Jun 22, 2023

Large ground-based telescopes with mirrors over 8 m in diameter1 use azimuthal mounts to point the stars. When tracking a star, the Earth's rotation causes the observed field on the astrophysics detector to rotate, creating "spun" images. To correct this effect, the instruments mounted on these telescopes use a "field derotator", a mechanism whose main function is to rotate a set of mirrors at very low speed and with very high precision. For the METIS instrument, CEA-Irfu has developed one of the world's very first2 derotators operating at -210°C. Entirely designed, developed and tested by the Irfu Systems Engineering Department, the METIS derotator drive achieves performance beyond the expected specifications. Currently in the testing phase, its qualification will be completed by the end of 2023 at ESO in Garching, Germany.


While the use of field derotation mechanisms is relatively common in ground-based astrophysics instruments, most scientific communities choose to place this mechanism upstream of the cryogenic instrument, so that it operates at ambient temperature. Doing this way, the required levels of accuracy (of the order of a few thousandths of a degree) are achieved using 'standard' components such as motorised stages, optical encoders, ball bearings and lubricated gearboxes.

To reduce the instrumental background noise, the METIS instrument of the future ELT will be entirely cooled down to temperatures around -210°C, so the field derotation mechanism will also have to operate at these temperatures in vacuum.

Jun 02, 2023

The commissioning of the 11.7 T Iseult MRI in 2021 crowned almost 20 years of AOC research and development. In an article published in the journal Magnetic Resonance Materials in Physics, Biology and Medicine, Nicolas Boulant and Lionel Quettier, Iseult project leaders for the CEA's Joliot and Irfu Institutes, review the details of this commissioning.

Jun 20, 2023

Using the James Webb Space Telescope, a group of astronomers led by MPIA, in collaboration with a team from the Astrophysics Department of CEA Paris-Saclay, searched for an atmosphere on the rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 c. Although the planet is almost identical to Venus in terms of size and mass, its atmosphere turned out to be very different. By analyzing the heat emitted by the planet, they concluded that it may have only a tenuous atmosphere containing a minimum of carbon dioxide. However, this is also consistent with a barren rocky planet devoid of any significant atmosphere. This work gives us a better understanding of how the atmospheres of rocky planets orbiting low-mass stars can withstand strong stellar winds and intense UV radiation.

The results are presented in the journal Nature:

May 10, 2023

Discovered in 2009, exoplanet GJ1214b orbits a small star just 40 light-years away. With a mass around six times that of Earth and an atmosphere made up of hydrogen and helium, it is considered a "mini-Neptune".

A team from NASA, in collaboration with researchers from CEA Paris-Saclay, pointed the JWST at the planet using the MIRI instrument, built by CEA Paris-Saclay, for some 40 hours. This unprecedented observation made it possible to obtain, for the first time, the phase curve of an exoplanet with MIRI, i.e. complete tracking of the planet's rotation around its star.

By following the evolution of the exoplanet-star system's emission, the research team was able to determine the planet's temperature to within 9°: 280°C on the dayside and 164°C on the night side. Comparing the observations with atmospheric models, the researchers deduce that: 1. the small temperature difference between the two sides, despite the planet's synchronous rotation, means that there is a good exchange of energy between the sides, due to a dense atmosphere. 2. The relatively low temperature on the dayside, given the planet's proximity to its star, indicates that a layer of aerosols in the exoplanet’s upper atmosphere reflects much of the stellar radiation. The type of aerosol with such a property has yet to be determined. 3. The atmosphere contains many elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, probably abundant water.

The results are published in the prestigious journal Nature 

Mar 27, 2023

An international team of researchers has used NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to measure the temperature of the rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 b. This is the world's first detection of thermal emission from a rocky exoplanet as small and “cool” as the rocky planets in our own solar system. TRAPPIST-1 b receives about twice the amount of energy as Venus receives from the Sun and four times more than Earth. The result indicates that the dayside of the planet has a temperature of about 227°C (500 K) and suggests that it has no significant atmosphere. The study, co-authored by three researchers from the Dap, has just been published in the journal Nature, on Monday 27 March.

Feb 28, 2023
CEA has delivered the flight version of the ECLAIRs onboard software to CNES after 6 years of development.

CEA has delivered to CNES the flight version of the ECLAIRs instrument software for the SVOM satellite. This concludes a major instrumental development phase conducted by CEA over a period of 6 years to produce what is maybe one of the most complex software packages ever carried on a French scientific space instrument. The latest version of the software equips the ECLAIRs onboard computer, which departed to China in early 2023. It will be used during the satellite integration tests in Shanghai in preparation for the launch planned for early 2024. This software will analyse in real time the data from the instrument in flight, in order to detect gamma-ray bursts and localise them to better than 12 arcmin on the sky, to reorient automatically the satellite for follow-up observations, and to alert the scientific community.

Mar 24, 2023

The ATLAS collaboration announced at the Moriond conference the observation of simultaneous production of four top quarks. This is one of the rarest and heaviest processes ever observed at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This measurement, coordinated by IRFU, allows to test the Standard Model of particle physics in its most complex predictions.

Link to the ATLAS collaboration publication

Jan 23, 2023

Reactor antineutrino anomalies are a decade-long puzzle in neutrino physics. They are manifested by deviations of the order of a few percent between measurements and predictions. These deviations have been observed in the number of antineutrinos measured by more than a dozen experiments at nuclear reactors, and in the shape of the kinetic energy distributions by the seven most recent ones. They could have been the way to a new physics beyond the standard model, but the recent experiments, including the STEREO experiment carried by IRFU, have closed this door.

In a work just published in Physical Review Letter [1], a team of physicists from IRFU and the Laboratoire National Henri Becquerel of DRT have shown that these anomalies could come from biases in the measurements of fission electrons used as a reference for the prediction. They have developed a beta strength function  model to reduce the biases in the calculation of the energy spectra of electrons from fission of fissile reactor nuclei. The two "anomalies" on the antineutrino flux and the "bump" at 5 MeV in the antineutrino energy spectrum are now reproduced by their model. This allows to propose an explanation to solve an enigma of more than 10 years.

Mar 30, 2023

The European Research Council has just announced the names of the winners of the Advanced Grant. This 2023 edition rewards in particular two researchers from the CEA's fundamental research department for their work in the fields of astrophysics and neuroscience. Anaëlle Maury is the leader of the PEBBLES project. This project consists of developing an innovative methodology to characterise the properties of dust around very young stars in the process of forming their proto-planetary disks. Dust is one of the key elements in the physical processes regulating the formation of stars and their planetary systems, but recent observations are overturning the models used until now to describe its evolution from submicron grains to pebbles. Observing and modelling the properties of dust grains during the earliest phases of disk formation promises to provide important insights into the conditions leading to the formation of solar systems such as our own. Through PEBBLES, the teams will use new dust models that are better suited to denser astrophysical environments and will use them in comparison with observations from space missions and ground-based observatories from the infrared to the millimetre range.


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