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.
VIMOS is the Visible Multi-Object Spectrograph mounted at the Nasmyth
focus of the 8.2m Melipal (UT3) telescope of the ESO Very Large Telescope. VIMOS operates with four channels in three observing modes: imaging, multi-object spectroscopy (MOS), and integral field spectroscopy. VIMOS data are pipeline-processed and quality-checked by the Data Flow Operation group in Garching. The quality check is performed in two steps. The first one is a visual check of each pipeline product that allows the identification of any potential major data problem, such as, for example, a failure in the MOS mask insertion or an over/under exposure. The second step is performed in terms of Quality Control (QC) parameters, which are derived from both raw and processed data to monitor the instrument performance. The evolution in time of the QC parameters is recorded in a publically available database (http://www.eso.org/qc/). The VIMOS QC parameters include, for each of the four VIMOS channels, the bias level, read-out-noise, dark current, gain factor, flat-field and arc-lamps efficiencies, resolution and rms of dispersion, sky flat-field structure, image quality and photometric zeropoints. We describe here some examples of quality checks of VIMOS data.
The large Binocular Telescope is currently in the pre- erection phase. The instrument has been already funded and its first-light is expected shortly after that of the LBT. Given the peculiarity of the telescope optics we designed tow prime focus cameras with two five-lens refractive correctors, optimized in the blue-side and red-side of the visible spectrum respectively. This independent coating. Detectors also reflect this choice, being optimized separately. We present the most relevant features of the instrument, the optical design as well as the structural and mechanical layout. Each of the two Prime Focus cameras gather light form a very fast, F/1.14 parabolic primary mirror. The field is corrected over roughly half a degree in size, allowing optical performances in terms of 80 percent of Encircled Energy in better than approximately 0.3 inch. Focal length is slightly increased in order to provide a better sampling using 13.5 micrometers pixel size chips. The CCD array is made up with 4 EEV 42-90 chips, per channel, to obtain an equivalent 6000 by 6000 pixels optimizing the AR coating to the U,B,V and V,R,I,Z bands respectively. The array will be read out in 10 seconds using a 1Meegapixel/second controller with four video channels. The cryostat will use a state of the art dewar to reach an holding time of several days using a limited amount of liquid nitrogen. The whole mechanical design has bene modeled using Finite Elements analysis in order to check for mechanical flexures of the mount tube and of the optical components by themselves. A brief overview of the informative facilities to be provided with the instrument and of a few science case studies that can be attacked by this instrument are also given.
We present the characteristics of the new CCD imager, SUSI2, installed at the ESO 3.5 m NTT. The instrument shares the Nasmyth focus A with the new infrared imager-spectrograph SOFI. The focal plane array of USSI2 is a mosaic of 2 EEV44- 82, 2k X 4k, 15 micrometer pixels, thinned, anti-reflection coated CCDs, which are placed at the direct focus of the telescope (scale 0.08 arcsec/pixel, field of view 5.5 X 5.5 arcmin). The average QE for the two devices is 76, 90, 85, 80, 68, 49, 23% at 350, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 nm respectively. The overall instrument efficiency, including the three mirrors of the telescope and the detector but without filters, is computed to be 46, 55, 51, and 48% at the central wavelengths of the U, B, V and R bands. The CCDs are driven by the new ESO CCD controller FIERA. The system performance was measured during the commissioning of the instrument at the telescope in February 98. The mosaic is read in 16 seconds in the standard operating mode (2 X 2 binning of the CCDs) with a read-out-noise of 4.7 e<SUP>-</SUP>/pixel. The other CCD parameters such as CTE, dark current and linearity, were also found to comply with the requirements. The FWHM of stellar sources in images obtained in good seeing conditions were measured to be 0.49 arcsec, with no significant variation over the field of view.