Replication and Complexity: New ways of tackling familiar problems in instrumentation

Dr. Sarah Tuttle, University of Texas at Austin

Telescopes are getting larger and with that growth comes a demand for large-scale instrumentation to take advantage of that growth. Unfortunately, that often leads to instrumentation that is scaled up from our current facilities. This moves us into a regime of heavy, large, expensive parts that are difficult to manufacture. Is it possible to offload some of that cost and difficulty through replication? Can replication “trickle down” and benefit even small telescopes?

There are several approaches and technologies being developed that open up a new way of building instruments. In this discussion, Tuttle will talk about how we get the light in (image slicers and fibers) and what we do to get the data out (including astrophotonics and replicated bulk optics). She will discuss how these new tools might be optimized, flight tested and made useful for the new large-scale and space telescopes to come.

Different areas of astrophysics benefit from different approaches, and she will use VIRUS (the replicated spectrograph she is working on for HETDEX (Hobby-Eberly Dark Energy Experiment) and FIREBall (Faint Intergalactic Redshifted Emission Balloon) as examples.

Tuttle currently is leading the effort at UT to construct VIRUS, the replicated spectrograph that will measure the baryon acoustic oscillations for HETDEX. Her thesis work at Columbia included two balloon flights of FIREBALL, for which she built the fiber-fed ultraviolet spectrograph that was the primary instrument. She is interested in the processes that regulate star formation in galaxies, in particular, interactions between galaxies and the IGM.