First Light For Muse: Powerful 3D Spectrograph Successfully Installed On VLT

MUSE image of the Orion Nebula (Credit: ESO/MUSE consortium/R. Bacon)
MUSE image of the Orion Nebula (Credit: ESO/MUSE consortium/R. Bacon)

Main Points:

A new innovative instrument called MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) has been successfully installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. MUSE has observed distant galaxies, bright stars and other test targets during the first period of very successful observations.

Study Further:

Following testing and preliminary acceptance in Europe in September 2013, MUSE was shipped to ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. It was reassembled at the base camp before being carefully transported to its new home at the VLT, where it is now installed on Unit Telescope 4. MUSE is the latest of the second generation instruments for the VLT; the first two were X-shooter (http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso0920) and KMOS (http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1251), and the next, SPHERE (http://www.eso.org/public/announcements/ann14013), will follow shortly.

The leader of the team and principal investigator for the instrument, Roland Bacon (Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon, France; http://www-obs.univ-lyon1.fr/?lang=en), expressed his feelings: “It has taken a lot of work by many people over many years, but we have done it! It seems strange that this seven-ton collection of optics, mechanics and electronics is now a fantastic time machine for probing the early universe. We are very proud of the achievement — MUSE will remain a unique instrument for years to come.”

MUSE’s science goals include delving into the early epochs of the universe to probe the mechanisms of galaxy formation and studying both the motions of material in nearby galaxies and their chemical properties. It will have many other applications, ranging all the way from studies of the planets and satellites in the solar system, through the properties of star-forming regions in the Milky Way and out to the distant universe.

As a unique and powerful tool for discovery MUSE uses 24 spectrographs to separate light into its component colors to create both images and spectra of selected regions of the sky. It creates 3D views of the universe with a spectrum for each pixel as the third dimension [1]. During the subsequent analysis the astronomer can move through the data and study different views of the object at different wavelengths, just like tuning a television to different channels at different frequencies.

MUSE couples the discovery potential of an imaging device with the measuring capabilities of a spectrograph, while taking advantage of the much better image sharpness provided by adaptive optics (http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/technology/adaptive_optics). The instrument is mounted on Unit Telescope 4 of the VLT, which is currently being converted into a fully adaptive telescope (http://www.eso.org/public/announcements/ann14010).

MUSE is the result of ten years of design and development by the MUSE consortium — headed by the Center de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon, France (http://www-obs.univ-lyon1.fr/?lang=en) and the partner institutes Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP, Germany; http://www.aip.de/en), Institut für Astrophysik Göttingen (IAG, Germany; http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/203293.html), Institute for Astronomy ETH (http://www.astro.ethz.ch) Zurich (Switzerland), L’Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP, France;http://www.irap.omp.eu), Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor de Astronomie (NOVA, the Netherlands; http://www.nova-astronomy.nl) and ESO.

Since the start of 2014, Bacon and the rest of the MUSE integration and commissioning team at Paranal have recorded the MUSE story in a series of blog posts which can be followed here (http://muse-vlt.eu/blog/MUSE-Comm/Blog/Blog.html). The team will present the first results from MUSE at the forthcoming 3D2014 workshop (http://www.eso.org/sci/meetings/2014/3D2014.html) at ESO in Garching bei München, Germany.

“A muse is there to inspire. Indeed, MUSE has inspired us for many years and will continue to do so,” says Bacon in a blog post on the first light. “No doubt many astronomers from all over the world will also be charmed by our MUSE.”

MUSE views of the Orion Nebula  (Credit: ESO/MUSE consortium/R. Bacon/L. Calçada)
MUSE views of the Orion Nebula
(Credit: ESO/MUSE consortium/R. Bacon/L. Calçada)

Note:

[1] This technique, known as integral field spectroscopy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_field_spectrograph), allows astronomers to simultaneously study the properties of different parts of an object such as a galaxy to see how it is rotating and to measure its mass. It also allows the chemical composition and other physical properties to be determined in different parts of the object. The technique has been used for many years but has now with MUSE reached a leap in sensitivity, efficiency and resolution. One way of describing this, is that MUSE simultaneously combines high-resolution imaging with spectroscopy.

PIO Contact:

Richard Hook, ESO, Public Information Officer, Garching bei München, Germany, +49 89 3200 6655, cell: +49 151 1537 3591, rhook@eso.org

Science Contacts:

Roland Bacon, Lyon Centre for Astrophysics Research (CRAL), France, +33 608 09 14 27 (cell), rmb@obs.univ-lyon1.fr

Marcella Carollo, Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, +41 44 633 3725, marcella@phys.ethz.ch

Thierry Contini, Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), Toulouse, France, +33 561 33 28 14, Thierry.Contini@irap.omp.eu

Harald Nicklas, Institut für Astrophysik (IAG), Göttigen, Germany, +49 551 39 50 39, nicklas@astro.physik.uni-goettingen.de

Joop Schaye, Leiden Observatory (NOVA), Leiden, The Netherlands, +31 71 527 8443 (cell), schaye@strw.leidenuniv.nl

Lutz Wisotzki, Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), Potsdam, Germany, +49 331 7499 532, lwisotzki@aip.de

Some useful links:

MUSE blog: http://muse-vlt.eu/blog/MUSE-Comm/Blog/Blog.html

MUSE instrument page at ESO: http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/develop/instruments/muse.html

MUSE pages at the Observatoire de Lyon: http://muse.univ-lyon1.fr/

A video about MUSE: http://youtu.be/e5TopF7DGMg (French, with English subtitles)

Flyer about 3D spectroscopy at ESO (for scientists): http://www.eso.org/public/products/flyers/flyer_0018/

3D2014 workshop at ESO in Garching bei München, Germany, 10-14 March 2014: http://www.eso.org/sci/meetings/2014/3D2014.html

About ESO:

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organization in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious program focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organizing cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-meter European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky.”

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