Engineers at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory have attached the EMIR spectrograph to the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC), realizing a more than decade long design and fabrication process.
The cryogenic instrument was designed, built, assembled and verified entirely at the IAC (Astrophysics Institute of Canrias). It will produce images and perform spectroscopy in the near infrared region, allowing researchers to observe the coldest and most distant objects in the universe. It is hoped that it will give results of high importance in extragalactic and galactic astrophysics, effectively looking back in time to observe the distant, early universe.
“It’s an instrument which uses innovative observing techniques with high precision mechanisms which give it operational versatility,” says Francisco Garzón, the principal investigator on the project. “And it will be on the biggest telescope in the world. The sum of these factors will make it a powerful instrument. We estimate that it will take between three and six months to commission it and set it up before it can enter the phase of routine scientific observations. However, we do hope to obtain data of scientific quality during first three months after its first light.”
The EMIR is completely cryogenic, enclosed within a tank that has a temperature of -200ºC in its interior and within which its various components must work with a precision of a few microns. The EMIR offers many operational modes, according to engineers, providing a high degree of versatility and power.
In the coming days the teams will carry on with tests at room temperature and will then cool the instrument down to its working temperature before making final adjustments and leaving it ready to receive light from the telescope.