An important part of my research program involves building instrumentation that enables novel astronomical observations. Our laboratory is busy working on two build programs, even through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The LLAMAS program is a new optical integral field spectrometer that will be a facility instrument for the Magellan Telescopes. It uses 2400 optical fibers and 8 spectrograph units to take spectral images of a 38″ x 38″ region on the sky at R=2200, from 350-980 nm. LLAMAS will be accessible to the entire US community through the NSF MSIP program, which funded its construction. It will be installed in 2022.
Our second program is called WINTER, or the Wide-Field Infrared Transient Explorer. This project will use new low-noise, large-format InGaAs sensors to image a 1.1 x 1.1 degree field, on a robotic 1-meter telescope at Palomar Observatory. WINTER will perform the first IR time-domain survey of the sky in the y/J/H bands, with a focus on IR followup of merger events detected in gravitational waves by LIGO.
Previously my group built the FIRE infrared spectrometer, which has been a facility instrument on Magellan since 2010. FIRE has had scientific impact on studies of the early universe, especially in discovering and characterizing z > 6.5 quasars. It has contributed to studies of low-mass brown dwarfs, supernovae and other astrophysical transients, and intermediate redshift galaxies.