Press Release

ESO’s Very Large Telescope welcomes a new Adaptive Optics assisted instrument

By SpaceRef Editor
August 24, 2004
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ESO’s Very Large Telescope welcomes a new Adaptive Optics assisted
instrument, SINFONI (“Spectrograph for INtegral Field Observation in the

This is the first facility of its type ever installed on an 8-m class
telescope, now providing exceptional observing capabilities for the
imaging and spectroscopic studies of very complex sky regions, e.g.
stellar nurseries and black-hole environments, also in distant galaxies.

The work on SINFONI at Paranal included successful commissioning in June
2004 of the Adaptive Optics Module built by ESO, during which exceptional
test images were obtained of the main-belt asteroid (22) Kalliope and its
moon. Moreover, the ability was demonstrated to correct the atmospheric
turbulence by means of even very faint “guide” objects (magnitude 17.5),
crucial for the observation of astronomical objects in many parts of
the sky.

Following this, the “First Light” spectrum of a bright star was recorded
with SINFONI in the early evening of July 9, 2004. The following thirteen
nights served to evaluate the performance of the new instrument and to
explore its capabilities by test observations on a selection of exciting
astronomical targets. They included the Galactic Centre region:
unprecedented high-angular resolution spectra and images were obtained of
stars in the immediate vicinity of the massive central black hole. During
the night of July 15 – 16, SINFONI recorded a flare from this black hole
in great detail.

Other interesting objects observed during this period include galaxies
with active nuclei (e.g., the Circinus Galaxy and NGC 7469), a merging
galaxy system (NGC 6240) and a young starforming galaxy pair at
redshift 2 (BX 404/405).

See the details, look at the numerous images and the video, and read about
the early science at

SpaceRef staff editor.