ERIS is an instrument that will both extend and enhance the fundamental diffraction limited imaging and spectroscopy capability for the VLT. It will replace two instruments that are now being maintained beyond their operational lifetimes, combine their functionality on a single focus, provide a new wavefront sensing module that makes use of the facility Adaptive Optics System, and considerably improve their performance. The instrument will be competitive with respect to JWST in several regimes, and has outstanding potential for studies of the Galactic Center, exoplanets, and high redshift galaxies. ERIS had its final design review in 2017, and is expected to be on sky in 2020. This contribution describes the instrument concept, outlines its expected performance, and highlights where it will most excel.
After completion of its final-design review last year, it is full steam ahead for the construction of the MOONS instrument - the next generation multi-object spectrograph for the VLT. This remarkable instrument will combine for the first time: the 8 m collecting power of the VLT, 1000 optical fibres with individual robotic positioners and both medium- and high-resolution spectral coverage acreoss the wavelength range 0.65μm - 1.8 μm. Such a facility will allow a veritable host of Galactic, Extragalactic and Cosmological questions to be addressed. In this paper we will report on the current status of the instrument, details of the early testing of key components and the major milestones towards its delivery to the telescope.
This paper investigates the potential role of small satellites, specifically those often referred to as CubeSats, in the future of infrared astronomy. Whilst CubeSats are seen as excellent (and inexpensive) ways to demonstrate and improve the readiness of critical (space) technologies of the future they also potentially have a role in solving key astrophysical problems. The pros and cons of such small platforms are considered and evaluated with emphasis on the technological limitations and how these might be improved. Three case studies are presented for applications in the IR region. One of the main challenges of operating in the IR is that the detector invariably needs to be cooled. This is a significant undertaking requiring additional platform volume and power and is one of the major areas of discussion in this paper. Whilst the small aperture on a CubeSat inevitably has limitations both in terms of sensitivity and angular resolution when compared to large ground-based and space-borne telescopes, the prospect of having distributed arrays of tens (perhaps hundreds) of IR-optimised CubeSats in the future offers enormous potential. Finally, we summarise the key technology developments needed to realise the case study missions in the form of a roadmap.
The Enhanced Resolution Imager and Spectrograph (ERIS) is a next-generation, adaptive optics assisted, near-IR imager and integral field spectrograph (IFS) for the Cassegrain focus of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) Unit Telescope 4. It will make use of the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF), comprising the Deformable Secondary Mirror (DSM) and the UT4 Laser Guide Star Facility (4LGSF). It is a rather complex instrument, with its state of the art AO system and two science channels. It is also meant to be a "workhorse" instrument and offers many observation modes. ERIS is being built by a Consortium of European Institutes comprising MPE Garching (D), ATC (UK), ETH Zürich (CH), Leiden University (NL) and INAF (I) in collaboration with ESO. The instrument passed Final Design Review in mid-2017 and is now in the MAIT phase. In this paper we describe the design of the ERIS Instrument Software (INS), which is in charge of controlling all instrument functions and implementing observation, calibration and maintenance procedures. The complexity of the instrument is reflected in the architecture of its control software and the number of templates required for operations. After a brief overview of the Instrument, we describe the general architecture of the ERIS control network and software. We then discuss some of the most interesting aspects of ERIS INS, like the wavefront sensors function control, AO secondary loops, IFS quick-look processing and the on-line processing for high-contrast imaging observations. Finally, we provide some information about our development process, including software quality assurance activities.
We present the design and measured performance of the Aperture Wheel and the Pupil and Filter Wheel mechanisms for the NIX camera of the VLT/ERIS instrument. Both mechanisms were developed for high opto-mechanical precision and stability while operating at 70 K. We summarise the design constraints and considerations. Further, we have developed a dedicated cryo-test facility to allow measuring the position repeatability under nominal operational conditions. We demonstrate that the wheel mechanisms perform as designed and provide the measurement methodology and results of the opto-mechanical tolerances.
ERIS will be the next-generation AO facility on the VLT, combining the heritage of NACO imaging, with the spectroscopic capabilities of an upgraded SINFONI. Here we report on the all-new NIX imager that will deliver diffraction-limited imaging from the J to M band. The instrument will be equipped with both Apodizing Phase Plates and Sparse Aperture Masks to provide high-angular resolution imagery, especially suited for exoplanet imaging and characterization. This paper provides detail on the instrument’s design and how it is suited to address a broad range of science cases, from detailed studies of the galactic centre at the highest resolutions, to studying detailed resolved stellar populations.