HIRES (Phase A completed)

The High Resolution Spectrograph

Phase A completed, pending start of construction

HIRES (the High Resolution Spectrograph) is an instrument under study for ESO’s forthcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). The contract to begin design studies for HIRES was signed on 22 March 2016 by ESO. The HIRES consortium is led by the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and composed of over 30 institutions. HIRES is currently completing the initial project stage known as Phase A.

The proposed HIRES instrument combines a high resolution and wide spectral range with the massive surface area of the ELT to produce data with very little noise or excessive signal. This will allow HIRES to study astronomical objects that require highly sensitive observations.

The primary goal of HIRES would be to characterise the exoplanetary atmospheres from Neptune-like planets to Earth-like planets, with the ultimate goal of looking for signatures of life. HIRES will also allow astronomers to study the evolution of stars and galaxies; identify the signatures of the very first generation of stars in the primordial universe; and determine whether some of the fundamental constants of physics, which regulate most physical processes in the Universe, actually change with time. In addition to this, one of the most exciting goals of the ELT is the possibility of directly measuring the acceleration of the Universe's expansion. Such a measurement would greatly impact our understanding of the Universe and its fate.

The design for HIRES builds on high-resolution spectrographs made for ESO’s Very Large Telescope.


HIRES (Phase A)

This table lists the global capabilities of the instrument. 

Site: Cerro Armazones
Telescope: Extremely Large Telescope
Focus: Five-mirror design — three-mirror on-axis anastigmat + two fold mirrors used for adaptive optics
Type: Visible and Infrared Spectrograph (U-band and K-band modules as possible extensions)
Wavelength coverage:

0.4–1.8 µm (proposed)0.37–2.5 µm (possible extensions)

Spatial resolution: Seeing limited and Adaptive Optics (proposed)
Spectral resolution: R ~100,000 (proposed)
First light date: N/A
Images taken with the instrument: Link
Images of the instrument: Link
Press Releases with the instrument: Link
Science goals:

High resolution infrared and visible observations for:

  • Characterising exoplanet atmospheres (Earth-like planets and life signatures)
  • Fundamental constants of physics
  • Stars in the early universe
  • Stellar Evolution
  • Galaxy Evolution