Telescopes, instruments and new technologies
Astronomers are constantly pushing the boundaries of ever more detailed observation, and data for an ever larger number of objects at a variety of wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum.
The telescopes and instruments necessary for this kind of cutting-edge research cannot be purchased from industry. They are usually developed by consortia of research institutes and specialized companies. In return, the institutes gain observing time on the instruments with which, by virtue of having helped to build them, they are thoroughly familar.
MPIA is involved in the development of both ground-based and space-based instruments.
The institute's specialties include the development of near-infrared adaptive optics and interferometry - techniques for removing the Earth's atmosphere's disturbing influence from astronomical images, and for combining several telescopes into one, respectively.
Current projects in this direction include the LINC-NIRVANA instrument, the LUCI spectrographs and the ARGOS laser guide star system for the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, the radial velocity finder CARMENES for Calar Alto Observatory, and the GRAVITY and MATISSE instruments for the Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO's Paranal Observatory. MPIA is also involved in the design and construction of two instruments, MICADO and METIS, for the coming 39 meter European Extremely Large Telescope.
MPIA's expertise in mechanical engineering for space telescopes, and in developing infrared detectors, came into play recently aboard the Herschel Space Observatory, and forms an integral part of the preparations for two space missions: the James Webb Space Telescope, a near-infrared 6.5 m telescope to be launched in 2021, and the EUCLID spacecraft, set to explore Dark Energy and Dark Matter from 2022 onward.
We are also active in astronomical software development. Notably, MPIA contributes analysis software to the astrometry space project GAIA.
Developing instruments for cutting-edge astronomical research often involves creating new technological solutions. In this area, MPIA is active as well. A good example is our cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in the field of innovative metal optics, which has resulted in a successful patent application.