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What is NAHUAL?

Description

NAHUAL (Near-infrAred High-resolUtion spectrogrAph for pLanet hunting) is a project intended to develop a near-infrared high-resolution echelle spectrograph for a 10-m class telescope. The main scientific objective of the instrument is to measure the radial velocity (RV) with very high precision (goal of 1 m/s) in the near infrared. This will facilitate the detection of exoplanets of low mass (possibly of rocky type) around cool stars and brown dwarfs with spectral types K, M and L (M-type stars are the most numerous in the solar vicinity and in the Milky Way). This can be achieved because of two fundamental reasons:

NAHUAL will also offer to the community a new facility for a great variety of scientific programs, as for example: detailed studies of the atmospheres and cool stars, chemical composition, studies of stellar activity (particularly by means of measurements of magnetic field using the Zeeman effect), characterization of protoplanetary discs, asteroseismology, and characterisation of gamma-ray bursts.


Motivation

NAHUAL is mainly thought to measure RV variations in M dwarfs with the goal of detecting life-bearing rocky planets around them. This is a new niche of Modern Astrophysics that requires an instrument with the unique capabilities of NAHUAL that, in general, will allow the science community to perform:


Nahualli, Nagual and Tezcatlipoca

A Nahual or Nagual (both pronounced /na-wl/) is, among Mesoamerican indigenous, a human being or a god who has the power to magically adopt animal forms. For example, Tezcatlipoca's nahual was the jaguar (Panthera onca, the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion). Tezcatlipoca, "Lord of the Near and the Night" and "Possessor of the Sky and the Earth", was a central deity in Aztec religion together with Quetzalcoatl. The word Nahual comes from the Nahuatl word nawalli, which was interpreted by the Spanish invaders and their priesthood as "practitioner of harmful magic". In modern rural Mexico, Nahuals are thought to shapeshift into animals at night and hunt innocent victims. Instead of it, our NAHUAL will hunt exoplanets at night!