ESPRESSO, the super spectrograph that should be able to measure masses of exoplanets as small as the Earth, is soon ready to be bundled for its final destination: the VLT in Chile.
This successor to HARPS, which as its famous predecessor was built at the Geneva Observatory, will undergo its first tests early March in the new clean room of the Astrotech building inaugurated last year. Once these tests have been completed, the instrument will be submitted to the European acceptance review on 15 June 2017. In other words, this review will mark the end of the European stay of the spectrograph. It will then be boxed and shipped to Chile by boat one month later.
The unpacking and installation of ESPRESSO on the Paranal site will start on 1 September. The commissioning phase will begin with the year 2018, for delivery to the European astronomical community programmed for 1 October 2018. Francesco Pepe, member of PlanetS and head of ESPRESSO, remains nevertheless cautious: “This schedule is the one that is realistic today , but it can still change in a week or two months, the slightest glitch can have significant consequences on the schedule of the project”.