Optimization of ESPRESSO Fundamental Physics Tests

Programa de Estímulo à Investigação 2014 (Processo nº 2148613525)

Investigador responsável
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

Instituição financiadora
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

Início: 15 dezembro 2014
Fim: 31 maio 2016

Fundação Gulbenkian