A Low-cost Environmental Control System for Precise Radial Velocity Spectrometers [IMA]


We present an Environmental Control System (ECS) designed to achieve milliKelvin (mK) level temperature stability for small-scale astronomical instruments. This ECS is inexpensive and is primarily built from commercially available components. The primary application for our ECS is the high-precision Doppler spectrometer MINERVA-Red, where the thermal variations of the optical components within the instrument represent a major source of systematic error. We demonstrate $\pm 2$ mK temperature stability within a 0.5 m$^{3}$ Thermal Enclosure using resistive heaters in conjunction with a commercially available PID controller and off-the-shelf thermal sensors. The enclosure is maintained above ambient temperature, enabling rapid cooling through heat dissipation into the surrounding environment. We demonstrate peak-to-valley (PV) temperature stability of better than 5 mK within the MINERVA-Red vacuum chamber, which is located inside the Thermal Enclosure, despite large temperature swings in the ambient laboratory environment. During periods of stable laboratory conditions, the PV variations within the vacuum chamber are less than 3 mK. This temperature stability is comparable to the best stability demonstrated for Doppler spectrometers currently achieving 1 m s$^{-1}$ radial velocity precision. We discuss the challenges of using commercially available thermoelectrically cooled CCD cameras in a temperature-stabilized environment, and demonstrate that the effects of variable heat output from the CCD camera body can be mitigated using PID-controlled chilled water systems. The ECS presented here could potentially provide the stable operating environment required for future compact, “astro-photonic” precise radial velocity (PRV) spectrometers to achieve high Doppler measurement precision with a modest budget.

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D. Sliski, C. Blake and S. Halverson
Mon, 16 Oct 17

Comments: 17 pages, 10 figures, PASP accepted October 2017

The FluxCompensator: Making Radiative Transfer Models of hydrodynamical Simulations Directly Comparable to Real Observations [IMA]


When modeling astronomical objects throughout the universe, it is important to correctly treat the limitations of the data, for instance finite resolution and sensitivity. In order to simulate these effects, and to make radiative transfer models directly comparable to real observations, we have developed an open-source Python package called the FluxCompensator that enables the post-processing of the output of 3-d Monte-Carlo radiative transfer codes, such as HYPERION. With the FluxCompensator, realistic synthetic observations can be generated by modelling the effects of convolution with arbitrary point-spread functions (PSFs), transmission curves, finite pixel resolution, noise and reddening. Pipelines can be applied to compute synthetic observations that simulate observatories, such as the Spitzer Space Telescope or the Herschel Space Observatory. Additionally, this tool can read in existing observations (e.g. FITS format) and use the same settings for the synthetic observations. In this paper, we describe the package as well as present examples of such synthetic observations.

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C. Koepferl and T. Robitaille
Fri, 13 Oct 17

Comments: Accepted by ApJ, 12 pages, 5 figures, 2 tables, code examples, open-source software

Imaging Polarimetry of the 2017 Solar Eclipse with the RIT Polarization Imaging Camera [IMA]


In the last decade, imaging polarimeters based on micropolarizer arrays have been developed for use in terrestrial remote sensing and metrology applications. Micropolarizer-based sensors are dramatically smaller and more mechanically robust than other polarimeters with similar spectral response and snapshot capability. To determine the suitability of these new polarimeters for astronomical applications, we developed the RIT Polarization Imaging Camera to investigate the performance of these devices, with a special attention to the low signal-to-noise regime. We characterized the device performance in the lab, by determining the relative throughput, efficiency, and orientation of every pixel, as a function of wavelength. Using the resulting pixel response model, we developed demodulation procedures for aperture photometry and imaging polarimetry observing modes. We found that, using the current calibration, RITPIC is capable of detecting polarization signals as small as $\sim0.3\%$. To demonstrate the stability of RITPIC’s calibration and its extreme portability, we performed imaging polarimetry of the Solar corona in Madras, Oregon during the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017. The maximum polarization we measured was $\sim45\%$, which agrees well with the maximum value predicted for a Thomson scattering corona. Similarly, we found no strong deviations in the angle of linear polarization from the tangential direction. The relative ease of data collection, calibration, and analysis provided by these sensors suggest than they may become an important tool for a number of astronomical targets.

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D. Vorobiev, Z. Ninkov, L. Bernard, et. al.
Fri, 13 Oct 17

Comments: N/A

The Transient High Energy Sky and Early Universe Surveyor (THESEUS) [IMA]


THESEUS is a space mission concept aimed at exploiting Gamma-Ray Bursts for investigating the early Universe and at providing a substantial advancement of multi-messenger and time-domain astrophysics. These goals will be achieved through a unique combination of instruments allowing GRBs and X-ray transients detection over a broad FOV (more than 1sr) with 0.5-1 arcmin localization, an energy band extending from several MeVs down to 0.3 keV and high sensitivity to transient sources in the soft X-ray domain, as well as on-board prompt (few minutes) follow-up with a 0.7 m class IR telescope with both imaging and spectroscopic capabilities. THESEUS will be perfectly suited for addressing the main open issues in cosmology such as, e.g., star formation rate and metallicity evolution of the inter-stellar and intra-galactic medium up to redshift $\sim$10, signatures of Pop III stars, sources and physics of re-ionization, and the faint end of the galaxy luminosity function. In addition, it will provide unprecedented capability to monitor the X-ray variable sky, thus detecting, localizing, and identifying the electromagnetic counterparts to sources of gravitational radiation, which may be routinely detected in the late ’20s / early ’30s by next generation facilities like aLIGO/ aVirgo, eLISA, KAGRA, and Einstein Telescope. THESEUS will also provide powerful synergies with the next generation of multi-wavelength observatories (e.g., LSST, ELT, SKA, CTA, ATHENA).

