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Yale Astronomy

One step backwards, two steps forward...

June 25, 2018 - Debra Fischer

While working on tasks that included measuring the throughput at key points in EXPRES, the rectangular fiber that feeds light to our instrument broke. This glass fiber pipes light from the 4-meter Lowell / Discovery Channel Telescope into the spectrograph, two stories below. The fiber has a hair-width diameter and is ultra-fragile. We have spare fibers, but replacement requires opening the vacuum chamber and it takes a couple of days to connect and align the new fiber. On the up side, grad student Ryan Blackman identified a bottleneck in the light throughput that can be improved. Ryan Petersburg used a new microcomb to characterize the inevitable scattering when light encounters optical lenses and mirrors. Ben Fischer continued working on the thermal enclosure [1], heavily insulated panels that cover the aluminum vacuum chamber and help to stabilize the temperature inside EXPRES.

Undergrad Abby Mintz [3] made a stellar debut, covering 10 consecutive nights at the DCT, a real endurance test. The weather has been spectacular - typical for summer in Arizona. Abby took the lovely picture at sunset [2]. During the day, the DCT dome looks like it is sporting a cloaking device as the vivid blue skies are reflected in the shiny aluminum exterior of the dome [4]. Abby took the lovely photo of the moon through the dome slit at sunset [5]. When we returned to the Lodge at 2am, we heard some eerie and slightly scary shreiking sounds [6]. The next day we googled for sounds made by the likely suspects and confirmed that these were elk-calls. We also saw several wild turkeys [7] in the early evening who ran away as I tried to take their pictures.

The Yale exoplanet grad students and postdocs attended the ERES (Emerging Researchers in Exoplanet Science) [8] at Penn State on Jun 24-25, where they heard about progress from our colleagues who are commissioning the Habitable Planet Finder (HPF) spectrograph at McDonald Observatory. Congrats to the Penn State team!

Jun 25, 2018 Slideshow

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Thermal enclosure for EXPRES.
Undergrad Abby Mintz..
Waiting for the sun to set.
Blue skies camoflage the DCT dome.
The moon at sunset.
By the Lodge.
Wild Turkeys.
The Yale team at Penn State.
		Left to right: John Michael Brewer, Lily Zhao, Ryan Blackman, Ryan Petersburg, Joel Ong, Allen Davis.

About Us

Photo from Lowell Observatory

The EXPRES team works on the discovery of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, or exoplanets.

EXPRES is a next generation spectrograph that aims to break the record on current measurement precision with the goal of detecting small, rocky planets - similar to Earth - orbiting nearby stars. The instrument blends high resolution and extraordinary stability to produce the highest fidelity data.

This journey began long ago; our hope is that EXPRES will help humanity to explore the unknowns in the galaxy.

EXPRES is possible thanks to...

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2018: May, April, March.

EXPRES Cast and Crew

  • Professors
    • Debra Fischer, Astronomy
    • Jessi Cisewski, Statistics
  • Research Scientists
    • Colby Jurgenson
    • Tyler McCracken
    • David Sawyer
    • Andrew Szymkowiak
  • Postdoctoral Associates and Fellows
    • John Michael Brewer
  • Graduate Students
    • Allen Davis
    • Ryan Blackman
    • Ryan Petersburg
    • Lily Zhao
    • Joel Ong
  • Undergraduate Students
    • Christopher Leet
    • Yonatan Zeff
    • Abby Mintz
  • Collaborators
    • Sally Dodson-Robinson, University of Delaware
    • Lars Buchhave, Danish National Space Institute
    • Gregory Henry, Tennessee State University
  • We Would Like to Expressly Thank
    • Steve Girvin, Yale University
    • Pieter van Dokkum, Yale University
    • Gábor Fűrész, MIT
    • Andy Szentgyorgyi, Harvard
    • Francesco Pepe, Geneva Observatory
    • Matteo Genoni, Brera Astronomical Observatory
    • Giorgio Pariani, Brera Astronomical Observatory
    • Marco Riva, Brera Astronomical Observatory
    • Ben Hardesty, Lowell Observatory
    • Frank Cornelius, Lowell Observatory