Title: Multi-Array of Combined Telescopes (MARCOT), a modular astronomical infrastructure facility for high resolution spectroscopy and large field of view, high dynamic range imaging at subarcsec spatial resolution.
The primary objective of the MARCOT Project is to carry out the conceptual design and establish a plan for the construction of a new European telescope concept with a large effective aperture and low cost.
The idea consists of the combination of multiple identical optical elements (identical mirrors or optical assemblies within manufacturing tolerances) resulting in a new infrastructure facility with a large effective aperture. The photons are collected by individual optical fibers attached to each optical assembly, which are finally combined by a novel multimode photonic lantern into a single fiber, which feeds a high-resolution spectrograph (figure 1a). Additionally, each optical assembly is equipped with a detector with low readout noise (used for guiding and centering), and the images from the detector can be combined later (figure 1b). This generates a single frame with a signal to noise ratio identical to that of a single large aperture telescope, but with improved resolution, dynamic range and larger field of view.
This technique would allow the development of the next generation of very large effective-aperture telescopes with substantially reduced budget, serving two main purposes: high-resolution spectroscopy and large field of view seeing-limited high dynamic range imaging, also capable of achieving very fast cadences. Due to the low cost, the ability to replace individual (or all the) mirrors with an improved version, or with different specifications in the future, gives this technique flexibility to adapt with technological advances. The project has already developed a prototype unit of the array at Calar Alto observatory.
Among the scientific goals pursued by MARCOT project are the search for Earth-like exo-planets and the characterization of their atmospheric features, for a large sample of stars. To achieve these goals, a high-resolution spectrograph that operates simultaneously in the visible and infrared wavelength range is necessary. Within this proposal, the existing spectrograph CARMENES, located at Calar Alto observatory, will be adapted to collect the light from this new European infrastructure facility, together with the 3.5m telescope. The new development will be more survey-oriented than a general, multipurpose observatory and would become a key facility for European Research areas in Astrophysics such as exoplanetary sciences. This will position Europe ahead of other powers but at an extremely reduced costs compared to large facilities such as ELT or TMT.