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< - March 2014

MUSE Offers 3-D View of Distant Galaxies

CERRO PARANAL, Chile, March 6, 2014 — Far-away galaxies and bright stars could feel closer than ever, thanks to a new astronomical instrument that is a decade in the making.

The Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE), developed by a consortium of research organizations in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, combines the discovery potential of an imaging device with the measuring capabilities of a spectrograph.

Component views of the Orion Nebula, as captured by MUSE. Images courtesy of European Southern Observatory.

It has been installed on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.

MUSE creates 3-D views of distant galaxies, bright stars and other test targets using an integral field spectroscopy technique. It uses 24 spectrographs to create images and spectra of selected regions of the sky. This allows for the simultaneous study of the properties of an object at different wavelengths, as well as the chemical composition and other physical properties.

“This technique has been used for many years but now with MUSE it has achieved a leap in sensitivity, efficiency and resolution,” said Roland Bacon of the Lyon Centre for Astrophysics Research in France, and principal investigator for MUSE. “This seven-ton collection of optics, mechanics and electronics is now a fantastic time machine for probing the early universe.”

MUSE’s image of the Orion Nebula.

Objectives for MUSE include probing the mechanisms of galaxy formation, studying the motion of material in nearby galaxies and their chemical properties, studying planets and satellites, and studying the properties of star-forming regions in the Milky Way as well as in distant areas of the universe.

The first results of MUSE’s current observations will be presented this month at ESO’s 3-D 2014 workshop in Germany.

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