Vincent was born on December 22nd, 1979, in Ales, France, and spent his youth in the Department of Lozere where his parents live.
He attended lower school (primaire) in Sainte Croix Valle Francaise, middle school (college) in Saint Etienne Valle Francaise, and high school (lycee) in Mende. As a teenager, he received his first telescope (a Perl-Vixen) and enjoyed looking at the dark skies over Lozere.
He started his university studies in Montpellier with a DUT in Physics (a two-year degree from a university institute of technology). He then moved on to the University of Grenoble where he got a DEA (Master’s Degree) and then pursued his PhD under Jean-Paul Pique at the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Physics. His thesis was on “Etude d'un laser sans mode de puissance pour la production d'étoiles laser” (“Study of a high power modeless laser for the production of laser star”) and was successfully defended on January 22nd, 2007. In the lab, he was remembered as an enthusiastic, meticulous, and hard-working person.
Vincent joined the team at the Gemini North telescope, based in Hilo, Hawai‘i, on October 3rd, 2007. He was hired as a laser specialist to oversee the laser used for the telescope’s Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics system. In this capacity he kept the laser exquisitely maintained and maximized up-time of the laser. Following his time at Gemini North, Vincent was asked to work on the Gemini South laser, then under construction at Lockheed Martin Coherent Technologies in Colorado. Vincent spent several months in Colorado cross-training and doing end-to-end testing of the system before the laser’s acceptance and shipping to Chile. The shipping was scheduled to occur in early March 2010 but was delayed due to a major earthquake in Chile on February 27th.
Vincent relocated to Gemini South in La Serena, arriving in Chile on March 23rd, 2010. Since then, Vincent has been one of the key players on the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS) team charged with commissioning the system’s laser (for producing laser guide stars) on the Gemini South telescope. The milestone of first on-sky laser light was obtained on January 22nd 2011 at Cerro Pachón and this opened the era of laser guide star ‘constellations’ for large telescopes. Several of the pictures presented in this memorial page date from this period.
Vincent was then promoted to the position of laser and optical engineer and in that capacity has worked on continuous improvements of the laser, cross-trained new people on the team, and contributed to the long technical and science commissioning of this new facility. In addition he played a critical role in the start of science operations that began in January of this year. Vincent also played a critical role in other optical systems like the Beam Transfer Optics, which is part of the Laser Guide Star Facility. Most recently, Vincent served as an optical engineer for the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), which just completed its first technical run on the telescope (Nov 11-18). Unfortunately, Vincent’s tragic car accident occurred on the day before the GPI run began so he was not able to witness the first results but the GPI team has kept him in their thoughts and shared the joy of the instrument’s great success.
Vincent will be remembered as a friendly and intelligent person who enjoyed simplicity as a happy and true person. Always smiling and generous, he also loved the outdoors and was passionate about ecology and maintained a deep interested in world politics while caring deeply for social justice. He was an excellent photographer and particularly enjoyed capturing the beauty of nature and all its creatures – especially birds.
Vincent loved Patagonia. Before the accident, he was preparing a photography exhibit, which his family shared with his friends and colleagues after the tragedy. Vincent was a great colleague to all and will be deeply missed. He left us a solid legacy on which we will continue to build, and inspired us by sharing his usual happiness and sense of humor.
A tribute to Vincent has been created on a dedicated memorial website and we invite you to visit and use this site to share your memories: http://vincent-fesquet.forevermissed.com/