The Messenger 139
– March 2010
Telescopes and Instrumentation
The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA): Looking Back at Commissioning
Astronomy Unit, Queen Mary Universityof London, United Kingdom
The ESO near-infrared survey tele-scope, VISTA, is about to enter opera-tion. Dry runs for VISTA’s PublicSurveys have been in progress sinceNovember 2009 and the full surveyswill begin soon. Some points from the VISTA commissioning are outlined.
Introduction VISTA, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, is a 4.1-metrewide-eld survey telescope, equippedwith a 1.65-degree eld, (67-Mpixel) near-infrared (NIR) camera, for performingextensive surveys of the southern skieswith sensitivity matched to the needsof 8-metre-class telescopes. Over its rstve years of operations, the majorityof VISTA’s time will be used for six ESOPublic Surveys (Arnaboldi et al., 2007).NIR imaging surveys particularly targetthe cold, the obscured, and the highredshift Universe, to generate sciencedirectly and also in order to select objectsworthy of further study by the Very Large Telescope (VLT). Details of the design of VISTA were givenin Emerson et al. (2004), a progressupdate in Emerson et al. (2006), picturesof the NIR camera in
(131, 6), the site in issue 132 (p. 55), theprimary mirror (M1) installation in issues132 and 133 (p. 6 and 67 respectively),the camera being lifted up through theazimuth oor (138, 2) and the rst releaseof images was also described in
(138, 2). Here we outline someinteresting points from the commission-ing period.Early work The only change from the system de-scribed in Emerson et al. (2004) was thata
lter was added in the camera, asthe Raytheon Vision Systems IR detec-tors were measured to have a quantumefciency (QE) that was still good evenat a wavelength as short as
(0.88 µm)— where QE ~ 70%.Commissioning generally went smoothly,with no major problems requiring redesignor re-manufacture, although most taskstended to take rather longer than antici-pated. It was heartening that there wereno fundamental problems, but frustratingthat many individually small problemseach took time to solve. Here we focuson some points that arose, but theemphasis here on problems that weresolved should not obscure the factthat VISTA now works very well, as theimages from the press release in Decem-ber 2009 (ESO Press Release eso0949)and the image of part of the Orion Nebula,on the front cover, demonstrate.
VISTA’s camera is shown being mountedonto the telescope. The camera (black) has beenlifted from the ground oor through a removablesector in the dome oor, using the enclosure crane(yellow at top) and the lifting arm (blue). The enclo-sure is rotated to place the camera behind thetelescope (this picture). Next the camera is movedinto the M1 hole and bolted to the Cassegrainrotator, and nally the electronics boxes are tted.
A view of VISTA’s camera on the telescopewith all the electronics boxes mounted (with theirback covers off in this image). The open lifting hatchcan be seen on the right, with the yellow craneabove. The white circle at the top serves both as aMoon screen, and as a screen for taking linearitysequences and instrument health monitoring frames.
C r e d i t : S . B e a r d C r e d i t : S . B e a r d