| Yesterday, at the Science Faculty Club of Leiden University, Tim de Zeeuw, Director General of the European Southern Observatory ESO and H.W. (Willem) te Beest, Vice-President Executive Board, Leiden University, signed the agreement for the construction of METIS. This is one of the three first-light instruments for the 39-m European Extremely Large Telescope E-ELT, which is currently being realized on top of Cerro Armazones in de Atacama desert in Northern Chile.
METIS is the only first-light instrument in the infrared, offering imaging and medium-resolution spectroscopy over a wavelength range from 3-19 microns, and high-resolution integral field spectroscopy from 3-5.3 microns.
It will be built by a consortium of institutes around Europe, and is led by NOVA - The Netherlands Research School for Astronomy. Next to NOVA, the consortium consists of the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Astronomie (MPIA) (Germany), the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC, United Kingdom), the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), CEA Saclay (France), ETH Zuerich (Switzerland) and Universitaet Wien on behalf of the A* consortium (Austria), all being present at the ceremony.
In Greek mythology, Metis was the first wife of Zeus and mother of Athena, goddess of wisdom. The METIS instrument, in conjunction with the huge light collecting power and resolution of the E-ELT, will allow many advances in a wide range of astronomical topics. This includes the study of proto-planetary discs and the formation of planets, detailed investigations of the properties of exoplanets and, closer to home, the formation and history of the Solar System. METIS will also probe the growth of supermassive black holes as well as study star-forming galaxies in the early Universe.
METIS will complement the HARMONI spectrograph and MICADO imager, of which the latter also has Dutch contributions. All first-light instruments will take a decade for realization, and at ASTRON several core elements will be built by the NOVA Optical Infrared Instrumentation group.
Straight after the signing ceremony, the METIS kick-off consortium started, settling the beginning of design phase B.