one is the discovery and confirmation of the first transiting ‘warm’ Jupiter around an M dwarf. You can read the HPF team’s blog post about it:

https://hpf.psu.edu/2020/09/15/toi-1899/

The PSU press release:

https://science.psu.edu/news/Mahadevan9-2020

And of course the published article itself:

https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.07098

 

Hot Jupiters are rare around M dwarfs, and transiting warm Jupiters rarer still. The TESS spacecraft only detected a single transit – and it was only with HPF that we could nail down the orbital period and mass. This one definitely highlights the power of the HET and queue! Congrats to the whole team!

A Young Sub-Neptune-sized Planet Sheds Light onto How Planets Form and Evolve

Check out the latest results from the HET! There was a press release about this fascinating discovery:

https://mcdonaldobservatory.org/news/releases/20200804

For those who want the technical information, see the accepted article on the pre-print server:  https://arxiv.org/abs/2007.12766

In short, this is a planet around a M dwarf in the Hyades cluster (so we know age and metallicity very well- both of which are tricky for M dwarfs), and is more massive  than expected- based on mass derived with HPF radial velocities. With multiple observations during transit we also have determined the spin-orbit alignment of this planet with the rotation axis of its star- which points to a well aligned orbit.
Great work to the HPF team, and the HET staff for another (massively) cool exoplanet discovery!

New results from HPF: planets vs starspots!

The HPF team recently had another publication accepted describing the amazing complexities involved in separating star spots from planets. Their herculean efforts are described on this blog post and in their publication, both linked below:

https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2020arXiv200509657R/abstract

https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.09657

Eternal spotshine of the spinning red suns

New FeAr lamp

After the our Iron-Argon (FeAR) lamp started showing significantly reduced flux, on April 6th our team replaced the bulb in our Facility Calibration Unit (which rides along on the tracker, supplying continuum and line lamps for all the instruments). The new FeAr lamp is back to full brightness and provides excellent narrow emissions lines for our wavelength solutions on the Low Resolution Spectrograph #2.

 

The old bulb (left) looks quite dark and cloudy compared to the new one (right):

FeAr lamp

HET still operating, partially remotely

In response to COVID-19, the HET operations team has been rapidly developing our remote observing capabilities. At present, the night observations are staffed by one telescope operator on site and a remotely-connected resident astronomer (staying at home). Our afternoon operations shift is also being staffed remotely (one remote TO and one remote RA), requiring about 20-30 minutes of assistance from one member of day staff on site for our routine safety checks. Some day time staff are able to work partially or fully remotely from home, but most are still coming in daily as their duties cannot be done over a remote connection. Extra attention is being paid to hygiene, cleanliness, and staff presence each day. To further minimize risk, we have temporarily suspended our schedule of primary mirror segment swaps, as that process requires two members of the mirror team working in very close proximity with each other. We are benefiting from a lot of “can-do” attitudes here and receiving extensive help from our software team to get remote access and learning a lot in this process! After this is all over, I expect we’ll see long-term benefits from the things we have learned throughout this interesting time.

Exciting new results from HPF

HPF’s first new astronomy result is now published!¬† The team has validated their first planet, G 9-40b.

The article in the Astronomical Journal is available here: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-3881/ab5f15

And here is a freely-available version of the paper on the arXiv pre-print server: https://arxiv.org/abs/1912.00291

Press releases on this from PSU, UT are at:

https://science.psu.edu/news/Mahadevan2-2020

https://mcdonaldobservatory.org/news/releases/20200221

For a more publicly-accessible description, see the HPF team’s blog: https://hpf.psu.edu/2020/02/20/g-9-40b-hpfs-first-planet-validation/

Short term DIMM outage

As of Wednesday Feb 12th, the DIMM (Differential Image Motion Monitor) telescope is temporarily out of commission due to a technical problem. We usually run this telescope (mounted a few hundred feet from the HET on a platform to monitor native site seeing) while observing and provide the DIMM image quality (seeing) measurement to PIs with their observations. However these measurements will be temporarily unavailable while we are fixing the issue.

(Edit Feb 22nd: the DIMM functionality has been restored!)