Stefan Hippler's Project List

In the field of observational astronomy instrumentation.
I have worked on these projects throughout my professional life, i.e. until the end of 2021.
Except for the still active METIS project, all others have been successfully completed.

Each entry starts with the project name/acronym (year of entry, observatory, observation site) followed by a description and status.

Active projects

METIS (2008, ESO, Cerro Armazones), the Mid-infrared ELT Imager and Spectrograph (ELT-MIR), is a currently developed instrument for the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). The outcome of the phase A study was reviewed in December 2009 by ESO. At the end of 2012, the ESO council has confirmed the ELT programme.

In December 2014 the ELT received green light. In July 2015 ESO announced the first instruments to be built for the ELT. One of the 3 first instruments selected is METIS. In October 2015 the METIS project (phase-B) started with a kick-off meeting in Leiden, the Netherlands. MPIA will design and build the imager and the single conjugate adaptive optics (SCAO) module. The preliminary design review took place at ESO in May 2019. A good year later this design phase was successfully completed.  The project will finish its final design phase in 2022. 

Installed instruments with active support

Astralux SUR (2008, ESO, La Silla) is a Lucky Imaging System that had its very first observing nights at the NTT 3.5m telescope on La Silla, Chile in July 2008.
So far (from observing period P81 to P103) Astralux SUR was used as visitor instrument during 23 observing runs: July 2008, 2 x November 2008, March 2009, April 2009, January 2010, 2 x February 2010, October 2010, January 2012, April 2013, May 2014, March 2015, November 2015, December 2015, May 2016, May 2018, August 2018, January 2019, June 2019, July 2019, September 2019, and November 2019.

AstraLux Sur

Wellenfrontanalyse mit einem Shack-Hartmann Sensor (2002, MPIA, Heidelberg, Königstuhl). Wavefront analysis with a Shack-Hartmann sensor for physics and astronomy students of the University of Heidelberg. Available since winter semester 2002. A new DVC CCD camera has been installed during summer semester 2006. A new Linux PC running Open Suse 11.0 was installed in in 2008.

The last hardware and software update took place in July 2019: a new CMOS imager and a new Ubuntu-based PC were purchased and put into operation. The data acquisition can be done via the manu­facturer software as well as via free software (libindi with python interface). Python scripts are available for data reduction and analysis.

Finished projects

On Paranal

GRAVITY (2006, ESO, Cerro Paranal) is a near-infrared sensitive VLTI instrument supported by adaptive optics for precise narrow-angle astrometry and inter­ferometric phase-referenced imaging of faint objects. A Phase A study started in June 2006 and the Phase A study report was submitted to ESO on 13 July 2007. ESO STC and ESO council support the further development of GRAVITY. Thus, GRAVITY became an official second generation ESO instrument for the VLT interferometer in early 2008.

In December 2009, the development of the GRAVITY beam combiner entered the final design phase (C). Nine months later, the final design phase began for the GRAVITY wavefront sensor. In October 2011 the final design review (FDR) of the GRAVITY beam combiner took place and half a year later the FDR of the GRAVITY wavefront sensor aka Coudé Infrared Adaptive Optics (CIAO). After completion of the design reviews, the respective construction phases of the two main com­po­nents began: beam combiner and adaptive optics. At the end of 2015, the first CIAO unit was ready for acceptance and shipment to Chile took place at the beginning of 2016.

At the end of 2016, all four CIAO units were installed on Paranal and a final commissioning run, especially for the on-axis mode, took place in February 2017. All CIAO units fulfil the specifications. Under good Seeing conditions and with bright reference stars, like the one used for the monitoring of the galactic center, estimated Strehl ratios at 2.2 microns can be as high as 80%. The CIAO units are routinely operated by ESO Paranal staff and we hope that the instrument will receive Preliminary Acceptance Chile (PAC) in 2020+. The 2 photographs below show Paranal staff operating all four CIAO units simultaneously during VLTI/GRAVITY observations. The 2020 paper Infrared Wavefront Sensing for Adaptive Optics Assisted Galactic Center Observations with the VLT Interferometer and GRAVITY: Operation and Results shows that CIAO works well.  

Astralux (2006, CAHA, Calar Alto) is a Lucky Imaging System that had its very first observing nights at the Calar Alto 2.2m telescope in July and November 2006. ASTRALUX is available on the 2.2m telescope as common user instrument starting 1st of July 2007. See also Astralux Sur (2008).

