Concepción Cárdenas Vázquez receives the MERAC Prize 2020

May 06, 2020
Concepción Cárdenas Vázquez, optical engineer at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), has been awarded the 2020 MERAC Prize by the European Astronomical Society (EAS) for the best doctoral thesis in the field of new technologies (instrumentation). She receives the award for her work "PANIC, una cámara infrarroja de gran campo para Calar Alto" (PANIC, an infrared wide-field camera for Calar Alto).

The EAS thus honors her leadership qualities and her creative work in instrumentation related to the instrument PANIC. Her work ranges from concept design and feasibility studies to the final integration and verification of the instrument, both in the laboratory and at the telescope, according to the EAS. The award will be presented on July 2, 2020, at the annual meeting of the EAS, where Concepción Cárdenas Vázquez will also give a talk on the occasion of the prize.

Already in June 2019, the Spanish Astronomical Society (SEA) awarded her the prize for the best Spanish doctoral thesis in the field of instrumentation, computer science and technological development in astronomy and astrophysics (see below).

Concepción Cárdenas Vázquez joined MPIA in 2016. Her work currently focuses on instrumentation for the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). Previously, she worked also as an optical engineer at the Institute for Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) from 1999 to 2016. There she was responsible for the optical package of PANIC and the near-infrared channel of the spectrograph CARMENES. Her doctoral thesis was carried out at the IAA-CSIC (Granada, Spain) and at the University of Granada (Spain), accompanied already then by many stays at MPIA.

PANIC is an instrument jointly developed by MPIA and IAA for the 2.2 m and 3.5 m telescopes of the Calar Alto Observatory. It belongs to a new generation of wide-field infrared cameras for ground-based telescopes and is extremely versatile. Thanks to its large field of view and numerous filters, PANIC is ideal for conducting extended surveys in many fields of astrophysics - from extragalactic astronomy to the study of star-forming regions in the Milky Way and to observations of the solar system.

Due to the desired large field of view, the needed observing capabilities in the near-infrared and the technical circumstances for the installation at the telescope, the development of the camera involved various demanding challenges. Large-format lens systems had to be designed without significant spectral and optical image errors. At the same time it was necessary to fold the beam in order to keep the instrument relatively small. In addition, vacuum and cooling systems were required to operate the instrument and detectors at minus 178° C. PANIC provides a usable field of view the size of the full moon - outstanding for large telescopes in the field of near-infrared observations.

The FONDATION MERAC (Mobilising European Research in Astrophysics and Cosmology) is a non-profit foundation established in 2012 and based in Switzerland to recognize and support young European astronomers. Every two years the EAS awards three MERAC prizes for the best doctoral thesis in the categories Theoretical Astrophysics, Observational Astrophysics and New Technologies.

EAS Page of the MERAC-Prize

MPIA news release of 2019 about the Prize from the Spanish Astronomical Society (SEA)

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