The METIS Instrument for the E-ELT: Agreement for development signed

September 28, 2015
METIS, an infrared camera and spectrograph, will be one of the First-Light-Instruments for the future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) – the largest telescope ever built. On September 28, 2015, the agreement to develop and build METIS has been signed in Leiden between the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the METIS consortium, in which the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) is the second largest partner.

The ceremonial signatures were exchanged in the Science Club in the Gorlaeus House in Leiden between Tim de Zeeuw, Director General of ESO, and H.W. (Willem) te Beest, Vice President Executive Board, Leiden University, on behalf of the consortium. Also in attendance was Thomas Henning, director of MPIA, as well as other co-investigators of all consortium partners.

METIS (Mid-infrared E-ELT Imager and Spectrograph) is to become the mid-infrared workhorse of the E-ELT. It will comprise two cameras and low-to-medium resolution long-slit spectrographs for the wavelength range between 3 and 14 microns (covering the so-called L, M and N-bands), plus a high-resolution (R~100,000) integral field spectrograph for the wavelength range between 3 and 5 microns.  METIS will also contain an Extreme Adaptive Optics Wavefront Sensor Unit to facilitate diffraction limited operations at very high image quality in all spectral regions concerned. With such an adaptive optics system, ground-based telescopes and instruments are able to correct in real time the blurring effects of the atmosphere which otherwise would lower the resolution of data by several orders of magnitude.

MPIA is the second largest partner in the consortium. Its prime contributions will be the imaging units, and the adaptive optics wavefront sensor. “The excellent image quality and stability by the adaptive optics system will enable a large number of science cases to benefit from the E-ELT's unprecedented resolution and sensitivity”, says Thomas Henning, director of MPIA. “METIS science cases will range from studies of young star forming galaxies at high redshifts to the exploration of protoplanetary disks and planets around other stars.”

METIS is now entering the actual development phase with design reviews foreseen in 2017 and 2019, while first-light is envisioned to happen around 2025, only one year after the E-ELT's own first-light event.  METIS is the third of the First-Light-instruments, the other two being HARMONI, a near-infrared integral field spectrograph, and MICADO, a near-infrared imaging camera, in which MPIA also is involved.

The E-ELT is foreseen to start operation around 2024. With its 39m-mirror it will be the largest telescope in the world.

The METIS consortium consists of:

NOVA: P.I. Bernhard Brandl, Leiden University, The Netherlands
MPIA: Co.-I. Markus Feldt, Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Heidelberg, Germany
UK-ATC: Co.-I. Alistair Glasse, UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh, UK
CEA Saclay: Co.-I. Eric Pantin, Centre d'Etudes Nucleaire de Saclay, DSM/IRFU/Sap Saclay, France
ETH: Co.-I. Michael R. Meyer, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, Department of Physics, Zürich, Switzerland
KUL: Co.-I. Christoffel Waelkens, KU Leuven, Institute of Astronomy, Leuven, Belgium
U Vienna: Co.-I. Manuel Guedel, University of Vienna, Institute for Astronomy, on behalf of the A* consortium (Vienna, Linz, Innsbruck, Graz), Wien, Austria

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