New instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope captures detailed view of a galaxy's inner ring

Devdiscourse News Desk | Garching | Updated: 26-11-2022 09:10 IST | Created: 26-11-2022 09:10 IST
New instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope captures detailed view of a galaxy's inner ring
Image Credit: ESO/ERIS team

The Enhanced Resolution Imager and Spectrograph (ERIS), a new infrared instrument installed on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal in northern Chile, completed its first test observations, capturing a detailed view of the inner ring of NGC 1097 - a barred spiral galaxy that lies about 45 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Fornax.

ERIS is mounted on the VLT's Unit Telescope 4 and will take over the role of the very successful NACO and SINFONI instruments, providing some essential improvements to the facility for the coming decade.

The very first test observations with ERIS were obtained in February of this year, with further observations conducted in August and November to test the limits of the instrument. One of these observations features the inner gaseous and dusty ring of NGC 1097. ERIS' state-of-the-art infrared imager, the Near Infrared Camera System (NIX) was used to image the inner ring that lies at the very centre of the galaxy.

NIX will offer a new and unique view of many different astronomical objects, such as exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) and the discs of gas and dust around young stars.

In the above picture, the bright spots are stellar nurseries and the glowing centre shows the active heart of the galaxy, a supermassive black hole that feeds off its surroundings

ERIS is also equipped with a 3D spectrograph named SPIFFIER, an upgrade of SINFONI's SPIFFI (SPectrometer for Infrared Faint Field Imaging), which collects a spectrum from each individual pixel within its field of view, allowing astronomers to study, for instance, the dynamics of distant galaxies in incredible detail, or to measure the velocities of stars orbiting the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

"We expect not only that ERIS will fulfil its main scientific objectives but that due to its versatility it will also be used for a wide variety of other science cases, hopefully leading to new and unexpected results," says Harald Kuntschner, ESO's project scientist for ERIS.

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