Sitelle - Fourier Transform Spectrometer
Taking Astronomers Deeper Into Space
The ABB group is a company that is pioneering many great new developments in the field of power and automation technology but with worldwide offices the company maintains a list of diverse projects that is quite impressive. One of ABB's latest contributions, awarded by Laval University, is set to take astronomers deeper into space at the Mauna Key Observatory in Hawaii. That is because that is the location where they will be fitting the observatory's Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (aka CFHT) with a new present with full operation set to begin in early 2013. The SITELLE, as it is called, is a a wide-field imaging Fourier transform spectrometer that will be improving the current imaging spectrometry methods with the goal of capturing spectra 100 to 1000 times larger than conventional spectrographs are currently capable of.
The SITELLE device is a new and refined version of the SpIOMM spectroscope which was also developed in part by the ABB group. That edition has been sitting at Canada's Mont-Mégantic observatory and capturing space data since 2004. Fittingly, ABB and partners in the project are very optimistic about this next iteration of the spectrograph and are expecting some major breakthroughs and discoveries to come from the Mauna Key Observatory upgrade. The company says that the improvements will allow astronomers to "collect the same amount of data in a single night that would require weeks of observation with a conventional instrument."
Spectrum is a phenomenon that can be easily appreciated in such things like the color a rainbow or the division of light through a prism. Check this hub out for a good review on How to build a spectroscope In the case of ABB's SITELLE, the blue area of the spectrum from far off supernovas and nebulae will be getting a closer look. In fact, the cutting edge Fourier transform spectrometer will be up to 20 times more efficient in that regards allowing emission lines to be seen that previously remained invisible to Earth's telescopes.
This is great news for the astronomical and scientific community on the Big Island of Hawaii where there are many telescopes in the 'Astronomy Precinct' in the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. While the Canada-France-University of Hawaii Telescope is set to receive these upgrades others may be looking to cut back on some thing. For example, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope has seen a recent withdrawal by the Netherlands of its 20% stake in that project. The Gemini North Telescope may also be looking at job cuts due to the announcement by Britain that it may be withdrawing its 23% share in the project. Despite these recent funding cuts it looks like the SITELLE Fourier transform spectrometer may, in the near future, reveal great things from the Hawaiian Island's most sacred of peaks.