ANDES instrument for the European Giant Telescope ELT is agreed upon

The Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) participates in both its technological development and its scientific objectives.


The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has signed today an agreement with an international consortium of institutions, including the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) and the Centro de Astrobiología de Madrid (CSIC-INTA), for the design and construction of ANDES (ArmazoNes high Dispersion Echelle Spectrograph). This instrument will be installed on ESO's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). It will be used to search for signs of life on exoplanets and to search for the first stars, as well as to test the variations of the fundamental constants of physics and to measure the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe.

The agreement was signed by ESO Director General Xavier Barcons and Roberto Ragazzoni, President of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), which leads the ANDES Consortium. The event was also attended by representatives of the institutions that form part of the ANDES Consortium. The signing took place at ESO Headquarters in Garching, Germany.



Formerly known as HIRES, ANDES is a powerful spectrograph, an instrument that splits light into its component wavelengths in order to determine important properties of astronomical objects, such as their chemical composition. The instrument will have unprecedented precision in the visible and near-infrared ranges, and when operated in combination with the ELT's powerful mirror system, it will enable research in multiple areas of astronomy.

"ANDES is an instrument with enormous potential for revolutionary scientific discoveries, which can profoundly affect our perception of the Universe," says Alessandro Marconi, ANDES principal investigator at INAF. Céline Péroux, the ESO project scientist following up ANDES, adds that the areas of research range "from the possible detection of traces of life on other worlds and the identification of the first generation of stars, to the study of variations in the fundamental constants of physics".


Conceptual design of the ANDES instrument. Credit: ESO



ANDES will carry out detailed probes of the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets, enabling the scientific community to search extensively for signs of life. It will also be able to analyse chemical elements in distant objects in the early Universe, making it likely to be the first instrument capable of detecting the first stars. In addition, ANDES data can be used to test whether the fundamental constants of physics vary with time and space. Its comprehensive observations will also be used to directly measure the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe, one of the most important cosmic mysteries.



"Spain's contribution to ANDES confirms that the Spanish scientific community is at the frontier of knowledge, particularly in the search for signs of life on exoplanets like Earth and in the direct measurement of the accelerating expansion of the Universe," says Jonay González, IAC researcher and Spanish representative on the ANDES Council.

"Both in its scientific objectives and its technological design, ANDES will benefit from the experience acquired by the IAA-CSIC in CARMENES, one of the most successful exoplanet detector spectrographs in recent years," says Pedro Amado, researcher at the IAA-CSIC and CSIC representative on the ANDES consortium steering committee.

María Rosa Zapatero Osorio, from the Centro de Astrobiología, CSIC-INTA, adds: "We are finding rocky planets in habitable zones around their stars, but only by studying their atmospheres will we be able to know if they are truly capable of supporting life as we know it. ANDES is vital to this task."

ESO's ELT is currently under construction in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. When it becomes operational later this decade, the ELT will be the world's largest eye on the sky, marking a new era in ground-based astronomy. The ANDES project is being developed by an international consortium of research institutes from 13 countries.


Conceptual design of the ELT. Credit: ESO


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