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Seeing through cosmic dust

For the first time, astronomers will be able to ‘see through’ cosmic dust and study in ‘never-been-seen-before’ detail the innermost regions of our Milky Way. What’s so exciting is that this will enable astronomers to solve astronomical puzzles such as how our Milky Way took shape!

How? Because a new ground breaking instrument for astronomy research is being built, right now, at STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh. 


During its 10-year design lifetime this new instrument, which is called MOONS, is expected to observe ten million objects. It will view objects up to 40,000 light-years from the Earth, allowing astronomers to see in ‘never-been-seen-before’ detail the innermost regions of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Not only that, MOONS will allow astronomers to see across even more vast distances so that they will be able to study the formation and evolution of galaxies over the entire history of the Universe.

MOONS is a unique instrument which is being designed, built and assembled at the UK ATC, in collaboration with an international consortium of institutions and commercial partners, visit the consortium. It will be operational in 2021 on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Northern Chile.

Dr William Taylor, Instrument Scientist, UK ATC, says of the instrument build, “The design of MOONS is a marriage of precision and scale. And two significant technical milestones have now been achieved. One is in the development of robotic arms that move quickly and with an accuracy of about the width of human hair (25 microns), to allow the telescope to align with about 1000 celestial objects, at the same time! And the other is in the design and build of very large and fast optics to capture the light from as many astronomical targets as possible in a single shot.

“The cutting edge design of MOONS is driving the cutting edge capability of MOONS and blazing a trail for future instruments of this type, called spectrographs, for astronomy research,” concludes William.

MOONS stands for Multi-Object Optical and Near-infrared Spectrograph see more information on MOONS


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Last updated: 31 July 2019


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