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Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto

Optimization of ESPRESSO Fundamental Physics Tests

Programa de Estímulo à Investigação 2014 (Processo nº 2148613525)

Principal investigator
Carlos J. A. P. Martins

ESPRESSO is a fiber-fed, cross-dispersed, high-resolution, echelle spectrograph for
ESO's VLT. It is being built by an international consortium including CAUP, and first
light is scheduled for 2016. The combination of the extreme precision, stability and a
large telescope makes it the world's most powerful astronomical spectrograph,
providing the community with unique new scientific capabilities.

The Consortium will use the Guaranteed-Time Observations (GTO), awarded by ESO in
return for the consortium's funds, for two cutting-edge scientific programmes:
1) Search for rocky extra-solar planets in the habitable zone of their host stars;
2) Test the universality of physical laws by testing the stability of fundamental physical
couplings. This project will address the latter.

Specifically, we will prepare the ESPRESSO GTO tests of the stability of fundamental
couplings, including the target selection. Mostly we will measure the fine-structure
constant in absorption clouds along the line of sight of quasars, but some
measurements of the proton-to-electron mass ratio are also foreseen. Building on
recent experience with VLT data, detailed simulations will be done for all known
candidate targets (currently more than 100) and any others that may still be found,
optimising for source observability and brightness, absorber structure, and number,
strength and shape of components, subject to the ESPRESSO specifications and the
available observation time.

Our deliverable to the consortium is an optimised list of targets for commissioning and
GTO. We will also provide to the community a detailed assessment of the impact of
ESPRESSO for probing fundamental physics and dark energy. In the long term, this
will put CAUP's Dark Side team in a stronger position to lead the scientific exploitation
of this part of the ESPRESSO GTO, and to join the consortium that will build the HIRES
spectrograph for the E-ELT (the key long-term priority of the Portuguese astronomical

bolseira: Ana Catarina Leite
orientador: Carlos Martins

Funding institution
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

Start: 15 December 2014
End: 31 May 2016

Fundação Gulbenkian

Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences

Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (IA) is a new but long anticipated research infrastructure with a national dimension. It embodies a bold but feasible vision for the development of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Portugal, taking full advantage and fully realizing the potential created by the national membership of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). IA resulted from the merging the two most prominent research units in the field in Portugal: the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto (CAUP) and the Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics of the University of Lisbon (CAAUL). It currently hosts more than two-thirds of all active researchers working in Space Sciences in Portugal, and is responsible for an even greater fraction of the national productivity in international ISI journals in the area of Space Sciences. This is the scientific area with the highest relative impact factor (1.65 times above the international average) and the field with the highest average number of citations per article for Portugal.

Proceed on CAUP's website|Go to IA website