Press Release

The Cool Glow of Star Formation

First Light of Powerful New Camera on APEX

25 September 2013

A new instrument called ArTeMiS has been successfully installed on APEX — the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment. APEX is a 12-metre diameter telescope located high in the Atacama Desert, which operates at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves in the electromagnetic spectrum — providing a valuable tool for astronomers to peer further into the Universe. The new camera has already delivered a spectacularly detailed view of the Cat’s Paw Nebula.

ArTeMiS [1] is a new wide-field submillimetre-wavelength camera that will be a major addition to APEX’s suite of instruments and further increase the depth and detail that can be observed. The new generation detector array of ArTeMIS acts more like a CCD camera than the previous generation of detectors. This will let wide-field maps of the sky be made faster and with many more pixels.

The commissioning team [2] that installed ArTeMIS had to battle against extreme weather conditions to complete the task. Very heavy snow on the Chajnantor Plateau had almost buried the APEX control building. With help from staff at the ALMA Operations Support Facility and APEX, the team transported the ArTeMiS boxes to the telescope via a makeshift road, avoiding the snowdrifts, and were able to install the instrument, manoeuvre the cryostat into position, and attach it in its final location.

To test the instrument, the team then had to wait for very dry weather as the submillimetre wavelengths of light that ArTeMiS observes are very strongly absorbed by water vapour in the Earth's atmosphere. But, when the time came, successful test observations were made. Following the tests and commissioning observations, ArTéMiS has already been used for several scientific projects. One of these targets was the star formation region NGC 6334, (the Cat’s Paw Nebula), in the southern constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). This new ArTeMiS image is significantly better than earlier APEX images of the same region.

The testing of ArTeMiS has been completed and the camera will now return to Saclay in France in order to install additional detectors in the instrument. The whole team is already very excited by the results from these initial observations, which are a wonderful reward for many years of hard work and could not have been achieved without the help and support of the APEX staff.


[1] ArTeMiS stands for: Architectures de bolomètres pour des Télescopes à grand champ de vue dans le domaine sub-Millimétrique au Sol (Bolometer arrays for wide-field submillimetre ground-based telescopes).

[2] The commissioning team from CEA consists of Philippe André, Laurent Clerc, Cyrille Delisle, Eric Doumayrou, Didier Dubreuil, Pascal Gallais, Yannick Le Pennec, Michel Lortholary, Jérôme Martignac, Vincent Revéret, Louis Rodriquez, Michel Talvard and François Visticot.

More information

APEX is a collaboration between the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), the Onsala Space Observatory (OSO) and ESO. Operation of APEX at Chajnantor is entrusted to ESO.

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czechia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.



Michel Talvard
Project Manager for ArTeMiS / CEA
Saclay, France
Tel: +33 1 6908 8352

Carlos De Breuck
ESO APEX Project Manager
Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6613

Richard Hook
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
Cell: +49 151 1537 3591

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About the Release

Release No.:eso1341
Name:NGC 6334
Type:Milky Way : Nebula : Type : Star Formation
Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Instrument
Facility:Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy


The star-forming Cat’s Paw Nebula through ArTeMiS’s eyes
The star-forming Cat’s Paw Nebula through ArTeMiS’s eyes
The ArTeMiS cryostat in position at APEX
The ArTeMiS cryostat in position at APEX
Harsh conditions at the APEX control building
Harsh conditions at the APEX control building
The stellar nursery NGC 6334 in the constellation of Scorpius
The stellar nursery NGC 6334 in the constellation of Scorpius


Zooming in on ArTeMiS’s view of the Cat’s Paw Nebula NGC 6334
Zooming in on ArTeMiS’s view of the Cat’s Paw Nebula NGC 6334
Cross-fading between infrared VISTA and submillimetre ArTeMiS views of NGC 6334
Cross-fading between infrared VISTA and submillimetre ArTeMiS views of NGC 6334