CHEOPS (2001, ESO, Paranal) is a High-Contrast Adaptive Optics Instrument for finding and eventually observing extra-solar Planets. A phase A study started in May 2003 and finished at the end of October 2004. As a result of ESO's selection procedure, MPIA became Co-PI (Markus Feldt) institute for the VLT Planet Finder instrument. Since then the project runs now under the acronym SPHERE and has seen first light in May 2014.

PYRAMIR (2001, CAHA, Calar Alto) is the acronym for a pyramid wavefront sensor sensible in the Near-Infrared. First light for PYRAMIR at the 3.5-m telescope on Calar Alto, Spain, was in April 2006. The AO system delivered diffraction limited images in K-band while PYRAMIR was sensing the wavefront in J-band. The project finished early 2008.

PARSEC (2000, ESO, Cerro Paranal), the Paranal Artificial Source for Extended Coverage, is the acronmy for the Laser for the VLT Laser Guide Star Facility. The PDR was passed successfully in April 2, 2001. The FDR was passed successfully at the end of April 2002. Preliminary Acceptance Europe (PAE) was passed successfully in October 2004. PAE for the entire LGSF was passed successfully in August 2005. First light of PARSEC was in February 2006. First light of the PARSEC LIDAR facility was in April 2006.

Commissioning with SINFONI and NACO continued during the first months of 2007. An international workshop was held in Ringberg castle at the end of 2007.

The photograph below shows PARSEC in operation! Image credit: ESO and Babak Tafreshi (2012).

PARSEC in operation

MAPS (2000, MPIA, Heidelberg-Königstuhl), the multiple atmospheric phase screens and stars system, is the acronym for an emulator/simulator of atmospheric turbulence with multiple layers and multiple reference sources. Design of the phase screens as well as the optical design were completed in Nov. 2002. The manufactured phase screens were characterized in the lab. The optics was delivered in December 2004. In 2015, the MCAO/GLAO laboratory set-up finished. Fiber reference plate, motorized phase-screens, and all further required hardware components have been put together.

2006: MAPS is now available as a generic lab-tool for all kinds of AO (and other) instrumentation tests. Optics Express paper published end of October 2006. Project is finished.

AOELT (1999, EU, EU) is the acronym for the European Union FP5 project titled "Adaptive Optics for Extremely Large Telescopes". Officially started on June 1, 2000 and finished end of May 2005.

SCIDAR (1999, MGIO, Mount Graham), the acronym for a Data Reduction System for generalized Scintillation Detection and Ranging (SCIDAR) systems. Version 1.0 of iScavenger was released in spring 2002. The project finished successfully in 2003.

MIDI (1997, ESO, Cerro Paranal), the MID-Infrared Interferometric Instrument for the VLTI. In operation at Paranal! Project finished successfully.

ALFA (1994, CAHA, Calar Alto). Adaptive Optics with a Laser for Astronomy. Upgrades (Pyramir) have been installed. The Shack-Hartmann option was decommissioned at the end of 2007. The system is no longer in use.

UKIRT (1993, UKIRT, Mauna Kea). The MPIA-UKIRT Project. A 3-axis controlled secondary mirror incl. wavefront sensor for correction of atmospheric tip-tilt and focus variations. The new secondary mirror was mounted on a 6-axis hexapod device. Finished successfully in 1996.

CHARM (1993, CAHA, Calar Alto). A Tip-tilt System For Astronomy. Finished successfully in 1996.

TVG (1991, CAHA, Calar Alto). TV camera based Guiding and Acquisition Systems for Calar Alto Observatory Telescopes. Under Maintenance since 1992! Wow. The last TVG system was decommissioned in 2012; almost 20 years of very successful operations are over!

1988 - 1992: Before I started working on the TVG systems, I developed software for a 58x62 pixel In/Sb near-infrared camera (µca). The camera (PI Rainer Lenzen) was mounted on the 3.5-m telescope on Calar Alto and used for a short period of time with little success; soon after, the first 256 x 256 pixel HgCdTe detectors became available (see MAGIC cameras on Calar Alto).

I started working at the MPIA on April 1, 1988.

My thanks go to Prof. Hans Elsässer, who offered me this position.

My thanks also go to Prof. Arthur Scharmann and Dr. habil. Dietmar Hasselkamp, who supported me in accepting this position at MPIA.