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HERMES achieves First Light on the Anglo-Australian Telescope

From the AAO Director Warrick Couch:

I am very pleased to report that on 19 October (2013), after more than 5 years in the making, the AAO's High Efficiency and Resolution Multi-Element Spectrograph (HERMES) saw its first light on the 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope.

HERMES is a A$12M investment in the future of Australian astronomy, being a facility class instrument that will be available for all AAT users. Together with the existing 2dF positioning system, HERMES will provide Australian astronomers with the unique opportunity to carry out multi-object spectroscopy of up to 392 objects at high spectral resolution. No such facility is currently available on any other optical telescope!

The first stellar observations with HERMES were of the globular cluster 47 Tucanae, a well known southern hemisphere target. The data collected in 2 arcsec seeing conditions demonstrated that in an exposure time of 1 hour, HERMES provides a signal-to-noise ratio of 100 per resolution element at the following magnitude limits:

Filter Mag limit HERMES band
B 14.2 blue
V 13.8 green
R 14.0 red
I 13.8 infrared

In median seeing of 1.5 arc sec, we can expect the count rates to be a factor of ~1.2 higher.

HERMES was also found to deliver an average spectral resolution of R ~ 28,000 across the detector for the nominal resolution mode. A higher resolution mask mode will be commissioned in the upcoming commissioning runs in November and December, which will also include more detailed tests to characterise the full functionality of HERMES.

I will provide further updates on progress towards HERMES being fully commissioned, and more detailed information will also be made available (here) on the AAO website and in the AAO Observer.

Warrick Couch
AAO Director