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Press Release 27 April 2018: Astronomical astronomy

One of the world’s largest astronomical lenses has been made in New Zealand. It will help power a telescope in the Canary Islands surveying over 10,000,000 heavenly objects, including stars in the Milky Way, and extragalactic sources out to the extremes of the observable universe.

Wellington-based KiwiStar Optics, a business unit of Callaghan Innovation – New Zealand’s innovation agency, recently delivered a set of six lenses, one being 1.1 meters in diameter and will form a new prime-focus corrector for the William Herschel Telescope (WHT) in the Canary Islands. The corrector will feed a new instrument, titled WEAVE (WHT Enhanced Area Velocity Explorer), which involves the intertwining or weaving of approximately 950 fibres at the focal surface. The corrector optics are the result of several years’ work by a team of Wellington-based scientists, engineers and master opticians.

Sandra Ramsay, Manager of KiwiStar Optics, is thrilled with the result. “The delivery of the final lens allows us to conclude what has been a hugely successful project.

“The business unit has a significant reputation globally for its highly-specialised lenses and is working its way through a substantial list of large contracts.

“It’s not widely known outside of astronomy circles that New Zealand has this level of technical expertise and state-of-the-art equipment to create these lenses”.

Dave Cochrane, Team Leader of Optical Manufacturing at KiwiStar Optics and the Project Manager for the WEAVE project explains some of the technical details.

“We bring the glass over from the USA, Japan or Germany and then it is milled into shape using our 5-axis CNC mill. Once in shape the lens goes through a series of shaping and polishing processes to get it within 1 micron of accuracy (a human hair is about 75 microns).

“The final polishing process is done using powders as small as 1 micron, and an accuracy down to 0.05 microns (less than 1000 times smaller than a human hair).

“When both sides of the lens are polished, it is packed and shipped to one of several specialist vacuum coaters in the USA for anti-reflective coating. The lens is then returned to KiwiStar Optics for final testing and inspection before being shipped to the client.”

The complex process and travel required means the lenses take over 12 months to manufacture. Creating the lenses is a collaborative effort and includes input from New Zealand’s Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL), Callaghan Innovation’s own mechanical workshop and several New Zealand based companies.

Ahead of the team is an active order book of work comprising fabricating more large lenses and building three high resolution cameras for the VISTA telescope in Chile. Furthermore, the business unit is manufacturing collimator mirrors, a large reference sphere, building a spectrograph and providing an additional infra-red spectrum camera to the MAROON-X Spectrograph for the Gemini Telescope. These projects exhibit the depth and breadth of a team working to unlock the universe.

About the WEAVE project:

Background: WEAVE is a new multi-object spectroscopy facility being constructed for the 4.2 meter William Herschel Telescope (WHT) at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on the island of La Palma. WEAVE will allow simultaneous observations of up to 1,000 targets over a 2-degree field of view, and is designed specifically to provide high quality spectra over a wide wavelength range to complement large-scale imaging surveys from ESA’s Gaia satellite and the European Low Frequency Array telescope (LOFAR). WEAVE will operate for a minimum of 5 years to conduct large-scale surveys of over 10 million astronomical objects including stars in the Milky Way, and extragalactic sources out to the extremes of the observable universe.

The WHT is operated by the Isaac Newton Group (ING) of observatories, a partnership between the UK, The Netherlands and Spain. WEAVE is funded by the ING member nations, together with additional partners in France and Italy, and a number of institutes and individual researchers in Mexico, Hungary, Sweden and Germany.

Stakeholders include:

UK: The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
NL: The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)
  The Dutch Research School for Astronomy (NOVA)
Spain: The Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC)
  The Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness (MINECO)
France: The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Italy: The Instituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF)
Mexico: The Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE)

Revealing the wonders of deep space

More great work occurring between KiwiStar Optics and the Measurement Standards Laboratory of New Zealand (MSL) – New Zealand’s national metrology institute, all under one roof at Callaghan Innovation.
View the full story here..>>

Adding a Red Camera

In 2017 KiwiStar Optics successfully delivered and installed the KiwiSpec R4-100 spectrograph. This Spectrograph forms the core of MAROON-X, a high-precision radial velocity instrument for the 8m Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea (Hawai’i) currently under development at the University of Chicago. We are now adding to this instrument by designing and manufacturing a red camera. This camera will further enhance the capability of the instrument, extending the spectral range. A returning customer is further verification that we deliver quality and provide reliability.

An article in the Gemini Focus January 2018 edition comments on the KiwiSpec and states the ‘delivered optics exceed the best case expectations over most of the bandpass of the blue arm and lend confidence in achieving similar efficiencies in the red arm, currently under construction at KiwiStar Optics.”

