Selecting instruments for any telescope is a critical step in making sure that the astronomical community it serves can undertake the scientific projects for which the telescope was designed. ESO has been working with its community of astronomers and instrument builders to develop the sequence in which the instruments planned for the E-ELT will be built and delivered to the Observatory. The result is an exciting programme of powerful facility instruments that can deliver the science cases for the E-ELT.
The first steps in developing the instrument plan were taken in 2007 when a plan for studying six instrument and two post-focal adaptive optics module concepts was presented to the ESO Council. Two additional instrument studies were chosen after an open call to the community for additional concepts. By early 2010 all of these Phase A studies had successfully been completed in collaboration with institutes in the ESO community. This summary provides an overview of these.
Following recommendations by the E-ELT Science Working Group and ESO's Scientific Technical Committee two first-light instruments have been identified: a diffraction-limited near-infrared imager and a single-field near-infrared wide-band integral field spectrograph.
ESO continues to work with community scientists to confirm the requirements for the instruments that will follow the first light pair. The next three instruments will be a mid-infrared imager and spectrometer, a high resolution spectrometer and a multi-object spectrometer. All three are of equal scientific importance and so the sequence in which these instrument projects start will be determined over the next years based on the maturity of the technology required to build them (their Technology Readiness Level or TRL).
One of the highest scientific priorities for the telescope is to characterise exo-planets and, specifically, to take images of Earth-like planets. Such a giant leap from the capabilities we have today requires significant research into new technologies over several years. Therefore, an ambitious and powerful planetary camera and spectrograph (ELT-PCS) is included in the instrumentation plan, and the research and development for specific components required to build it will start as soon as possible.
A final and important aspect of planning for future facilities is to be flexible enough to respond to exciting new ideas or changing priorities. Therefore the plan includes a sixth instrument which is not yet specified, leaving astronomers and instrument builders an opening to introduce innovative new concepts.
In total, seven instruments are planned in the schematic shown below. This Roadmap shows the planned dates for initiating competitive Calls for Proposal for Phase A studies of the new, or revised, instrument concepts, as well as for the expected start of construction of the instruments. Ring-fenced funds for construction of the first four instruments, and to support the Enabling Technologies programme, are included in the construction budget for the telescope. The other instruments on the Roadmap will be funded by the re-investement funds of the operations budget.
The Roadmap is a snapshot of the current plan, as presented in the Instrumentation Chapter of the E-ELT Construction Proposal. The plan will evolve as the telescope project develops and instruments are selected, ensuring that astronomers from ESO's member states always have access to the powerful instruments that will meet their demanding and changing needs.
- Contributions by ESO authors that were presented at the SPIE conference in San Diego, June 2010. Many of these papers describe the E-ELT and its instrumentation.