ESPRESSO: the Next Generation Planet Hunter

A new, third-generation echelle spectrograph.

ESPRESSO: the Next Generation Planet Hunter
This colourful image shows spectral data from the First Light of the ESPRESSO instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile. The light from a star has been dispersed into its component colours. This view has been colourised to indicate how the wavelengths change across the image, but these are not exactly the colours that would be seen visually. Close inspection shows many dark spectral lines in the stellar spectra and also the regular double spots from a calibration light source. The dark gaps are features of how the data is taken, and are not real. Credit: ESO/ESPRESSO team

The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) has successfully made its first observations. Installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESPRESSO will search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the light of their host stars.

Now for the 1st time, the instrument has achieved first light on ESO’s Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.

ESPRESSO: the Next Generation Planet Hunter
The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) successfully made its first observations in November 2017. Installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESPRESSO will search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the properties of light coming from their host stars. For the first time ever, an instrument will be able to sum up the light from all four VLT telescopes and achieve the light collecting power of a 16-metre telescope. This picture shows the front-end structure where the light beams coming from the four VLT Unit Telescopes are brought together and fed into fibres, which in turn deliver the light to the spectrograph itself in another room.

ESPRESSO has the potential of detecting tiny changes in the spectra of stars as planet orbits. This radial velocity method works because a planet’s gravitational pull influences its host star, causing it to “wobble” slightly. The less massive the planet, the smaller the wobble, and so for rocky and possibly life-bearing exoplanets to be detected, an instrument with very high precision is required.

In real, ESPRESSO is the successor to ESO’s hugely successful HARPS instrument at the La Silla Observatory. HARPS can accomplish an exactness of around one meter for every second in speed estimations, though ESPRESSO expects to accomplish an accuracy of only a couple of centimeters for every second, because of advances in innovation and its position on a significantly greater telescope.

The lead scientist for ESPRESSO, Francesco Pepe said, “This success is the result of the work of many people over 10 years. ESPRESSO isn’t just the evolution of our previous instruments like HARPS, but it will be transformational, with its higher resolution and higher precision.”

“And unlike earlier instruments, it can exploit the VLT’s full collecting power — it can be used with all four of the VLT Unit Telescopes at the same time to simulate a 16-meter telescope. ESPRESSO will be unsurpassed for at least a decade — now I am just impatient to find our first rocky planet.”

ESPRESSO: the Next Generation Planet Hunter
The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) successfully made its first observations in November 2017. Installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESPRESSO will search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the properties of light coming from their host stars. For the first time ever, an instrument will be able to sum up the light from all four VLT telescopes and achieve the light collecting power of a 16-metre telescope. This picture shows the room where the light beams coming from the four VLT Unit Telescopes are brought together and fed into fibres, which in turn deliver the light to the spectrograph itself in another room. One of the points where the light enters the room appears at the back of this picture.

The test perceptions included perceptions of stars and known planetary frameworks. Examinations with existing HARPS information demonstrated that ESPRESSO can get comparable quality information with drastically less presentation time.

Instrument scientist Gaspare Lo Curto (ESO) is delighted: “Bringing ESPRESSO this far has been a great accomplishment, with contributions from an international consortium as well as many different groups within ESO: engineers, astronomers, and administration. They had to not just install the spectrograph itself, but also the very complex optics that bring the light together from the four VLT Unit Telescopes.”

ESPRESSO: the Next Generation Planet Hunter
The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) successfully made its first observations in November 2017. Installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESPRESSO will search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the properties of light coming from their host stars. For the first time ever, an instrument will be able to sum up the light from all four VLT telescopes and achieve the light collecting power of a 16-metre telescope. This view shows the vacuum vessel where the extremely stable spectrographs are located.

The principal objective of ESPRESSO is to push planet chasing to the following level, finding and portraying less huge planets and their environments, it likewise has numerous different applications.

It will likewise be the world’s most capable instrument to test whether the physical constants of nature have changed since the Universe was youthful. Such modest changes are anticipated by a few speculations of key material science, however, have never been convincingly watched.