VISTA mirror at last !

April 17, 2008

I am in Heidelberg, at a meeting of the PanSTARRS science consortium. PanSTARRS is a very ambitious project : four identical telescopes with very wide field of view cameras, scanning the sky repeatedly. Right now we are doing the pilot project with just one telescope. Its built and currently under test and should start a three year survey programme pretty soon, doing dark matter mapping, killer rocks in space, acceleration from supernovae, and all that trendy stuff. Its not quite as fast at surveying as the planned LSST, but thats years away yet …

Meanwhile in the infrared … the survey speed is nowhere near good enough for this kind of repeated sky scanning, but since the UKIRT Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) arrived, the speed is at last fast enough to make proper sky surveys plausible. My own baby of course is UKIDSS (get your data at the WSA page, or write a Python script and run it through AstroGrid). In the Southern Hemisphere, the great hope has been VISTA, a 4m telescope entirely dedicated to IR surveying, and with a camera thats even bigger than WFCAM. Its been nearly ready for months, but we have all been waiting for the primary mirror – its been stuck in Moscow, getting polished. Its not just that we are itching for the data … VISTA was promised to ESO as part of the UK joining fee, and the contract had penalty clauses .. another financial problem looming over STFC.. But its arrived in Chile at last !!

There is a press release and multiple web site splashes : at QMW , at ROE, at STFC, and ESO.

I don’t know whether we finally finally avoid the penalties .. but at least the good PR should help cheer up our STFC chums.