The Gran Telescopio Canarias, a massive telescope in Spain’s Canary Islands co-owned by UF and the Spanish and Mexican governments.

Above: The Gran Telescopio Canarias, a massive telescope in Spain’s Canary Islands co-owned by UF and the Spanish and Mexican governments.

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UF Astronomers Win $8 Million to Build Unique New Instrument

A multinational team led by University of Florida astronomers has won an $8 million grant to build a major new astronomical instrument for the largest optical telescope in the world in Spain’s Canary Islands.

Led by UF astronomy professor Steve Eikenberry, astronomers and engineers at seven institutions in three countries will build “MIRADAS,” the Mid-resolution Infrared Astronomical Spectrograph, over the next five years. Once it is complete, it will be installed on the Gran Telescopio Canarias, a massive telescope in Spain’s Canary Islands co-owned by UF and the Spanish and Mexican governments.

“This instrument will be the most powerful of its kind ever built,” Eikenberry said. “The combination of the light collecting area of the GTC’s 34.1-foot mirror and the light spectra provided by MIRADAS make its capabilities unparalleled for addressing many of the leading challenges in astronomy.”

The first installment of the contract, about $2 million, is expected in next few months. The remaining funding is expected after successful completion of the next design review for MIRADAS, as is standard for large projects such as this.

Eikenberry said the instrument’s abilities to hone in on objects via their near-infrared light spectra and survey many objects in the sky simultaneously will allow astronomers to probe how the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy formed.

The instrument will also give astronomers a unique window on the properties of the most massive stars in the galaxy and the most extreme conditions in the universe as measured by the masses of black holes and neutron stars, he said.

The GTC is providing the $8 million over five years to the MIRADAS project and its team of 39 scientists and eight institutions. The instrument is the latest of several multimillion dollar astronomical instruments built by UF astronomers for the world’s largest telescopes over the past decade. The installation and testing of CanariCam, UF’s most recently completed instrument, reached an important stage late last month when the instrument obtained its first high-quality images.

Credits

Writer

Aaron Hoover, ahoover@ufl.edu, 352-392-0186

Source
 

Steve Eikenberry, eiken@ufl.edu, 352-672-4249

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