eso9927 — Organisation Release
Fourth VLT 8.2-m Unit Telescope Assembled
27 May 1999
An important event took place at the ESO Paranal Observatory last week. Following intense work over several months, the big pieces of the mechanical structure of the fourth 8.2-m VLT Unit Telescope have been assembled! On May 19, at 10:00 in the morning, the VLT UT4 (YEPUN) top ring with the spider that carries the M2 Unit on which the 1.1-m secondary mirror will later be placed, was installed on the top of the telescope. This is the last big mechanical piece of the last UT telescope on Paranal. Two photos (PR 23a/99 and 23b/99) illustrate this. There are now two operating 8.2-m telescopes (ANTU/UT1 and KUEYEN/UT2) and two telescope structures (MELIPAL/UT3 and YEPUN/UT4). The latter telescopes will see First Light within the next year. The large 300 tonnes crane with which the heavy telescope pieces were lifted into place and which has dominated the skyline of the Paranal mountaintop for nearly 3 years, will now be dismantled and shipped elsewhere.
Here is a brief overview of recent developments at Paranal:
ANTU (UT1): Normal operations in visitors' and service mode. The efficiency is excellent. Data have already been obtained for many different programmes and are now in the process of being interpreted by the various research teams, most of which are located in the ESO member countries. A fine example of the science now resulting from the VLT is provided by the recent observations of the optical afterglow of Gamma-Ray Burster GRB 990510, cf. eso9908.
KUEYEN (UT2): Commissioning work continues with emphasis on Nasmyth B focus, where the large spectrograph UVES will be installed in the coming months. UVES itself was airfreighted from the ESO Headquarters in Garching (Germany) to Chile last week and is currently being shipped by road to Paranal. Unpacking and reassembly will commence in the next few weeks.
MELIPAL (UT3): Both telescope and enclosure are essentially finished, and are now in the final acceptance tests by ESO. Thereafter, the integration work work will commence, starting with the installation of the M1 Cell. Meanwhile, some preliminary integration work will be done on the telescope including installation of the fibre LAN network. The M2 unit is undergoing acceptance test in Europe and will soon arrive on Paranal after which the sub-system integration will commence. The M2 mirror for this telescope will arrive later. First Light is now foreseen in February 2000.
YEPUN (UT4): The large mechanical assembly work is now done. Several months of work of cabling and minor installation still has to be done. The telescope is expected to be ready in August/September 1999 for the last stage of integration. First Light is now foreseen in July 2000.