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Paris, 5 MARCH 2014

VLT : MUSE takes a look at the Universe

A unique new instrument dubbed MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) has been successfully installed on the European Southern Observatory (ESO)'s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal, in the heart of the Atacama desert in northern Chile. MUSE is one of four second-generation instruments selected by ESO (1) to equip the VLT (2), the flagship facility of European astronomy for the beginning of the third millennium. Thanks to its exceptional performance, this wide field of view, 3D spectrograph will be able to explore the distant Universe. It was developed in particular by two French research laboratories, the Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon), which headed the project, and the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (CNRS/Université Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier). During its highly successful 'first light' (test phase), MUSE observed distant galaxies, bright stars and many other celestial objects.

MUSE is a seven-tonne collection of optics, mechanics and electronics that makes up a fantastic time machine for probing the early Universe. This unique instrument is the result of several years' hard work by many people under the leadership of Roland Bacon, principal investigator for the project and CNRS senior researcher at the Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon. MUSE is the result of ten years of design and development at the international level (3). It was developed in particular by two French research laboratories, the Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon), which headed the project, and the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (CNRS/Université Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier). Other French laboratories contributed to the success of this major project, including the Institut de Planétologie et Astrophysique de Grenoble (CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier), Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille (LAM) (CNRS/AMU), Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Bordeaux (LAB) (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux), Observatoire de Nice-Côte d'Azur,  Laboratoire des Sciences de l'Ingénieur, de l'Informatique et de l'Imagerie (CNRS/Université de Strasbourg) and Gipsa-lab (CNRS/Grenoble-INP/Université Joseph Fourier/Université Stendhal).

MUSE will delve into the earliest moments of the Universe with the aim of probing the mechanisms of galaxy formation, as well as studying the motion of matter and the chemical properties of nearby galaxies. Among other scientific goals, it will study the Solar System's planets and satellites as well as the properties of star-forming regions both in the Milky Way and in the distant Universe.

As a unique and powerful tool for discovery, MUSE uses 24 spectrographs to separate light into its component colors to produce both images and spectra of specific regions of the sky, creating 3D views of the Universe (4). MUSE enables the astronomer to move through the mass of data collected by the instrument and study different views of the object at different wavelengths. The instrument combines the discovery potential of an imaging device with the measuring capabilities of a spectrograph, while benefiting from the excellent image quality provided by adaptive optics.  

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 the VLT platform and installed on the Observatory's Unit Telescope 4. MUSE will soon be followed by the SPHERE instrument, the latest of the second-generation instruments for the VLT.


Resources:

A photo report on the MUSE instrument has been jointly produced by CNRS, ESO and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1. The images are available on the CNRS and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 photo library websites:

http://phototheque.univ-lyon1.fr/user/album.asp?id=2579&id_pagealbum=339&num=221


http://phototheque.cnrs.fr/to.php?sessionId=506710**20140303.164700&obj=bxry|th|o{{tiky}pptltj|fxjzrnj|wiol|vvrbku

View the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5TopF7DGMg&feature=youtu.be

muse

© Eric Le Roux/University Claude Bernard Lyon 1/CNRS/ESO

The MUSE instrument installed on the VLT. This view shows the VLT Unit Telescope 4 inside its enclosure. The telescope itself can be seen in the centre of the image, while the new MUSE instrument appears on the left. This unique and powerful tool for discovery uses 24 spectrographs to separate light into its component colors to create both images and spectra of selected regions of the sky. MUSE couples the discovery potential of an imaging device with the measuring capabilities of a spectrograph, while benefiting from the excellent image quality provided by adaptive optics.




muse la nuit

© ESO/Ghaouti Hansali/Fernando Selman

The MUSE instrument at night. This dramatic night time view shows the MUSE instrument inside the dome of the VLT Unit Telescope 4. The telescope tube appears at the top of the picture and MUSE is seen glinting in the foreground. The Milky Way shines in through the open doors of the dome.




nebuleuse orion

© ESO/MUSE consortium/R. Bacon

Image of the orion Nebula reconstructed by MUSE. This color composite of the Orion Nebula was produced from data from the new MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope. The new instrument splits up the light from each part of this spectacular star formation region into its component colors — revealing down to the finest detail the chemical and physical properties of each point. The image was produced from several MUSE datasets obtained soon after the instrument achieved first light in early 2014. To make this picture, selected regions of the spectrum were extracted to form a single color image. Impressive though this achievement may appear, it results from the combination of only a tiny fraction of the information contained in the three-dimensional datasets acquired by MUSE.




Notes:

(1) ESO (European Southern Observatory) is the foremost intergovernmental organization for astronomy in Europe, and the world's most productive astronomical observatory. On behalf of the 15 member countries, it runs three observation sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. In Europe, ESO develops and operates the largest ground-based astronomy facilities.
(2) The VLT (Very Large Telescope) is made up of four 8 m-diameter telescopes, combined with a series of high-performance instruments.
(3) MUSE is the result of ten years of design and development by the MUSE consortium — headed by the Centre de Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon, France and the partner institutes: Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP, Germany), Institut für Astrophysik Göttingen (IAG, Germany), Institute for Astronomy ETH Zurich (Switzerland), L'Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP, France), Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor de Astronomie (NOVA, the Netherlands) and ESO.
(4) This technique, known as integral field spectroscopy, enables astronomers to study the properties of different parts of an object such as a galaxy in order to observe its rotation and measure its mass. It is also used to determine the chemical composition as well as the physical properties of the different regions of the object being studied. Although the technique has been used for many years, with MUSE it has now reached new heights in sensitivity, efficiency and resolution. MUSE simultaneously combines high-resolution imaging with spectroscopy.


Contacts:

CNRS researcher l Roland Bacon l T 04 78 86 85 59/06 08 09 14 27 l rmb@obs.univ-lyon1.fr

CNRS Press Office l Laetitia Louis l T 01 44 96 51 37 l laetitia.louis@cnrs-dir.fr


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