iLocater - On the move!

Delivery of the iLocater cryostat to The Ohio State University.

Delivery of the iLocater cryostat to The Ohio State University.

The beginning of 2023 has been a particularly busy time for the iLocater program. Several important milestones have been completed, bringing the instrument closer to its ultimate delivery to the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona.

One of the key items completed in February was the transfer of key instrument components from the University of Notre Dame to the Department of Astronomy at The Ohio State University (OSU). OSU, who are also a partner in the Large Binocular Telescope, is supporting the final integration and testing of iLocater. The work will led by staff from the OSU Imaging Sciences Laboratory (ISL).

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iLocater fiber injection system achieves first light, giving scientists clearer picture of nearby planets

Ilocater 1 Feature

A team of engineers and astrophysicists has installed the front-end module of a new instrument named iLocater at the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory in the Pinaleño Mountains of southeast Arizona. When fully completed, the instrument will be a first-of-its-kind high-resolution spectrometer capable of detecting Earth-like planets within habitable zones of nearby stars.

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Crass selected for NASA/NSF exoplanet working group

Jonathan Crass

Jonathan Crass, research assistant professor in the Department of Physics, has been selected to serve as a member of a NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative that will make recommendations to advance the search for earth-like planets that orbit other suns.

The Extreme Precision Radial Velocity (EPRV) Initiative will share the members’ views about the pathway, programs and potential technology development needed. In September 2018, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee on Exoplanet Science Strategy made recommendations about the next decade’s search for habitable worlds outside our solar system, and urged NASA and NSF to establish this joint initiative to support the science of obtaining ultra-precise radial velocity measurements. These measurements provide essential mass, orbit, and census information about stars.

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Nine students named winners in Living Worlds Space Art Contest

Nine students in kindergarten through fifth grade are first, second or third place winners in Notre Dame’s first Living Worlds Space Art Contest in which students are asked to imagine and depict the unusual forms of life that might inhabit other planets. In addition to the artwork, entrants also include written descriptions of their creature, describing how it has adapted to conditions on its planet.

Over 1,000 students from ten states submitted entries to the contest which allows students to explore evolution, adaptation and the discovery of planets around other stars. Entries are divided into classroom categories of grades K-1, 2-3 and 3-5. Prizes have been awarded for first through third places in each grade range.

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iLocater team member Michael Foley featured in Sorin Society newsletter

Michael FoleyMichael Foley in the astronomy lab

“When I visited Notre Dame in high school, I immediately felt a sense of community on campus. The University has a strong commitment to academics, but also to being a family. Since I’ve been on campus, this feeling has only grown stronger. No matter my interest: chess club, racquetball, or astrophysics, there is always someone who shares that interest and is there to help me."…

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International Society for Optics and Photonics highlights iLocater in recent publication


The iLocater instrument being developed by Justin R. Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics at Notre Dame, has been featured by the SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics, in a paper describing the detection of planets around other stars. The article by Crepp, entitled “Renaissance of the Doppler technique for exoplanet studies,” was published online on Sept. 10 by SPIE and describes how new hardware will enable breakthroughs in instrumentation performance that could lead to the discovery of nearby worlds that might resemble the Earth.

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"Improving planet-finding spectrometers"


The concept for a diffraction-limited Doppler spectrometer was recently published in Science magazine's November 14, 2014 issue. 

"Adaptive optics (AO) systems correct for optical wavefront errors introduced by Earth's turbulent atmosphere, turning initially blurry images into intense diffraction-limited concentrations of light..."

Read the full article at

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Justin Crepp presents "Earth-like Worlds Orbiting other Suns"

Earth Like Worlds

Notre Dame physics professor Justin Crepp discusses expolanets and how to find them. There are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. Do these stars have orbiting planets? If so, are they similar to the Earth? Do they have life? In this talk, Prof. Crepp will address these questions by explaining how astrophysicists detect and study planets located outside the solar system.…

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Notre Dame celebrates 150 years of science


The University of Notre Dame’s College of Science will celebrate 150 years of science at Notre Dame beginning this month through September 2015. The college will host numerous events throughout the year in collaboration with the local community and national sponsors.

The Center for History will offer a year-long exhibit, “From Astrophysics to Zebrafish: 150 Years of Science at Notre Dame.” Focusing on Notre Dame’s history of scientific research and education, the exhibit includes artifacts of early scientific lab equipment, fossils and photographs of legendary Notre Dame scientists and their discoveries. The exhibit is open to the public through Aug. 2, 2015. Admission is charged.

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Fighting to explore our universe


The work of Notre Dame astrophysicist Justin Crepp could lead to the discovery of worlds similar to our own and revolutionize our understanding of the universe. For centuries, humankind has looked to the night sky in awe and wondered, “Are we alone?” The research of Justin Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics, may be able to answer just that. Prof. Crepp, a recipient of the NASA Early Career Fellowship and member of NASA’s

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Crepp joins NASA’s TESS science team

tessImage credit: NASA

NASA has named University of Notre Dame astrophysicist Justin Crepp as a member of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) science team. A space mission coordinated through MIT, Harvard, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, TESS will discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky.

Crepp, The Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics, was selected to be on the science team based on his team’s expertise with adaptive optics and their ability to use the Large Binocular Telescope, the world’s premier diffraction-limited facility, to acquire follow up observations for intriguing planetary signals that TESS will detect.

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Large Binocular Telescope committee selects Crepp’s iLocater to be built


The group that oversees the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) has selected the team led by Justin Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, to build a new astronomical spectrometer named “iLocater” for its next-generation of instruments. The instrument was selected from among new hardware concepts proposed by the LBT observatory's domestic and international partners.

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NASA awards career fellowship to Notre Dame astrophysicist


NASA has awarded Justin R. Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, with an Early Career Fellowship. He is the only awardee in the nation to receive the fellowship in the Origins of Solar Systems program. Crepp’s project, “Working at the Diffraction Limit: New Exoplanetary Science in the Era of ‘Extreme’ Adaptive Optics,” was selected through a competitive proposal process, followed by peer review in a second round of evaluation.

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Physicists confirm first planet discovered in a quadruple star system

The first extrasolar planet in a quadruple star system has been discovered

Justin Crepp, Freimann Assistant Professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, provided the high-contrast imaging observations that confirmed the first extrasolar planet discovered in a quadruple star system. He is a co-author on a paper about the discovery, “Planet Hunters: A Transiting Circumbinary Planet in a Quadruple Star System,” recently posted to the open-access, and submitted for publication to The Astrophysical Journal.

Crepp’s images revealed that the system involved two sets of binary stars. The planet was first noticed by volunteer citizen scientists studying publicly available Kepler data as part of the Planet Hunters citizen science project.

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