NEAR: New earths in the Alpha Cen Region (bringing VISIR as a "visiting instrument" to ESO-VLT-UT4)

Hans Ulrich Käufl, Markus Kasper, Robin Arsenault, Gerd Jakob, Serban Leveratto, Gerard Zins, Eloy Fuenteseca, Miguel Riquelme, Ralf Siebenmorgen, Michael Sterzik, Nancy Ageorges, Sven Gutruf, Dirk Kampf, Arnd Reutlinger, Olivier Absil, Brunella Carlomagno, Olivier Guyon, Pete Klupar, Dimitri Mawet, Garreth RuaneMikael Karlsson, Eric Pantin, Kjetil Dohlen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Scopus citations


By adding a dedicated coronagraph, ESO in collaboration with the Breakthrough Initiatives, modifies the Very Large Telescope mid-IR imager (VISIR) to further boost the high dynamic range imaging capability this instru- ment has. After the VISIR upgrade in 2012, where coronagraphic masks were first added to VISIR, it became evident that coronagraphy at a ground-based 8m-class telescope critically needs adaptive optics, even at wavelengths as long as 10μm. For VISIR, a work-horse observatory facility instrument in normal operations, this is "easiest" achieved by bringing VISIR as a visiting instrument to the ESO-VLT-UT4 having an adaptive M2. This "visit" enables a meaningful search for Earth-like planets in the habitable zone around both α-Cen1,2. Meaningful here means, achieving a contrast of ∼ 10-6 within ∼ 0.8arcsec from the star while maintaining basically the normal sensitivity of VISIR. This should allow to detect a planet twice the diameter of Earth. Key components will be a diffractive coronagraphic mask, the annular groove phase mask (AGPM), optimized for the most sensitive spectral band-pass in the N-band, complemented by a sophisticated apodizer at the level of the Lyot stop. For VISIR noise filtering based on fast chopping is required. A novel internal chopper system will be integrated into the cryostat. This chopper is based on the standard technique from early radio astronomy, conceived by the microwave pioneer Robert Dicke in 1946, which was instrumental for the discovery of the 3K radio background.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGround-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy VII
EditorsLuc Simard, Luc Simard, Christopher J. Evans, Hideki Takami
ISBN (Print)9781510619579
StatePublished - 2018
EventGround-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy VII 2018 - Austin, United States
Duration: Jun 10 2018Jun 14 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherGround-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy VII 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • alpha-Cen
  • apodization
  • coronagraphy
  • exo-Earth
  • extreme AO
  • habitable zone
  • thermal infrared

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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