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MATISSE delivers first hardware to MPIA Heidelberg

Submitter: Felix Bettonvil
Description: MATISSE, the mid-infrared interferometric spectrograph and imager for the VLTI, for which NOVAs Optical and Infrared Instrumentation Division at ASTRON builds the Cold Optical bench, has finished its first hardware and delivered it to the Max-Planck Institut fuer Astronomie MPIA in Heidelberg.

MATISSE (Multi-AperTure mid-Infrared SpectroScopic Experiment) is designed to combine the beams of up to four telescopes of the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). No other instruments in the world will offer the same capabilities, placing the VLTI at the forefront of interferometry. MATISSE enables study of wavelength-dependent characteristics of gas and dust grains and its complex geometries, which includes the formation and evolution of planetary systems, Active Galactic Nuclei and high-contrast environment of evolved stars.

ASTRON is responsible for the Cold Optical Bench (COB), being the most complex part of MATISSE, accommodating ~200 optical components, located into two boxes of roughly 70x70x40cm size, with over 8x20m(!) path length. The COBs will be mounted in 2 cryostats, which are being designed and built by MPIA.

In order to test the cryogenic performance, NOVA-ASTRON built a complete dummy of the COB with its interior, as a verification model for the thermal properties. In order to maintain the stringent stability criteria when cooling down to cryogenic temperatures, many parts have been designed as monolithic structures. This is also true for the largest part (the so-called backbone). Being originally 600kg in weight, it was downsized to ~70kg in its final shape. It has been the largest part ever milled on ASTRONs big milling machine, and is close to the limit of what is possible.

This week, exactly on schedule the thermal dummy COB was shipped to Heidelberg. The fully assembled COBs will follow in 2013.
Copyright: Astron
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