Category Archives: HPF

This is for the HET instrument Habitable-zone Planet Finder

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:

And here is a freely-available version of the paper on the arXiv pre-print server:

Press releases on this from PSU, UT are at:

For a more publicly-accessible description, see the HPF team’s blog:

The week of July 2nd 2018

It has been a while since I posted and I think one of our biggest pieces of new is that we are now regularly observing with HPF.    Not only is this instrument being used to observe host stars for planets but there are astronomers who are using it to observe planetary nebulae looking for new elements being born in the deaths of stars just slightly heavier than our sun.   This new instrument is easy to use, reliable and a great addition to the HET.

The other big news is that we now have 40 double barreled spectrographs installed within VIRUS.   That means that we are now more than half way to have VIRUS fully populated.



The week of February 26, 2018

This week we continued with HPF and Laser Frequency Comb (LFC) commissioning. We made a lot forward progress in getting spectra with the comb and had our official “first light”. Below are a few pictures that might help visualize some of what transpired.

A slide that shows the basement of the HET where the HPF and LFC live.

A part of the spectrum from HPF which shows the very regular picket fense of emission lines generated from the LFC just below a stellar spectrum. The spectra are stacked up in an echellogram.

A very happy HPF team, NIST team and HET Night Operations team celebrate first spectrum on the sky. It took a large number of people to get this entire effort going but here are the lucky ones to see it live!

The week of February 19, 2018

In the last week we have had a few updates for two of our instruments. For VIRUS we are up to 29 working spectrographs. We actually have several more units but some of the oldest and slightly mis-behaving units have been sent back to Austin for realignment and recommissioning. For HPF we are thrilled to announce that a NIST laser comb has been installed in the calibration room in the HET basement. This allows us to send a picket fence of spectral features through a separate fiber next to the science fibers. During the data reduction and analysis of the HPF spectra they can look at the position of these pickets and determine how the instrument might be subtly moving and correct for it. So far it seems like it is working great.

The week of October 16

The exciting news this week has been the arrival of the Habitable Planet Finder (HPF). This is the first of our new high resolution instruments and an instrument well suited to working in bright moon conditions. The HPF was designed and built by our Penn State partners and arrived on the 16th.

This instrument is designed for extremely high precision spectroscopy capable of detecting the reflex motion of stars as small earth sized planets go around them. To achieve that precision the instrument is housed in our temperature controlled basement at the HET inside a temperature controlled room inside a large temperature controlled vacuum chamber. All of these efforts allow them to control the temperature of the optics of the instrument at a level of 0.001 degrees Celsius.

After very carefully cleaning the enclosure that will house the vacuum chambered instrument the HPF team

was able to open their instrument and after a very through inspection proudly announced that they have just as many pieces of glass as they did in the assembly lab at Penn State (an optics joke). After a few final checks and the inclusion of their single moving part inside of the spectrograph they sealed up the vacuum chamber which, if things continue to go very well, may remain sealed for several years to come. The process of pumping the vacuum out of the large chamber took the rest of the weekend.

In the coming days and weeks the HPF team will monitor its stability, install the laser metrology system and get the systems ready for on-sky commissioning.

Quite an exhausting and exciting week at the HET!

The week of October 2nd

This week we are pleased to announce that a new VIRUS unit was installed in side two of the VIRUS enclosure. This brings us to 22 VIRUS units or 44 spectrographs. We also took a little time in the last engineering run to add on some valves to the vacuum fittings which will allow us to cold pump on the VIRUS units which takes far less time to do than to warm up and then repump which was our older methodology. Keeping 22 VIRUS units going is starting to be a little easier but still takes a lot of management.

In addition to the work on VIRUS, we have also installed in the coherent fiber bundles for the HPF. These coherent fiber bundles will be used to setup stars on HPF science fibers. HPF will arrive in the coming weeks and we are very excited to get our first high resolution instrument on sky in the coming months.

The week of Dec 7

Two weeks ago was the HET Board of Director’s meeting in Penn State. The meeting lasted two days and the Board got status reports from HET operations and each of the instrument teams. The main news is that that LRS2 is expecting to reach first science in the first few months of 2016, HRS2 is going to start commissioning before Summer 2016 and VIRUS units are going to be coming in over the next 9 months. The Board was encouraged by the progress being made and hopes that we can continue the pace. They were also pleased to see the progress being made on HPF and were impressed with the clean room facility tour they were given. No major changes or action items were reported by the Board.

