Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

University on a Galaxy Quest; Cutting-Edge Instrument to Study Universe

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

University on a Galaxy Quest; Cutting-Edge Instrument to Study Universe

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil McKay ? 0191 201 6007 ? neil.mckay@ncjmedia.co.uk

A SOPHISTICATED instrument developed by Durham University could soon answer some of the key questions about the mysteries of the universe and the formation of its first stars and galaxies.

The K-Band Multi Object Spectrometer (KMOS) has been partly manufactured by the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation at the Netpark Research Institute, near Sedgefield, County Durham.

After final assembly and testing at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, KMOS - which has 24 robotic arms to allow simultaneous observations of multiple objects - has been provisionally accepted by the European Southern Observatory.

It has travelled to South America where it will be fitted to one of the four telescopes which make up the observatory's Very Large Telescope (ESO-VLT) at Paranal, in Chile, providing astronomers with a far quicker solution to uncover details about galaxies and their properties.

Durham University hosts the project and principle investigator Professor Ray Sharples, of the Department of Physics, who is also the Director of the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, said: "One of the unique features of KMOS is the system of diamond-machined image slicers, produced by Durham Precision Optics, which consists of over a thousand gold-coated optical surfaces each manufactured with a precision of a few billionths of a metre.

"The optical system is one of the most complex ever assembled and builds upon our previous development of an image slicer for the James Webb Space Telescope.

"The university is proud to be participating in this cutting edge technology international project together with our UK and German partners, which will be the first UK-led common user instrument for the ESO-VLT.

"The instrument will provide a uniquely powerful tool for studying the formation and evolution of galaxies like our own Milky Way and is eagerly anticipated by observational cosmologists working both in Durham and Europe. …

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