DCT Status, April 22, 2013
We obtained first light images with Lowell's Discovery Channel Telescope in mid-2012, in time for unveiling at our First Light Gala on July 21, 2012. Over 700 people attended the celebration, which featured a keynote address by Neil Armstrong, making what would be his last public appearance. We were honored by his presence at this turning point in Lowell's history. See our First Light Gala page for photographs and desktop versions of the first light images.
The Large Monolithic Imager (LMI), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is the DCT's workhorse instrument, featuring a 36 megapixel CCD with a field of view of nearly 13 arc minutes. It is mounted on the back of the instrument cube, at the straight-through position, with other instruments soon to be arrayed around the side ports. Lowell astronomer and instrument Principal Investigator Philip Massey has assembled gallery of commissioning images for you to enjoy and download. These demonstrate the outstanding optical quality of the telescope and apart from the color-compositing, they are completely unretouched.
With the commissioning phase of the DCT project now proceeding rapidly, we have begun to offer the first science observing nights to Lowell staff and to astronomers from our partner institutions (Boston University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo). Although most nights are still dedicated to commissioning and engineering, we used the DCT on about 10 nights in Q1 2013 and are on track for aboout 15 nights in Q2 and 20 in Q3 for science observing. It is exciting to see our newest eye on the heavens doing so well what it was built to do, and we have obtained image quality as good as 0.6 seconds of arc. Stay tuned as the exciting results begin to accumulate!
LMI principal investigator Phil Massey holds one of the filters for the imager. The seven-filter set, which cost $30,000, will allow DCT astronomers to observe celestial objects in precisely defined parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The Large Monolithic Imager (LMI)
An all-purpose camera, the LMI will serve as the principal imager and workhorse instrument for the first light DCT. Lowell astronomer Phil Massey is Principal Investigator for the instrument. Fully funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the LMI will be built and commissioned by 2012.
To maximize the field of view as shown in the figure below, the LMI will be mounted at the straight-through position of the RC instrument cube, as shown in the figure below. Deployable fold mirrors inside the cube will allow fast switching between instruments mounted at the various ports. DCT users will therefore be able to conduct programs requiring near-simultaneous imaging and optical / near-infrared spectroscopy. The instrument will be controlled through our existing facilities at Anderson Mesa.
The Ritchey-Chretien cube
Besides being the DCT’s workhorse, the LMI will set a precedent for wide-field imaging with monolithic cameras, as well as for more efficient future mosaics. For lots of details, you can read our technical info for the LMI.