Discovery Channel Telescope » Instruments » NIHTS

 DCT Status, April 22, 2013

First Light

We obtained first light images with Lowell's Discovery Channel Telescope in mid-2012, in time for unveiling at our First Light Gala on July 21, 2012. Over 700 people attended the celebration, which featured a keynote address by Neil Armstrong, making what would be his last public appearance. We were honored by his presence at this turning point in Lowell's history. See our First Light Gala page for photographs and desktop versions of the first light images.

Commissioning Images

The Large Monolithic Imager (LMI), funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is the DCT's workhorse instrument, featuring a 36 megapixel CCD with a field of view of nearly 13 arc minutes. It is mounted on the back of the instrument cube, at the straight-through position, with other instruments soon to be arrayed around the side ports. Lowell astronomer and instrument Principal Investigator Philip Massey has assembled gallery of commissioning images for you to enjoy and download. These demonstrate the outstanding optical quality of the telescope and apart from the color-compositing, they are completely unretouched.

Early science

With the commissioning phase of the DCT project now proceeding rapidly, we have begun to offer the first science observing nights to Lowell staff and to astronomers from our partner institutions (Boston University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Toledo). Although most nights are still dedicated to commissioning and engineering, we used the DCT on about 10 nights in Q1 2013 and are on track for aboout 15 nights in Q2 and 20 in Q3 for science observing. It is exciting to see our newest eye on the heavens doing so well what it was built to do, and we have obtained image quality as good as 0.6 seconds of arc. Stay tuned as the exciting results begin to accumulate!

For Astronomers: Technical information

Artist's conception of the Kuiper Belt object Sedna

Artist's conception of the Kuiper Belt object Sedna. NASA/JPL.

The Near-Infrared High-Throughput Spectrograph (NIHTS)

This low-resolution spectrograph is funded by NASA’s Planetary Astronomy and Planetary Major Equipment programs. Lowell astronomer Henry Roe will serve as the Principal Investigator for the NIHTS, one of the “first-light” instruments in 2012.

The NIHTS will be mounted on the RC instrument cube. This configuration facilitates fast switching between the NIHTS and other RC instruments that use one of the instrument cube’s deployable internal mirrors. This mirror will reflect infrared light to NIHTS and allow visible light to pass through to the LMI at the bottom of the instrument cube. As a result, near-infrared spectroscopy and visible imaging can be performed simultaneously. The figure below shows the position of NIHTS as mounted on the DCT’s RC instrument cube.

NIHTS configuration

Light will travel a complex path through NIHTS to provide high-quality infrared spectra of a variety of objects.