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LCO Commissions New Multi-Channel Instrument

Jan 26, 2021

The MuSCAT3 multi-channel camera, shown before it shipped from Tokyo in the summer of 2020, for installation on the LCO 2m telescope at Haleakala Observatory.

Las Cumbres Observatory is pleased to announce that it has commissioned a new multichannel imager on the 2-m Faulkes Telescope North at Haleakala Observatory. MuSCAT3 (Multicolor Simultaneous Camera for studying Atmospheres of Transiting exoplanets) is a four-channel optical simultaneous imager. Observing in four channels at once dramatically improves the effective throughput of the telescope, benefiting all science observations. MuSCAT3 is already being used by three LCO Key Projects: the OMEGA project to observe microlensing events, the Global Supernova Project, and a key project to characterize exoplanet candidates detected by TESS, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. During exoplanet transits, simultaneous observations in multiple passbands can reveal information about planetary atmospheres.

MuSCAT3 is the third instrument in a series of multi-channel imagers designed and constructed by the Astrobiology Center in Tokyo, Japan. The PI of the project is Dr. Norio Narita. It’s technical specifications are located here on the LCO website. MuSCAT instruments were already installed on the 1.9m telescope at Okayama Astrophysical Observatory and the 1.5m Carlos Sanchez Telescope at Teide Observatory in Tenerife. LCO entered discussions with the Astrobiology Center of Japan in the summer of 2019 to form a partnership regarding building multicolor imaging cameras for the network.

The new instrument was constructed and tested in Tokyo and arrived in Maui in September of 2020. First light was achieved on September 28, as shown in the image of M27, below. On November 4, LCO made MuSCAT3 available to the astrophysics community for science observations.

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First light for MuSCAT3 was achieved on September 28, 2020. All four cameras captured an image of the Dumbbell Nebula, M27. The large top image is from the green channel, the three smaller images of the same part of the sky were taken simultaneously in successively redder colors (from left to right, red and two near-infrared images).

Las Cumbres Observatory is grateful to the Astrobiology Center of Japan for building this fine instrument. LCO also recognizes the efforts that enabled the instrument to be installed and commissioned during the pandemic. The science, engineering, and software teams of LCO and the Astrobiology Center came together via video conferencing to support the team of three people who performed the work on site. LCO is proud of the staff who enabled this instrument to serve the global community of astronomers.

Las Cumbres Observatory is working to secure funding for MuSCAT4, to be installed at the 2m telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

For more information on the LCO MuSCAT3 project, please contact our scientists Daniel Harbeck (dharbeck@lco.global) and Nikolaus Volgenau (nvolgenau@lco.global).

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