On 1 April 2019, the dome of the Mayall Telescope near Tucson, Arizona, United States, opened to the night sky, and starlight poured through the assembly of six large lenses that were carefully packaged and aligned for a new instrument that will launch later this year.
Just hours later, scientists produced the first focused images with these precision lenses – the largest is 1.1 metres (3.6 feet) in diameter – during this early test spin, marking an important “first light” milestone for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI. This first batch of images homed in on the Whirlpool Galaxy to demonstrate the quality of the new lenses.
”It was an incredible moment to see those first images on the control room monitors,” says Connie Rockosi, who is leading this early commissioning of the DESI lenses. “A whole lot of people have worked really hard on this, and it’s really exciting to show how much has come together already.”
This phase of the project will continue for about six weeks and will require the efforts of several onsite scientists and remote observers, noted Rockosi, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.
When completed later this year, DESI ...