Image of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), obtained during the technical first light of JPCam at the JST/T250 telescope of the Javalambre Astrophysical Observatory. M31 is located 2.5 million light years away, and has an angular diameter in the sky equivalent to seven full moons, being the largest extragalactic object that can be seen in the northern hemisphere.
Credit: Centro de Estudios de Física del Cosmos de Aragón (CEFCA).

JPCam instalada en el foco Cassegrain del telescopio JST/T250 del Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre. Crédito: Centro de Estudios de Física del Cosmos de Aragón (CEFCA).

JPCam installed in the Cassegrain focus of the JST/T250 telescope at the Javalambre Astrophysical Observatory.
Credit: Centro de Estudios de Física del Cosmos de Aragón (CEFCA).

JPCam, installed last June at the Cassegrain focus of the 2.5m Javalambre Survey Telescope (JST/T250) of the Javalambre Astrophysical Observatory (OAJ), successfully achieved technical first light on the night of June 29, obtaining for the first time images of the sky. With this milestone, the OAJ completes the first-generation instrumentation defined to carry out its scientific activity in the coming years.

In the field of professional astrophysics, the technical “first light” of a telescope or astronomical instrument is achieved when, for the first time, photons from stars or galaxies are collected and recorded by the detectors. The technical first light aims at verifying the fulfilment of the main technical performances of the system as specified in the design phase.

JPCam camera is the definitive scientific instrument of the OAJ JST/T250 telescope, designed to perform large sky surveys. JPCam is the second largest astronomical camera in the world, with more than 1,200 million pixels distributed in a mosaic of 14 scientific detectors that work in high vacuum conditions and at -110 degrees Celsius. Weighting over 1.5 tons, it provides scientific image quality with high resolution across the wide field of view. So much so, that to view one of its full-scale images it would be necessary to gather up to 570 Full HD monitors. Such characteristics, together with the set of 56 unprecedented optical filters with which JPCam works, makes it one of the most powerful astronomical cameras in the world.

JPCam has been designed by CEFCA and by members of the J-PAS project (Javalambre Physics of the Accelerating Universe Astrophysical Survey), a scientific collaboration led by CEFCA and the Spanish National Research Council through the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC), in Spain, and the National Observatory of Rio de Janeiro and the University of Sao Paulo, in Brazil. The investment made in JPCam has exceeded 10 million euros, mainly coming from the Fondo de Inversiones de Teruel, FEDER funds and the mentioned Brazilian institutions..

The construction of JPCam has been one of the major R&D&I projects of the OAJ and the J-PAS collaboration that began in 2010. After the process of design, review, technical management and manufacturing of its various components, the assembly, tuning and verification in the clean room of the observatory has been carried out by the CEFCA engineering team for the last two years.

Once it comes into scientific regular operation, JPCam will be mostly devoted to the J-PAS survey, a three-dimensional map of the sky visible from Javalambre, which will cover an area of ​​8,500 square degrees and generate 2.5 petabytes of scientific data. Also, at least 20% of the time will be offered to the international scientific community, as part of the open time offered by the OAJ as ICTS so that researchers can access the use of their infrastructures through regular calls for competitive observation time.

CEFCA news on 2020-07-15: