First light from any instrument is always exciting but particularly so when exotic locations and exciting goals are involved. The CORONA experiment offers both.
CORONA is a stellar coronagraph designed to spot extrasolar planets orbiting other stars. It is based at Dome C, some 10,000 feet above sea level in in Antarctica, a location that boasts some of the best seeing on the planet.
The goal of the project is to test the feasibility of operating such a device in the harsh conditions that exist in the Antarctic, where temperatures can drop to -80 degrees C in winter.
The result: at -65 degrees C the telescope showed some strong aberrations in test images of Sirius, probably the result of thermal distortions.
Geraldine Guerri from the Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis in France and buddies say: “The coronagraph could not be operated in these conditions, and thus, no nighttime images are presently available. CORONA has been sent back to France to be modified.”
That must have been disappointing, although their paper puts a brave face on things. Their plan is to eventually build a much more sophisticated coronagraph with adaptive optics.
That won’t be easy and given their experience so far, it looks highly, perhaps overly, ambitious.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0902.2326: First Light from the Dome C (Antarctica) of a Phase Knife Stellar Coronagraph