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Keck Observatory Achieves First Light with NIRES Spectrometer

Astronomers at W. M. Keck Observatory have successfully met a major milestone after capturing the very first science data from Keck Observatory's newest instrument, the Caltech-built Near-Infrared Echelette Spectrometer (NIRES). The Keck Observatory-Caltech NIRES team just completed the instrument's first set of commissioning observations and achieved "first light" with a spectral image of the planetary nebula NGC 7027. "The Keck Observatory continually strives to provide instrumentation that meets the high aspirations of our scientific community and responds to changing scientific needs," said Keck Observatory Director Hilton Lewis. "NIRES is expected to be one of the most efficient single-object, near-infrared spectrographs on an eight to ten-meter telescope, designed to study explosive, deep sky phenomena such as supernovae and gamma ray bursts, a capability that is in high demand." "The power of NIRES is that it can cover a whole spectral range simultaneously with one observation," said Keith Matthews, the instrument's principal investigator and a chief instrument scientist at Caltech. "It's a cross-dispersed spectrograph that works in the infrared from where the visual cuts off out to 2.4 microns where the background from the thermal emission gets severe."

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