The Messenger 138
– December 2009
Telescopes and Instrumentation
First Release of Images from VISTA
The new ESO survey telescope VISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Tele-scope for Astronomy) was recentlycommissioned at Paranal and has justreleased its rst public images.
VISTA was conceived and developed bya consortium of 18 universities in theUnited Kingdom led by Queen Mary, Uni-versity of London and became an in-kindcontribution to ESO as part of the UK’saccession agreement. The telescope isdescribed in Emerson et al. (2004, 2006).Project management for the telescopedesign and construction was the respon-sibility of the Science and TechnologyFacilities Council’s UK Astronomy Tech-nology Centre (STFC, UK ATC). Provi-sional acceptance of VISTA was formallygranted by ESO at a ceremony at ESOHeadquarters in Garching, Germany,attended by representatives of QueenMary, University of London and STFC on10 December 2009. VISTA will now beoperated by ESO. VISTA has a 4.1-metre primary mirror witha 1.65 degree eld of view. On accountof the speed of the primary (F/0.98), thelargest mirror to be manufactured withsuch a low focal ratio, the guring andpolishing of the primary was a formidabletask. The secondary is 1.24 metres indiameter. As a survey telescope it hasonly one instrument, a camera composedof 16 2048 × 2048 infrared detectors. The Raytheon VIRGO HgCdTe detectorshave 0.34-arcsecond pixels and a single“pawprint” covers an area of 0.6 squaredegrees. By combining six offset images,a full eld coverage of 1.5 × 1.0 degreesis achieved. The camera was designedand built by a consortium including theRutherford Appleton Laboratory, the UK ATC and the University of Durham. Fig-ure 1 shows a view of the telescope withthe camera in the process of being re-moved. The camera has ve broadbandlters
, with an option foruser-provided lters. The front cover shows a colour-compos-ite image of the dusty star-forming H
region NGC 2024 in the Orion Cloud re-gion, called the Flame Nebula (imagefrom the ESO press release). Figure 2shows a 1 × 1.4 degree region of theFornax galaxy cluster, with NGC 1399and NGC 1365 both visible. The VISTA science verication (SV) programme
consists of two mini-surveys: one Galac-tic, on the theme of star formation andvery low mass stars and brown dwarfsin the Orion region; and one extragalac-tic, on the stellar halo in NGC 253. TheSV data will be processed using the VISTA Data Flow System run jointly by theCambridge Astronomical Survey Unit(CASU) and the Wide Field AstronomyUnit Edinburgh (WFAU), and the reduceddata will be publicly released. VISTA will be dedicated to large surveysand a ve-year programme of six publicsurveys has been assigned. Observationswill begin soon. They range from surveysof variable stars in the Milky Way, a sur-vey of the Magellanic Clouds, a southernhemisphere survey and a large areagalaxy survey, and two deep small eldsurveys. Details of these surveys can befound in Arnaboldi et al. (2007).
References Arnaboldi, M. et al. 2007, The Messenger, 127, 28Emerson, J. P. et al. 2004, The Messenger, 117, 27Emerson, J. P. et al. 2006, The Messenger, 126, 41Links
Figure 1 (left).
The VISTA infraredcamera being removed to allowthe primary mirror to be recoated inSeptember 2009.
Figure 2 (right).
VISTA colour image(from
lters) of the Fornaxgalaxy cluster. At the lower left is thebarred-spiral galaxy NGC 1365 and tothe upper right the central bright ellip-tical NGC 1399. The total exposuretime per pixel was about 25 minutes.
C r e d i t : E S O / G . H ü d e p o h l