Read more of the Gemini Observatory article here on page 20.
https://www.gemini.edu/images/pio/newsletters/pdf/gf_0118.pdf

KiwiStar Optics connected to the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile

First light of the ESPRESSO spectrograph using the four-Unit-Telescope mode of the VLT has now been reached and made public. ESPRESSO (Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations) will be used to search for Earth-size rocky exoplanets (planets which orbit a star outside the solar system). KiwiStar made many key optical components for the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias namely: one truncated field correcting lens, two truncated spheroidal transfers mirrors, and one truncated spheroidal fold mirror.

Work occurred in 2015 and is a great example of Callaghan Innovation’s capability as it combined the efforts of the KiwiStar team together with the Measurement Standards Laboratory (MSL) and the mechanical workshop.

Interestingly, KiwiStar Optics are also currently working on a new contract for two collimator mirrors (see: Over the MOON) for another client, also to attach to the VLT. Both ESPRESSO and the VLT are state of the art, world leading astronomical instruments.

Working again with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics

We have recently commenced the procuring, polishing and testing of a reference sphere for the Thirty Meter Telescope project. IIA will use the reference sphere for in-situ measurement of the surface shape of the primary mirror segments during their Segment Mirror fabrication and polishing process. With our extensive experience working on large optics we expect to deliver this project in 2018.

Over the moon ….

As a team we are over the moon about winning the design, manufacture and delivery of two collimator mirrors that form part of the spectrograph sub-systems for the Multi-Objects Optical and Near-infrared Spectrograph (MOONS) for the Very Large Telescope (VLT). We are honoured to be part of this third-generation instrument selected by the European Southern Observatory.

Adding a Chicago Red Camera

In 2017 KiwiStar Optics successfully delivered and installed the KiwiSpec R4-100 spectrograph. This Spectrograph forms the core of MAROON-X, a high-precision radial velocity instrument for the 8m Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea (Hawai’i) currently under development at the University of Chicago.

We are now adding to this instrument by designing and manufacturing a red camera. This camera will further enhance the capability of the instrument, extending the spectral range. A returning customer is further verification that we deliver quality and provide reliability.

More VISTA: 4MOST WFC and ADC

We have proudly commenced the 4MOST Optical Lens Fabrication Wide Field Corrector and Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector project.

This project summarises the capability we have in our team covering development, design, analysis, procurement, fabrication of six lenses including one aspheric lens, polishing, assembly into two doublets, testing, and delivery of the optical lenses. Along with the 4MOST High-Resolution Camera project, the Wide Field Corrector is a key component to the spectrograph that forms part of the beautiful VISTA telescope in Chile. Our proven skill and ability producing the large lenses for the William Herschel Telescope, gave 4MOST the confidence to use us as one of the few global leaders in precision optics for astronomy.

KiwiStar Cameras for VISTA telescope in Chile

KiwiStar Cameras for VISTA telescope in Chile

KiwiStar Optics wins major contract to build three high resolution spectrograph cameras for the VISTA telescope in Chile.
 
Professor John Hearnshaw, Astronomer, University of Canterbury, congratulates KiwiStar Optics on its continuing success. He noted that "KiwiStar is achieving world-wide recognition for innovation and excellence in astronomical optics, winning contracts at many of the world's leading observatories. To do so for the 4MOST instrument at Europe's VISTA telescope in Chile is especially noteworthy, as European optics firms always have priority. VISTA will be conducting a huge spectroscopic survey of many millions of objects in the southern sky starting in 2021; it is amazing to know that New Zealand will play a crucial role in the future success of the VISTA 4MOST survey, thanks to KiwiStar."  

KiwiStar Weaves Large Lenses for the William Herschel Telescope

KiwiStar Weaves Large Lenses for the William Herschel Telescope

KiwiStar Optics soon to deliver the 6-element Prime Focus Corrector optical components for the new WEAVE multi-object William Herschel Telescope survey spectrograph, located at La Palma, Canary Islands.
 
The Kiwi Star Optics Team is proud to be near the end of the successful multi-year project to manufacture optical components for WEAVE. 
 
Professor Gavin Dalton, Astrophysics, Oxford University endorsed KiwiStar Optics’ expertise, noting that “Kiwistar Optics were successful in winning the bid to manufacture the 6 lenses for this corrector, including, at 1.1m, what is possibly the largest lens in astronomy, together with 4 wedged elements for atmospheric dispersion correction and two aspheres. While this work is in progress, I am happy to disclose that everything is currently within specification, and I have every confidence that the full set of lenses will be on schedule and within specification”.

Kiwi Optics for Aussie Telescope

New Zealand’s place in the global astronomy family has become further established with a multi-million dollar contract to produce precision optical components for Australia’s largest telescope, the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) at the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales.
View the full story here..>>

NZ astronomers help discover new solar system

New Zealand astronomers have found a new solar system - a scaled-down version of our own - among distant stars in the Milky Way.
A total of 69 scientists in 11 countries provided data and contributed to the discovery, including Paul Tristram at Canterbury's Mt John Observatory...
NZ astronomers help discover new solar system Source: NZ Herald