What great news that ESPRESSO, the Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations, has just achieved ‘first light.’ The spectrograph is installed on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile and its powers are prodigious. For ESPRESSO makes it possible, for the first time, to combine the light of all four telescopes at the VLT. This creates an instrument with the light collecting power of a 16-meter telescope, a major enhancement to the exoplanet hunt.
Image: The room where the light beams coming from the four VLT Unit Telescopes are brought together and fed into fibres, which in turn deliver the light to the spectrograph itself in another room. One of the points where the light enters the room appears at the back of this picture. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.
Thus the enthusiasm of lead scientist Francesco Pepe (University of Geneva):
ESPRESSO isn’t just the evolution of our previous instruments like HARPS, but it will be transformational, with its higher resolution and higher precision. And unlike earlier instruments it can exploit the VLT’s full collecting power — it can be used with all four of the VLT Unit Telescopes at the same ...