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State of the art equipment for the biggest telescope in the world

Academic of the University of Florence in the design team
The new telescope will be able to reach to the weak signals that come from extra-solar planets, looking for traces of life similar to ours. The study phase of the high resolution spectrograph that will be part of the biggest telescope in the world, the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) is now under way. Alessandro Marconi, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy will lead the consortium of research institutes that will design this apparatus. 

HIRES Consortium (High Resolution Spectrograph) was officially born last March from an agreement signed by the National Institute of Astrophysics and ESO, the Austral European Observatory at the premises of INAF, the Astrophysics Observatory of Arcetri.

“Imagine to have a racing car equipped with bicycle wheels. How fast could you really push it? Surely not to its real limits. The same goes for astronomy”, comments Alessandro Marconi, professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics and INAF Associate.

“It is not enough to have at our disposal bigger and more complex telescopes, such as E-ELT: we also need sophisticated instruments able to analyze with the highest precision the signals captured. HIRES is an instrument of capable of enormous scientific applications. The spectrograph can work simultaneously with visible and IR wavelengths, a characteristic that will permit extremely detailed data collection on single celestial bodies”. 

“HIRES, continues Marconi, will allow astronomers to study the atmospheres of planets surrounding other stars, searching for traces that could indicate the presence of biological activity, or investigate the evolution of galaxies or even identify the nature and the characteristics of the first generation of stars in the primordial universe. HIRES could also determine if some of the fundamental constants of physics controlling the processes at the base of the universe evolution, could in fact change over time.”. 

The consortium that will carry out the study, lead by the INAF team, comprises over 30 research institutes in 12 European and South American countries. With its 39 metres of aperture, E-ELT is the most powerful optical and IR telescope ever built and will be positioned on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama desert.

12 April 2016