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Overview of Capabilities

MAROON-X is a new instrument in construction at the University of Chicago which is expected to have the capability to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of mid- to late-M dwarfs using the radial velocity method. The instrument will be a high-resolution, bench-mounted spectrograph designed to deliver 1 m/s radial velocity precision for M dwarfs down to and beyond V = 16. The capability planned for this instrument is well beyond the reach of any existing instrument. The anticipated uses for the instrument are to (1) conduct a radial velocity only survey for potentially habitable planets around nearby mid- to late-M dwarfs and (2) to confirm and measure the masses of low-mass planet candidates identified in the habitable zones of M dwarfs by ground- and space-based transit surveys. These later objects will be the best objects for future atmospheric studies of potentially habitable planets.

The main constraint for the instrument is set by the desired wavelength coverage. The important wavelength range for the instrument is 700 -- 900 nm because this is the region containing the maximum radial velocity information for mid to late M dwarfs. There is no gas cell useful for this region, so the instrument must be intrinsically stable to deliver the desired radial velocity precision. This means that the optical setup must be fixed and that the entire instrument must be in a vacuum tank and in a temperature stabilized enclosure. The instrument must also be fiber-fed to maintain illumination stability. A resolving power of approximately 80,000 is necessary. A similar setup can not be realized by making straightforward modifications to existing instruments - a new instrument must be built to achieve the radial velocity precision goal for the target stars.

SPIE papers about the design and construction of MAROON-X:

Development and construction of MAROON-X

MAROON-X: A Radial Velocity Spectrograph for the Gemini Observatory


Status: (09/23/2019) The spectrograph is ready to begin commissioning!  Watch this space.

Status: (06/25/2019) The spectrograph was delivered and installed at Gemini North in May 2019. This follows the Front End unit which was successfully delivered and commissioned in December 2018. Spectrograph commissioning and testing is ongoing in Q3 2019 and on-sky RV stability demonstration is planned for the 2019b semester.  The images below show: 1) MAROON-X spectrograph inside its thermal enclosure in the pier lab of Gemini North; 2) Spectral format of the visual arm of MAROON-X (roughly true color); and 3) Spectral format of the NIR arm of MAROON-X (false colors)


Status: (05/23/2018) The delivery of the remaining components (red arm camera and science grade detector systems) is expected by August of this year. Work on the telescope frontend unit is nearing completion. First stability tests using the core spectrograph, blue arm, and an engineering grade detector indicate that precisions <<1 m/s can be obtained with the simultaneous reference technique and our etalon calibrator. We are on schedule for commissioning at Gemini North starting in Q1 2019. 

Please also see:

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Gemini Observatory Participants