NIRPS (Near Infra Red Planet Searcher) is a new ultra-stable infrared ( YJH) fiber-fed spectrograph that will be installed on ESO’s 3.6-m telescope in La Silla, Chile. Aiming at achieving a precision of 1 m/s, NIRPS is designed to find rocky planets orbiting M dwarfs, and will operate together with HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher). In this paper we describe NIRPS science cases, present its main technical characteristics and its development status.
Since 1st light in 2002, HARPS has been setting the standard in the exo-planet detection by radial velocity (RV) measurements. Based on this experience, our consortium is developing a high accuracy near-infrared RV spectrograph covering YJH bands to detect and characterize low-mass planets in the habitable zone of M dwarfs. It will allow RV measurements at the 1-m/s level and will look for habitable planets around M- type stars by following up the candidates found by the upcoming space missions TESS, CHEOPS and later PLATO. NIRPS and HARPS, working simultaneously on the ESO 3.6m are bound to become a single powerful high-resolution, high-fidelity spectrograph covering from 0.4 to 1.8 micron. NIRPS will complement HARPS in validating earth-like planets found around G and K-type stars whose signal is at the same order of magnitude than the stellar noise. Because at equal resolving power the overall dimensions of a spectrograph vary linearly with the input beam étendue, spectrograph designed for seeing-limited observations are large and expensive. NIRPS will use a high order adaptive optics system to couple the starlight into a fiber corresponding to 0.4” on the sky as efficiently or better than HARPS or ESPRESSO couple the light 0.9” fiber. This allows the spectrograph to be very compact, more thermally stable and less costly. Using a custom tan(θ)=4 dispersion grating in combination with a start-of-the-art Hawaii4RG detector makes NIRPS very efficient with complete coverage of the YJH bands at 110’000 resolution. NIRPS works in a regime that is in-between the usual multi-mode (MM) where 1000’s of modes propagates in the fiber and the single mode well suited for perfect optical systems. This regime called few-modes regime is prone to modal noise- Results from a significant R and D effort made to characterize and circumvent the modal noise show that this contribution to the performance budget shall not preclude the RV performance to be achieved.
Fiber-fed spectrographs can now have throughputs equivalent to slit spectrographs. However, the sky
subtraction accuracy that can be reached on such instruments has often been pinpointed as one of their major
issues, in relation to difficulties in scattered light and flat-field corrections or throughput losses associated
with fibers. Using technical time observations with FLAMES-GIRAFFE, two observing techniques, namely
dual staring and cross beam switching modes, were tested and the resulting sky subtraction accuracy reached
in both cases was quantified. Results indicate that an accuracy of 0.6% on the sky subtraction can be reached,
provided that the cross beam switching mode is used. This is very encouraging regarding the detection of very
faint sources with future fiber-fed spectrographs such as VLT/MOONS or E-ELT/MOSAIC.
GIRAFFE is an intermediate resolution spectrograph covering a wavelength range from 360-930nm and fed by
optical fibers as a part of FLAMES, the multi-object fiber facility mounted at the ESO VLT Kueyen. For some time we sought a new detector for GIRAFFE spectrograph to boost the instrument's red QE (Quantum Efficiency) capabilities, while still retaining very good blue response. We aimed also at reducing the strong fringing present in the red spectra. The adopted solution was an e2v custom 2-layer AR (Anti-Reflection) coated Deep Depletion CCD44-82 CCD. This device was made in a new e2v Technologies AR coating plant and delivered to ESO in mid 2007 with performance that matches predictions. The new CCD was commissioned in May 2008. Here we report on the results.