In the past couple of years ESO have gradually commissioning a new generation of instruments at Paranal. The newcomers at VLT are KMOS, MUSE and most recently SPHERE. One by one, these instrument are providing better sensitivity, higher resolution, and improved efficiency through multi-object and/or integral field spectroscopy. Some of the science verification data have been spectacular.
Here’s the Orion nebula imaged by MUSE. This is a colour composite, as if it were simply imaged in a few different filters. But MUSE is a spectrograph, so it gives us full spectral information at each position. It’s a hugely rich dataset. Click the image for ESO webpage with more info and bigger sizes.
This week the ESO Messenger contained an article on the Science Verification results from SPHERE, a spectro-polarimeter that uses extreme adaptive optics to achieve high contrast levels – perfect for studying environments around stars, in particular exoplanets. SPHERE is quite a complex instrument with a number of different imaging, spectroscopic, polarimetric and coronagraphic modes (and combinations thereof); it’s definitely one of the most challenging AO systems ever developed. The images are really stunning.
Check out these images of the evolved star VY CMa:
And I’m sure there is much more to come from these exciting new facilities.
Just a couple of weeks ago I gave a lecture about the importance of technology in astronomy. There’s no better way to prove this point than with these new images.