Portuguese researchers in the front row to study the childhood of the Universe.
2017 October 24

Old galaxies seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in the near-infrared. The forth-coming ELT will enable the study of the formation and evolution of the first galaxies in the Universe. Credits: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory and the University of California, Santa Cruz), R. Bouwens (UCO/Lick Observatory and Leiden University) and the HUDF09 TeamThe design concept of MOSAIC, the multi-object spectrograph. Credits: MOSAIC ConsortiumProposed installation of MOSAIC next to the main mirror of the forth-coming ELT. Credits: MOSAIC Consortium
The Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA1) is one of the associated institutions of the MOSAIC project, the future instrument that will take the scientific community closer to the first ages of the Universe. MOSAIC, a multi-object spectrograph, will be one of the instruments to be installed at what will become the largest telescope in the world in the visible and infrared light, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT2), expected to start operations in 2024.

The ELT will enable the observation of the deep Universe and make possible to look into the past, to the first galaxies, that were formed 12 billion years ago. MOSAIC will be a fundamental instrument to understand how the first galaxies were formed and how they gradually merged into larger ones, like our own Milky Way.

It is estimated that there are trillions of galaxies in the Universe. With MOSAIC being a multi-object spectrograph, it will be possible to observe simultaneously hundreds of galaxies and many other targets of study, producing high precision surveys of vast areas of the sky in the visible and near-infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.

“IA has a role in the definition of the scientific objectives and in the development of this instrument, and we will also participate in its construction,” says José Afonso (IA and Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa – FCUL). This participation guarantees the future access to the best observational data and the continuity in the production of the high standard scientific research in an area in which IA already participates or leads international research projects.

José Afonso adds: “This instrument will come as a follow-up of MOONS, which we are building in this moment, to be installed at the VLT in 2019. MOSAIC is the jump to the next revolutionary telescope, where we will apply what we have learnt with the MOONS and guarantee that, for example with the study of the formation and evolution of galaxies, we will be leading future research.”

Now finalising the design concept of the spectrograph, the MOSAIC3 consortium members gathered in a colloquium in Toledo, in Spain, between the 17th and 21st of this month, to discuss the scientific research opportunities enabled by this future instrument. Taking advantage of the mirror of 39.3 metres of the future ELT, which will be the largest light collecting area in the world, MOSAIC will enable the study of a wide range of important topics in astrophysics and the quest for answers that only ELT will bring within astronomers’ reach.
The measurement of the distribution of visible and invisible matter at large scales and throughout the lifetime of the Universe will be one of the primary objectives of MOSAIC. Measuring the rotation speed of very distant galaxies, astronomers will be able to know how was the distribution of the so called dark matter in the past and how it might have evolved to the present day, defining the large-scale structure of the Universe.

Other targets of study, in particular in our galaxy, will be stellar populations at the galactic centre and the formation of extrasolar planets.

Watch the video MOSAIC for the ELT: A Gigantic Step into the Deep Universe

  1. The Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences – IA) is the largest Portuguese research unit in space sciences and integrates researchers from the University of Lisbon and the University of Porto. The institute encompasses most of the field’s national scientific output and it was evaluated as Excellent in the last evaluation from the European Science Foundation (ESF). IA's activity is funded by national and international funds, including Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (UID/FIS/04434/2013), POPH/FSE and FEDER through COMPETE 2020.
  2. The ELT (Extremely Large Telescope) will have a mirror composed of 798 hexagons of 1.45 metres each, with a honeycomb structure, that together add up to 39.3 metres in diameter. It is foreseen that ELT will have enough precision to, for instance, analyse the atmospheres of exoplanets or to measure in real time the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe. Portugal, as a full member of ESO, is one of the partners in this project, contributing with 5.1 million euros until 2023, about 0.5% of the total cost of the telescope.
  3. The MOSAIC Consortium includes five Leading Countries (France, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Brazil and Germany), and six Associated Partners (Austria, Finland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden). The team includes François Hammer, Pascal Jagourel (Observatoire de Paris), Chris Evans (UK-ATC, Edimburgh), Mathieu Puech (Observatoire de Paris), Gavin Dalton (RAL & Oxford Univ.), Myriam Rodrigues (Observatoire de Paris), Ewan Fitzsimons (UK-ATC, Edinburgh), Simon Morris (Durham Univ.), Beatriz Barbuy (IAG, Sao Paulo), Jean-Gabriel Cuby (LAM, Marseille), Lex Kaper (Amsterdam Univ.), Martin Roth (AIP, Potsdam), Gerard Rousset (Observatoire de Paris), Richard Myers (Durham Univ.), Olivier Le Fèvre (LAM, Marseille), Alexis Finogenov (Helsinki Univ.), Jari Kotilainen (Turku Univ.), Bruno Castilho (LNA, Itajuba), Goran Ostlin (Stockholm Univ.), Sofia Feltzing (Lund Univ.), Andreas Korn (Uppsala Univ.), Jesus Gallego (Madrid, Computense Univ.), Africa Castillo (Madrid, Computense Univ.), Jorge Iglesias (IAA, Granada), Fabrizio Fiore (Roma Observatory), Adriano Fontana (INAF Roma), Bodo Ziegler (Vienna Univ.), José Afonso (IA and Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa), Marc Dubbledam (Durham Univ.), Madeline Close (Durham Univ.), Phil Parr Burman (UK-ATC), Tim Morris (Durham Univ.), Fanny Chemla (Observatoire de Paris), Fatima De Frondat (Observatoire de Paris), Andreas Kelz (AIP, Potsdam), Isabelle Guinouard (Observatoire de Paris), Ian Lewis (Oxford Univ.), Kevin Middleton (RALSPACE, Oxford), Ramon Navarro (NOVA), Marie Larrieu (IRAP, Toulouse), Johan Pragt (NOVA), Annemieke Janssen (NOVA), Kjetil Dohlen (LAM, Marseille), Kacem El Hadi (LAM, Marseille), Eric Gendron (Observatoire de Paris), Yanbin Yang (Observatoire de Paris), , Martyn Wells (UK-ATC, Edinburgh), Jean-Marc Conan (ONERA), Thierry Fusco (ONERA), Sylvestre Taburet (Observatoire de Paris), Mickael Frotin (Observatoire de Paris), Claire Bouillet (Observatoire de Paris).


Science Communication Group:

Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço Universidade do Porto Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia