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ELT MORFEO Instrument Passes Preliminary Design Review

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MORFEO, an upcoming instrument for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), has recently passed its preliminary design review. MORFEO’s adaptive optics system will use special sensors to measure the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere, correcting them with deformable mirrors. This will allow astronomers to get an unprecedented view into the universe, offering detailed observations of distant galaxies and stars at the centre of the Milky Way.

Ground-based telescopes like ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope can only work to their full potential with adaptive-optics systems that correct for the turbulence of the Earth’s atmosphere, which makes stars twinkle and blurs our view of the cosmos. In addition to sophisticated systems, including a large deformable mirror, that correct for atmospheric distortions as light travels through the ELT, the telescope will also have MORFEO (the Multiconjugate adaptive Optics Relay For ELT Observations; previously known as MAORY). This instrument, which has now passed its preliminary design review, will add a key layer of correction that will make it possible for the ELT to obtain images as sharp as those taken in space.

MORFEO will work with the ELT’s camera, Multi-AO Imaging CamerA for Deep Observations (MICADO), which requires very stable and sharp images to precisely measure the positions, brightness, and motions of stars, one of its scientific goals. By re-imaging the light coming from the telescope and further correcting for distortions, MORFEO will enable MICADO to capture perfect images across its large field of view in the near-infrared. This will allow the ELT to observe distant galaxies and stars at the centre of the Milky Way in unprecedented detail.

To achieve this, MORFEO will use deformable mirrors and other state-of-the-art systems, such as the ELT’s laser guide stars, to correct for turbulence in different layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. These systems will help MORFEO obtain a 3D map of atmospheric turbulence, and correct it in the images obtained by MICADO.

MORFEO will be one of four instruments on the ELT when it is first used to take astronomical images after construction is finished later this decade. When operational, the ELT will tackle the biggest astronomical challenges of our time, from tracking down potentially habitable Earth-like exoplanets to studying the very first stars and galaxies. The telescope, in particular its sophisticated adaptive-optics systems, builds on and continues ESO’s 60-year success story of international collaboration in astronomy and sharing resources and expertise.

More Information

The MORFEO project is managed, together with ESO, by an international consortium composed of three research institutes: the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), Italy, the Grenoble Institute for Planetary Sciences and Astrophysics (IPAG), France, and the University of Galway, Ireland.

Courtesy of European Southern Observatory


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