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Netherlands ♥ the European Extremely Large Telescope November 28, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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Artsy impression of the E-ELT

Good news! The Dutch government announced today that it will invest 18.8M euros in research and development for instrumentation for the European Extremely Large Telescope in the next decade. Around 8 million will be spent in the next 3 years, with the remaining 10M covering the period beyond 2012. The money was awarded to NOVA, the Dutch Research School for Astronomy, an umbrella partnership of the five Dutch astronomy institutes – Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden, Nijmegen and Utrecht.

The European Extremely Large Telescope is the next-generation optical and infrared observatory for the European community, and the largest optical telescope project in the world right now with a primary mirror diameter of 42 metres. The project, including the design of the telescope itself, is led by ESO, who have funded 9 studies for potential instruments for the telescope; 4 of these already have a Dutch major or minor involvement. This investment will allow the NOVA partnership to take a lead position for an instrument beyond 2010, when ESO will select a suite of first-generation instruments for the E-ELT.

I work on one of these studies, incidentally also the largest, so you can imagine we’re quite chuffed with the news. Not only is this a substantial amount of money, it was also 100% of the amount that was requested. When does *that* ever happen in astronomy?! Good to see that not everyone is blinded by the red flashing lights of recession in any case.

The name of our instrument here is METIS, the Mid-infrared E-ElT Imager and Spectrograph, the only proposed instrument covering the mid-infrared regime (longwards of 3 micron). Our operation baseline is an imager, with coronagraph, polarimeter, and low-resolution slit spectroscopy, and a high-resolution integral field spectrograph. But we’ll have to wait and see if METIS will be picked as a first-light instrument, and in what form…..

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