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First optical test on Matisse hardware

Submitter: Rik ter Horst
Description: NOVA-ASTRON is currently building the Cold Optical Bench for MATISSE, the mid-infrared interferometric spectrograph and imager for ESO's VLT interferometer (VLTI, Paranal, Chile). This instrument can combine the light from all 4 eight-meter VLT telescopes.

By coherently adding the light of these telescopes, MATISSE is capable of imaging at a spatial resolution of ~6 milli-arcsec in the 2.8-5 and 8-12 micrometer wavelength range. This allows the study of wavelength-dependent characteristics of gas and dust grains, which tell us about the formation and evolution of planetary systems, Active Galactic Nuclei and the high-contrast environment of evolved stars.

This weekend we had 'first light' with an important part of Matisse, i.e. the central part of the so called Beam-Shaper Box. In this unit, the light of four VLT-telescopes is combined interferometrically, and imaged onto the detector. Two cylindrical parabolic mirrors play an important role in this. They add an extra factor of six in anamorphism to the already anamorphic beams, bringing it to a total of 24. This can be seen as the four parallel red lines in one of the frames that are displayed in this sequence.

The extremely accurate mechanical structure (which vaguely resembles a racing car engine) is made out of a single solid block of aluminum. NOVA-ASTRON and VDL were also responsible for the anamorphic mirrors. In the coming period, much more optics will be mounted in this and other parts of the instrument. After having finished the sub-assemblies, all parts will be joined and integrated together.
Copyright: NOVA-ASTRON
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