After CATA was funded by CONICYT, all three Institutions associated to CATA decided to invest considerable amount of resources in infrastructure in order to allow the development of instrumentation in astronomy in Chile, one of the goals of CATA.
Millimeter Wavelength Laboratory.
Universidad de Chile built at Cerro Calán Observatory, during 2008, a millimeter wavelength (mm-wave) laboratory, led by Professor Leonardo Bronfman, where CATA members could carry out the development of receiver technology. The need for a mm-wave laboratory arises from the installation of the world's largest sub-mm-wave telescope in Chile, the ALMA telescope, which presents a tremendous opportunity for the education and training of qualified personnel to support the development of engineering and of astronomical instrumentation in the country. The mm-wave laboratory is serving as a hands-on training for Chilean engineers and graduate students specializing in astronomical instrumentation. This laboratory is carrying out state-of-the-art projects in astronomical instrumentation, focusing on receiver development, in collaboration with recognized institutes (e.g. California Institute of Technology, ESO, University of Cologne, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Chalmers University of Technology). The goal is to boost the local development of the technological ability to design and construct receivers.
The mm-wave laboratory is also implementing at Cerro Calán a 1.2 m radio-telescope, operating in the 86 – 115 GHz frequency range. Modernization of the telescope receiver is underway to optimize its scientific operation. Technological innovation is achieved by building state-of-the-art equipment; two projects are ongoing: the first, upgrading the receiver for side band separation, increasing its sensitivity; the second, building a digital spectrometer with high band-width and resolution. The work is performed by Electrical Engineering PhD students from the Astronomical Instrumentation program.
High Performance Computing Laboratory.
Pontificia Universidad Católica created, during 2009, the Center for Astro-Engineering (AIUC) to host the High Performance Computing Lab (HPCL) and to exploit the scientific and technical activities between Astronomy and Engineering, becoming a joint venture between the Astronomy Department and Engineering. The HPCL is aimed at providing to CATA members the required computational capabilities to deal with the data acquired with the new mega-facilities and as well as to perform numerical simulations. AIUC is led by Professor Leopoldo Infante. The mission of the AUIC is to foster the collaboration of astronomers and engineers around three main research areas: astronomical instrumentation, astronomical computing and astronomical services. The Center aims to exploit its privileged location in Chile to make significant contributions to current and future astronomical projects and to promote technological transfer between the international observatories and local academics and industry. In what follows we list the main projects that have been or are being carried out at the Instrumentation Laboratory of AIUC and their achievements.
AIUC developed the design and later built PUCHEROS. This is a high resolution fibre fed spectrograph for the visible spectral range. The instrument was completed and installed at PUC´s observatory Santa Martina at the beginning of 2011. In mid 2011 the instrument started regular operation being offered internally at PUC, at the national and international community. Besides being used by several scientific projects, the instrument is used by students within their advanced courses of astrophysics and for their projects of research. To our knowledge PUCHEROS is the first and so far only entirely Chilean instrument which is currently in operation.
AIUC is co-investigator in a proposed instrument for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). This instrument, dubbed the "GMT-CfA-Carnegie-Catolica-Chicago Large Earth Finder" (G-CLEF) is a high resolution, fiber-fed, highly stabilized optical echelle spectrograph that will be capable of measuring radial velocities with a precision of 9 cm/s. It will have three modes that will allow it to
address science cases such as stellar archeology in the Milky Way with measurement of chemical abundances in faint stars and the search for Earthlike planets in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars. The instrument went through a preliminary design review in September 2011 and is very likely to be selected as a first light instrument for the GMT. The AIUC will design and build the two cryogenic cameras, each comprising a 6k x 6k CCD detector.
A laboratory has been created, dedicated to teach and research in CCD detectors. AIUC focus on the design and fabrication of cryogenic cameras for astronomical instruments, running scientific CCDs and NIR detectors.
Research is being carried out in wide-field adaptive optics, with the goal of building an optical bench to investigate a number of areas in AO required to implement Multiple Objects Adaptive Optics (MOAO) in Extremely Large Telescopes. Various research activities are ramping up: Wide-field Adaptive Optics; Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics; Beam shaping for Laser Guide Stars; and Cn2 characterization.
Astronomical “Site Testing”, (sub)mm, radio and optical and Telescopes performance evaluation are part of the AIUC activities. Particularly, Center members work for the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (145, 220 and 280 MHz) in El Toco. The AIUC team performs the tests and characterizes the main reflecting surfaces of the telescope.
The AIUC has partnered with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in order to provide support for the f/5 instrumentation at the Clay telescope in Las Campanas (Megacam and MMIRS). The f/5 instruments are mounted each semester for approximately two month periods during which specialized support is required. An AIUC engineer has as part of his job to provide such support in close coordination with LCO and CfA staff.
The AIUC has signed an agreement with the German MPIA to provide astronomical support at the 2.2m telescope at La Silla Observatory.