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20 July 2010 Upgrade of VISIR the mid-infrared instrument at the VLT
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The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is preparing to upgrade VISIR, the mid-IR imager and spectrograph at the VLT. The project team is comprised of ESO staff and members of the original consortium that built VISIR: CEA Saclay and ASTRON. The goal is to enhance the scientific performance of VISIR and to facilitate its use by the ESO community. In order to capture the needs of the user community, we collected input from the users by means of a webbased questionnaire. In line with the results of the internal study and the input from the user community, the upgrade plan calls for a combination measures: installation of improved hardware, optimization of instrument operations and software support. The limitations of the current detector (sensitivity, cosmetics, artifacts) have been known for some time and a new 1k x 1k Si:As Aquarius array (Raytheon) will be the cornerstone of the VISIR upgrade project. A modified spectroscopic mode will allow covering the N-band in a single observation. Several new scientific modes (e.g., polarimetry, coronagraphy) will be implemented on a best effort basis. In addition, the VISIR operational scheme will be enhanced to ensure that optimal use of the observing conditions will be made. Specifically, we plan to provide a means to monitor precipitable water vapour (PWV) and enable the user to specify it as a constraint set for service mode observations. In some regions of the mid-IR domain, the amount of PWV has a fundamental effect on the quality of a given night for mid-IR astronomy. The plan also calls for full support by ESO pipelines that will deliver science-ready data products. Hence the resulting files will provide physical units and error information and all instrumental signatures will have been removed. An upgraded VISIR will be a powerful instrument providing diffraction-limited performance at an 8-m telescope. Its improved performance and efficiency as well as new science capabilities will serve the needs of the ESO community but will also offer synergy with various other facilities such as ALMA, JWST, VLTI and SOFIA. A wealth of targets for detailed study will be available from survey work done by VISTA and WISE. Finally, the upgraded VISIR will also serve as a pathfinder for potential mid-IR instrumentation at the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in terms of technology as well as operations.
© (2010) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
F. Kerber, H. U. Kaeufl, M. van den Ancker, P. Baksai, D. Dubreuil, G. Durand, D. Dobrzycka, G. Finger, Ch. Hummel, D. Ives, G. Jakob, E. Lagadec, L. Lundin, G. Marconi, M. Moerchen, Y. Momany, D. Nuernberger, E. Pantin, M. Riquelme, R. Siebenmorgen, A. Smette, L. Venema, U. Weilenmann, and I. Yegorova "Upgrade of VISIR the mid-infrared instrument at the VLT", Proc. SPIE 7735, Ground-based and Airborne Instrumentation for Astronomy III, 77357R (20 July 2010);


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