astronomy engineering at TAMU

I talked to Lucas Macri (TAMU) and Lifan Wang (TAMU) about optical observations being made in Antarctica at Dome A. This is a Chinese site that is horrifying to get to and use, but which has amazing observational properties, like excellent seeing, transparency, and sky spectrum. They have taken lots of valuable data with amazing 24/7 time coverage and short cadence. They even have some potential exoplanet discoveries. Wang has lots of ideas for next-generation projects, including some with a hefty component of high-grade robotics.

In the morning, Darren DePoy (TAMU) and Jennifer Marshall (TAMU) showed me the hardware being built for the HETDEX experiment. This involves 150 identical (or near-identical) fiber-fed spectrographs, plus a robot positioner. We spent a lot of time talking about mechanical engineering, because if you want to mass assemble a whole lot of instrumentation, you need it to be simultaneously easy to adjust mechanically, and unnecessary to adjust. This may be the future of astrophysics.

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