E-ELT instrument platform

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, including the adaptive optics systems required to deliver their science cases.

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 ESO plans to start the procurement of each of these in 2014.

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 instrument construction are included in the construction budget for the E-ELT programme. After the E-ELT construction phase has ended, instruments will be funded by the re-investement funds of the operations budget. ESO also funds an Enabling Technologies Programme that will provide a coherent approach to research and development across all of its Observatories, including the E-ELT.

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.

E-ELT instrument roadmap


  • 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.