The Academy of Sciences of the Czech rebublic - ASCR

TOPTEC is involved in a key upgrade of the telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory

In the first half of April, scientists and engineers from the TOPTEC Section of IPP  and Astronomical Institute modernized the telescope at the La Silla observatory of the ESO (European Southern Observatory) in Chile.


The aim of the modernization was to improve the spectroscopic observation of exoplanets for the PLATO and ARIEL missions. The PLATOSpec spectrograph project is being handled by a consortium of the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v. v.i., Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Universidad Catolica de Chile, Masaryk University and Universidad Adolfo Ibanez. The ESO European Southern Observatory was visited at the same time by a delegation headed by the President of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic Eva Zažímalová and the Deputy Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Jana Havlíková. Members of the delegation viewed the modernized telescope and discussed with the team of the TOPTEC and the Astronomical Institute, who participated in the modernization.

The TOPTEC team was responsible for the design and production of a precise computer-controlled fibre coupling system placed in primary focus of telescope. The light from the telescope is fed by the coupling systém into a special octagonal optical fiber, which leads the optical signal to a high-resolution spectrograph. A telescope with a primary mirror diameter of 1.5 m, combined with computer controled coupler and a fiber, forms the gigantic front end (input optical system) of the spectrograph. The light coming from the studied stars is then guided almost without loss through a more than 30 m long highly flexible fiber. Thanks to the fiber this excellent transmission can be achieved nearly in any position of the telescope. After adjusting the system, the transmission parameters improved several times compared to the original configuration. The significantly higher signal level reached then allows for a higher SNR (signal to noise ratio) to be achieved and this will enable the investigation of selected properties of exoplanets with unprecedented precision. Astronomers from the entire scientific team can thus look forward to new discoveries revealing the nature of exoplanets more than 100 light-years away. The computer-controlled couplingy system has also other functions that will be step by step tested and commisioned.  Among other things, it will, for example, ensure a stable connection of the high-precision calibration unit developed by partners from the Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg.

Strategie AV21 Tuning of the communication subsystems of coupler.

Strategie AV21 Just before the mounting of the system into the focal plane of the the telescope.

Strategie AV21 Preparation of coupler mounting.

Strategie AV21 Picking up air-shipped wooden boxes with the coupler and calibration unit disassembled into parts.

Strategie AV21 A telescope with a primary mirror diameter of 1.52 m in the "parking position" before starting the coupler installation.

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Photos: TOPTEC, IPP.

17 May 2024