Today was the first day of the Terra Hunting Experiment collaboration meeting. This project is to use HARPS3 for a decade to find Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars. The conversation today was almost entirely about engineering and hardware, which I loved, of course! Many things happened, too many to describe here. One of the themes of the conversation, both in session and out, is that these ultra-precise experiments are truly integrated hardware–software systems. That is, there are deep interactions between hardware and software, and you can't optimally design the hardware without knowing what the software is capable of, and vice versa.
One presentation at the meeting that impressed me deeply was by Richard Hall (Cambridge), who has an experiment to illuminate CCD detectors with a fringe pattern from an interferometer. By sweeping the fringe pattern across the CCD and looking at residuals, he can extremely precisely measure the effective centroid in device coordinates of every pixel center. That is impressive, and it is now known to be one of the leading systematics in extreme precision radial velocity. That is, we can't just assume that the pixels are on a perfect, regular, rectangular grid. I also worked out (roughly) a way that he could do this mapping with the science data, on sky! That is, we could self-calibrate the sub-pixel shifts. This is highly related to things Dustin Lang (Perimeter) and I did for our white paper about post-wheel Kepler.