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Hobby-Eberly Telescope

The dome of an observatory is silhouetted against a dramatically colorful sky.
Hobby-Eberly Telescope
Credit: Ethan Tweedie Photography

Telescope Details



McDonald Observatory, near Fort Davis, Texas


To gather a very large amount of light, specifically for low-cost spectroscopy, the study of light-matter interactions.

NIST’s role:

NIST provided a custom-made astrocomb — which precisely measures frequencies, or colors, of light — to ensure the precision of starlight analysis by an instrument at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope called a spectrograph, used to identify Earth-like planets orbiting stars. The project is a collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder and Pennsylvania State University. The comb was supported by the National Science Foundation, Pennsylvania State University Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, NASA and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Significant discoveries:

The spectrograph and astrocomb’s early results led to the conclusion that a planet candidate proposed to be orbiting Barnard’s star, one of the most studied stars in the night sky, is a false positive.

Other interesting facts:

NIST’s astrocomb was the first in operation on a telescope to analyze near-infrared light, the main type emitted by M dwarf stars, which make up 70% of the stars in the galaxy. 

Operated by:

University of Texas at Austin 

Other partners:

Pennsylvania State University, Ludwig Maximilians Universität and Georg August Universität


Man in goggles standing next to and looking into a large box with open lid showing what appears to be electrical equipment and wiring inside
NIST physicist Scott Diddams views the NIST frequency comb designed to ensure the precision of starlight analysis at the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas.
Credit: NIST
Created October 7, 2021, Updated November 3, 2021