CARMENES (Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with Near-infrared and optical E_chelle Spectrographs) is an instrument designed an optimized to look for planets around stars smaller than our Sun. Because of their low small size and low luminosity, these stars are ideal to discover Earth-like exoplanets orbiting in the habitable zone. CARMENES is a unique instrument that uses the combination of two high-resolution (R=80000-90000) spectrographs collecting data in visible and infrared light (0.52 to 1.71 micron). The two spectrographs are enclosed in vacuum tanks with their temperatures, humidities and pressures stabilized to very precise values. This is the only way to guarantee that the measurements produced with CARMENES have the excellent accuracy necessary to detect small planets. CARMENES attains a formidable radial velocity precision of 1 m/s. This corresponds to measuring an immense ball of gas of half a million kilometers in diameter moving back and forth at the same speed as a person strolling.
CARMENES was built by a consortium of 11 institutions from Spain and Germany and was installed and commissioned at the 3.5-m telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory in Southern Spain in 2015. CARMENES will be surveying a sample of 300 stars in our immediate vicinity, lying just within 50 light years from the Sun, for a minimum of 3 years (from 2016 to 2018). This will produce an invaluable collection of several tens of terrestrial planets - our closest neighbors in the Universe. It is even possible that the first exoplanet found to host life is discovered by CARMENES, an instrument that will undoubtedly make history.
Aim of our participation
The Institute of Space Sciences has a prominent role in CARMENES. We are responsible for science preparation and exploitation through the figure of the Project Scientist. In this capacity, the Institute of Space Sciences led the selection of the stars that is being searched for planets, the collection of all necessary information to guarantee the best precision and the analysis of the data acquired to uncover habitable planets.
Besides the scientific role, the Institute of Space Sciences is also responsible for key technology packages of the CARMENES spectrograph, which are the Instrument Control System (ICS) and the scheduling system. The ICS is the ?brain? of CARMENES and centralizes all the subsystems to control the proper working of the instrument, its performance, and environment variables. The ICS communicates and collects data from a variety of sources using the modern and versatile Internet Communications Engine architecture that ensures a robust operation. The scheduler is a complex piece of software factoring in a large number of variables (target properties, prioritization, environment variables) to find the optimum target to observe at each point in time. Proper scheduling is essential to maximize the science output of CARMENES as it optimizes its efficiency.
CARMENES has been running in routine mode since Jan 1, 2016. Observations have been acquired in the framework of the 300-star survey. Over 5000 stellar spectra in each of the VIS and NIR channels were obtained over the course of the year. Planet candidates are being followed up and the first discovery papers are expected in mid 2017. The Institute of Space Sciences, as science lead, has been in charge of defining the observational strategy and the target priorities. On the technical side, the VIS channel has operated steadily at the expected performance level (about 1 m/s radial velocity long-term stability) but the NIR channel has undergone some upgrades that have improved stability to better than 3 m/s. The ICS has been running reliably for the entire observational campaigns and some functionality has been added as per the consortium and observer's requests. The entire CARMENES instrument is now ready for the final acceptance process by Calar Alto Observatory.
CARMENES: The CARMENES instrument control software suite
Colomé, J.; Guàrdia, J.; Hagen, H.-J.; Morales Muñoz, R.; Abril, M.; Benítez, D.; Caballero, J. A.; Fresno, M. L.; García-Piquer, A.; Gesa, Ll.; de Guindos, E.; de Juan, E.; Schiller, J.; Vico, I.; Vilardell, F.; Zechmeister, M.; Reiners, A.; Ribas, I.; Seifert, W.; Quirrenbach, A.; Amado, P. J.
Proceedings of the SPIE, Volume 9913, id. 991334 16 pp. (2016).
CARMENES: an overview six months after first light
Authors: Quirrenbach, A.; Amado, P. J.; et al.
Proceedings of the SPIE, Volume 9908, id. 990812 14 pp. (2016)
CARMENES: the VIS channel spectrograph in operation
Authors: Seifert, W.; Xu, W.; et al.
Proceedings of the SPIE, Volume 9908, id. 990865 13 pp. (2016).
Senior Institute members involved
, J. Colomé