This Tangled Mess is Helping Scientists Study the Early Universe

By Attila Nagy on at

Is this the Gordian knot of the 21st century? Or a high-tech Medusa? Or maybe both? Actually, this photograph was taken inside the Very Large Telescope (VLT) operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal, Chile.

It shows the very complicated cooling system of one of the instruments of VLT, as ESO explains:

The MUSE instrument is one of the most recent additions to the instrument complement of the VLT. It has 24 detectors, each of which needs its own continuous flow cooling systems. Such innovative systems were first developed at ESO for the cooling of instruments and detectors for the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The technology has been used intensively during the last decade and has now been licensed through a technology transfer agreement.

MUSE is an integral field spectrograph (IFS) which allows researchers to observe the entirety of an astronomical object in one go—each pixel measures the intensity of the light as a function of its color, or wavelength. The resulting data is a 3D set where each pixel of the image has a full spectrum of the light. According to Fernando Selman, Instrument Scientist for MUSE, astronomers expect many great contributions from this instrument:

MUSE has been built with the intention of studying the content and processes going on in the very early Universe, when the first stars and galaxies were forming. Closer in time and space, MUSE will map the dark matter distribution in clusters of galaxies using the gravitational microlensing effect on background galaxies.

[ESO]