Start of construction of camera for European giant telescope
Leiden scientists will be working on the development of a camera for the European Extremely Large Telescope that is currently under construction. On 28 September the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy signed an agreement with the European Southern Observatory.
The METIS camera and spectrometer will allow astronomers to study the earliest stages of the development of planetary systems, find water and organic molecules in the discs around young stars and study the characteristics of exoplanets in close detail. METIS will be one of the first instruments on the new giant telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), that is currently under construction on Cerro Armazones in the North Chilean Atacama Desert. The telescope has a primary mirror of 39 metres, making it the largest telescope for optical infra-red light ever.
Signing of contract
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has signed an agreement with a European consortium led by the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) for the design and construction of METIS. The contract was signed by Director-General of ESO, Tim de Zeeuw, who is also a professor in Leiden, and – on behalf of NOVA – Willem te Beest, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of Leiden University. Also attending were Leiden astronomer Professor Bernhard Brandl, Principal Inverstigator (PI) of METIS, and all co-PI's and project managers of the consortium partners.
In ten years’ time the E-ELT, that is being constructed in Northern Chile by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), will deliver razor-sharp images of the universe (more than ten times as sharp as images from the Hubble Space Telescope). METIS will observe at longer infra-red wavelengths, completing the two other first-phase instruments HARMONI and MICADO. NOVA is also a partner in the consortium constructing the MICADO camera. The METIS project office will be located at Leiden Observatory.
Super-massive black holes
METIS builds on the expertise already acquired with earlier ESO instruments, and can be regarded as the successor to the mid-infra-red MATISSE, VISIR and CRIRES on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. METIS also aims to explore the history of our solar system and to research the growth of super-heavy black holes. In Greek mythology, Metis was the first wife of Zeus and the mother of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.