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HARPS3 FDR, the Terra Hunting Experiment and the Nobel Prize

Submitter: Ramon Navarro
Description: The HARPS3 instrument had its Final Design Review last week. A review panel of about a dozen persons visited the NOVA optical infrared instrumentation group at ASTRON. The goal was to assess the design quality of the HARPS3 Calibration Unit and Cassegrain Adapter; does the design meet all requirements and specifications? In this process 10 documents have been delivered and hundreds of questions (Review Items or RIXes) have been raised and answered. Remaining open issues were discussed in a two day face to face meeting.

An orbiting planet causes its star to wobble, which can be detected. HARPS3 will provide highly accurate radial velocities in the 10cm/second range for the Terra Hunting Experiment. The Terra Hunting Experiment will search for Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbits around solar-type stars. By observing a small sample of around 40 stars every night they are available we will build up the most extensive spectroscopic time series possible over a ten-year period. This will efficiently explore the range of orbital distances and planetary masses required to find planets similar to our own Earth.

Back to the very start of the FDR meeting last Tuesday. It is Nobel Prize announcement week and we tune in on the live broadcast from Sweden. Our jaws dropped when it was announced that Didier Queloz, the Principal Investigator for the Terra Hunting Experiment, wins the Nobel Prize for physics 2019. This is nearly 25 years after discovery of the first exoplanet around a solar type star, together with Michel Mayor. With this cheerful start the review was concluded in a very positive atmosphere. Of course the entire team celebrated with bubbly wine and cake, and as you can expect, Didier never made it to the FDR videoconference, being occupied with many interviews.

The review panel and HARPS3 team during the review at ASTRON. Bottom: the moment of announcement of the Nobel Prize and the laureates.
Copyright: Ramon Navarro
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