ESO Installs New Instrument Onboard VLT
December 12, 2012

New VLT Instrument Will Allow Astronomers To Study 24 Objects At The Same Time

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has tested out its latest instrument called KMOS on its Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The instrument, K-band Multi-Object Spectrograph (KMOS), is capable of observing 24 objects at the same time in infrared light, and study the structure simultaneously within each one.

ESO said KMOS will help to provide crucial data to help understand how galaxies grew and evolved in the early Universe.

KMOS has successfully achieved its first light after being attached to VLT's Unit Telescope 1. The instrument is the second generation of instruments to be installed on VLT.

"KMOS will bring an exciting new capability to the suite of instrumentation at the ESO VLT. Its initial success is a tribute to the dedication of a large team of engineers and scientists. The team looks forward to many future scientific discoveries with KMOS once the instrument commissioning is fully complete," said Ray Sharples of the University of Durham, co-principal investigator of KMOS.

Astronomers need three things in order to study the early lives of galaxies in the universe, including needing to observe in infrared, observe many objects at once, and the ability to map out how their properties vary from place to place.

Before KMOS, astronomers could either observe many objects at once, or map a single object in detail. A detailed survey takes years for a large sample of objects, but with KMOS, mapping the properties of many objects simultaneously can be done in a matter of months.

"I remember, eight years ago, when the project started how I was skeptical about the complexity of KMOS. But today we are observing and the instrument is performing wonderfully," said Jeff Pirard, the ESO staff member responsible for the instrument. "Moreover, it has been a real pleasure to work together with the KMOS team. They are very professional and we had a great time working together."

The instrument was designed through a collaboration of many institutes working in partnership with ESO.

"I am excited about the fantastic opportunities KMOS offers to study distant galaxies. The possibility to observe 24 galaxies simultaneously will allow us to build galaxy samples of unprecedented size and quality. The collaboration among all partners and ESO could not have been better and I am very grateful to everybody who contributed to the construction of KMOS," said Ralf Bender, co-principal investigator.