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L. Amati, P. OBrien, D. Goetz, et. al.
Fri, 13 Oct 17

Comments: Submitted to Space Science Reviews. Partly based on the proposal submitted on October 2016 in response to the ESA Call for next M5 mission, with expanded and updated science sections

Microwave SQUID Multiplexer for Cosmic Microwave Background Imagers [IMA]


Key performance characteristics are demonstrated for the microwave SQUID multiplexer ($\mu$MUX) coupled to transition edge sensor (TES) bolometers that have been optimized for cosmic microwave background (CMB) observations. In a 64-channel demonstration, we show that the $\mu$MUX produces a white, input referred current noise level of 29~pA$/\sqrt{\mathrm{Hz}}$ at -77~dB microwave probe tone power, which is well below expected fundamental detector and photon noise sources for a ground-based CMB-optimized bolometer. Operated with negligible photon loading, we measure 98~pA$/\sqrt{\mathrm{Hz}}$ in the TES-coupled channels biased at 65% of the sensor normal resistance. This noise level is consistent with that predicted from bolometer thermal fluctuation (i.e., phonon) noise. Furthermore, the power spectral density exhibits a white spectrum at low frequencies ($\sim$~100~mHz), which enables CMB mapping on large angular scales that constrain the physics of inflation. Additionally, we report cross-talk measurements that indicate a level below 0.3%, which is less than the level of cross-talk from multiplexed readout systems in deployed CMB imagers. These measurements demonstrate the $\mu$MUX as a viable readout technique for future CMB imaging instruments.

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B. Dober, D. Becker, D. Bennett, et. al.
Fri, 13 Oct 17

Comments: 4 figures

SPECULOOS exoplanet search and its prototype on TRAPPIST [IMA]


One of the most significant goals of modern science is establishing whether life exists around other suns. The most direct path towards its achievement is the detection and atmospheric characterization of terrestrial exoplanets with potentially habitable surface conditions. The nearest ultracool dwarfs (UCDs), i.e. very-low-mass stars and brown dwarfs with effective temperatures lower than 2700 K, represent a unique opportunity to reach this goal within the next decade. The potential of the transit method for detecting potentially habitable Earth-sized planets around these objects is drastically increased compared to Earth-Sun analogs. Furthermore, only a terrestrial planet transiting a nearby UCD would be amenable for a thorough atmospheric characterization, including the search for possible biosignatures, with near-future facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope. In this chapter, we first describe the physical properties of UCDs as well as the unique potential they offer for the detection of potentially habitable Earth-sized planets suitable for atmospheric characterization. Then, we present the SPECULOOS ground-based transit survey, that will search for Earth-sized planets transiting the nearest UCDs, as well as its prototype survey on the TRAPPIST telescopes. We conclude by discussing the prospects offered by the recent detection by this prototype survey of a system of seven temperate Earth-sized planets transiting a nearby UCD, TRAPPIST-1.

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A. Burdanov, L. Delrez, M. Gillon, et. al.
Thu, 12 Oct 17

Comments: Submitted as a chapter in the “Handbook of Exoplanets” (editors: H. Deeg & J.A. Belmonte; Section Editor: N. Narita). 16 pages, 4 figures

Search for tau neutrinos at PeV energies and beyond with the MAGIC telescopes [IMA]


The MAGIC telescopes, located at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (2200 a.s.l.) in the Canary Island of La Palma, are placed on the top of a mountain, from where a window of visibility of about 5 deg in zenith and 80 deg in azimuth is open in the direction of the surrounding ocean. This permits to search for a signature of particle showers induced by earth-skimming cosmic tau neutrinos in the PeV to EeV energy range arising from the ocean. We have studied the response of MAGIC to such events, employing Monte Carlo simulations of upward-going tau neutrino showers. The analysis of the shower images shows that air showers induced by tau neutrinos can be discriminated from the hadronic background coming from a similar direction. We have calculated the point source acceptance and the expected event rates, for a sample of generic neutrino fluxes from photo-hadronic interactions in AGNs. The analysis of about 30 hours of data taken toward the sea leads to a point source sensitivity for tau neutrinos at the level of the down-going point source analysis of the Pierre Auger Observatory, if the AUGER observation time is dedicated to a similar amount by MAGIC.

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D. Gora, M. Manganaro, E. Bernardini, et. al.
Thu, 12 Oct 17

Comments: Proceedings of EPS-HEP 2017, European Physical Society conference on High Energy Physics, 5-12 July 2017, Venice, Italy. arXiv admin note: substantial text overlap with arXiv:1708.06147