STFC funds design of first-light spectrograph for the European Extremely Large Telescope

3 October 2011

New STFC funding will pave the way for the UK to maintain and strengthen its leadership role in the design and development of ELT instrumentation. The majority of the £2.1M grant to Oxford will fund work on HARMONI, with the remainder supporting continued development of the science drivers that underpin the E-ELT project.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has selected two instrument concepts that will make up the "first-light" instrument suite for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) - a camera and a spectrograph. The spectrograph (named HARMONI) will be based on an advanced conceptual design study, carried out in 2008-09 by a pan-European consortium, led by Prof. Niranjan Thatte of the University of Oxford. The picture shows CAD renderings of HARMONI, with (left) and without (right) the outer cryostat vessel and thermal shield. The blue cabinets house instrument control electronics.

HARMONI is an integral field spectrograph, simultaneously providing images and spectra of astrophysical objects in unprecedented detail, a five fold improvement in spatial resolution over present-day telescopes. Combined with the immense light-gathering power of the E-ELT, it will enable ultra-sensitive observations of distant and nearby galaxies, super-massive black holes, young star-forming regions, extra-solar planets and other exotic objects.