Alongside future observations with the new European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), optimised instruments on the 8-10m generation of telescopes will still be competitive at ‘ground UV’ wavelengths (3000-4000 Å). The near UV provides a wealth of unique information on the nucleosynthesis of iron-peak elements, molecules, and neutron-capture elements. In the context of development of the near-UV CUBES spectrograph for ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), we are investigating the impact of spectral resolution on the ability to estimate chemical abundances for beryllium and more than 30 iron-peak and heavy elements. From work ahead of the Phase A conceptual design of CUBES, here we present a comparison of the elements observable at the notional resolving power of CUBES (R ~ 20,000) to those with VLT-UVES (R ~ 40,000). For most of the considered lines signal- to-noise is a more critical factor than resolution. We summarise the elements accessible with CUBES, several of which (e.g. Be, Ge, Hf) are now the focus of quantitative simulations as part of the ongoing Phase A study.
In the era of Extremely Large Telescopes, the current generation of 8-10m facilities are likely to remain competitive at far-blue visible wavelengths for the foreseeable future. High-efficiency (<20%) observations of the ground UV (300- 400 nm) at medium resolving power (R~20,000) are required to address a number of exciting topics in stellar astrophysics, while also providing new insights in extragalactic science. Anticipating strong demand to better exploit this diagnostic-rich wavelength region, we revisit the science case and instrument requirements previously assembled for the CUBES concept for the Very Large Telescope.