Once the commissioning team returned from Happy Valley, we went right back to work and were able to push along the closure of one of our major metrology loops, the guide probes. I am pleased to report that we are able to guide at any telescope Az for full trajectories with the probes at any position within their range.

The week of January 26

Happy New Year! The blogger is back from Winter break and travels to January Science meetings.

We will start with the bad news. The tests on the corrector have determined that there is significant asymmetries. These are asymmetries beyond what were found and reported to the board of directors in the December meeting. Those aberrations were going to be removed by changing the plate glass that was going in to seal the bottom of the corrector into a fifth optical element with some small power. That optic has been fabricated and installed in the corrector. The newly discovered astigmatism was found off axis and might have an impact on image quality at the edge of the field of view. To further investigate this optical issue we are adding a few months to the delivery date of the corrector. Instead of being delivered in late January the new delivery date is expected to be early May and significant on-sky commissioning during the rainy season perhaps pushing us into September.

On a more positive note the 2nd VIRUS enclosure has arrived and installed.

Panoramic views showing the VIRUS Enclosures being installed.  The top shows a view from in-front of the mirror and the bottom shows a view from behind the mirror.  Both are taken from the catwalk.

Panoramic views showing the VIRUS Enclosures being installed. The top shows a view from in-front of the mirror and the bottom shows a view from behind the mirror. Both are taken from the catwalk.

There is a lot of plumbing and electrical work required to finish the installation. This is our highest priority.

During the long break the Remote Thermal Area contractors have installed the glycol chiller and are in the process of commissioning it with glycol. This nearly completes the Remote Thermal Area project. Only a few punch list items remain.

The HPF doors also arrived and have been installed. The HPF is now thermally isolated from the spectrograph room. The Penn State Team will monitor the temperatures inside and outside of their enclosure to see if our new Mitsubishi units can hold the temperature to a tight enough tolerance for their specifications. Meanwhile the insulating panels for the HRS II have arrived and will be installed in the coming month. These panels along with an active feed back heater inside the enclosure should allow the HRS II to be held to extremely tight tolerances, < 0.1 C.

The mirror team has started mirror swaps and started using the Strip and Wash room to remove old mirror coatings and prep them for the coating chamber. Our goal is to get the team up to 4 mirrors swaps every 3 weeks.

The week of Nov 10

The biggest change the occurred this week was the completion of the HPF enclosure. A team came out from Penn State to lead the efforts and after two days the enclosure was completed and the last day was spent wiring up temperature sensors to monitor how the systems reacts to seasonal changes in the HET basement.

Newly installed HPF enclosure next to the HRS enclosure.

Newly installed HPF enclosure next to the HRS enclosure.

Our electrical team completed hook up of power cables to distribution boxes in Virus annex this week. They hoisted and installed the Virus equipment rack in the annex as well. We hope to have all of the electrical work done for the first enclosure by the end of next week when a programmer comes from Austin work work on the PLCs.

This week we found a problem with loose screws on lower X. We shut the tracker down for the week and an engineer came out from Austin to inspect the system for any damage. He found that many of the screws were loose and some of the shims were missing. This was likely caused by a fairly strong vibration incident that we had when we were commissioning the TCS timing loops. The engineers and mechanical team got the X drive shimmed and aligned again and all of the crews have been tightened down with torque wrenches. While the engineer was out here he worked on the rho stage which was hitting the proximity sensors early due to the non-flatness of the switch plate. They re-installed it with shims to adjust flatness and installed RHO limit switches and set the clearance.

The initial commissioning of the Strip and Wash Room began this week. A mirror segment was put through the new ultra-pure water cleaning. It is not entirely surprising that a number of small leaks were found around the mirror and passage way doors. The rest of the week was spent finding leaks and diverting water drainage paths. Our electrical engineer has nearly completed the PID controller and pressure display that will show when the room is in positive pressure and negative pressure.

As an interesting diversion this week we had the Director on site with several photographers taking pictures of him and the facility. Some of the shots were done from a helicopter while others were done from various catwalks or man-lifts. We all look forward to seeing these glamour shots.