Multi-AO Imaging CamerA for Deep Observations

MICADO, or the Multi-Adaptive Optics Imaging CameraA for Deep Observations, is one of the first-light instruments for the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) and takes the Adaptive Optics technique to the next level. It will be the first dedicated imaging camera for the ELT and works with the multi-conjugate adaptive optics module, MAORY.

MICADO will equip the ELT with a first light capability for diffraction limited imaging at near-infrared wavelengths. The design of MICADO was driven by a desire for high sensitivity and resolution, astrometric accuracy, and wide wavelength coverage spectroscopy.

The sensitivity of the MICADO camera will be comparable to the James Webb Space Telescope, but with six times the resolution.

MICADO will allow the full resolution potential of the giant telescope to be brought to bear on many current areas of research. These include imaging the detailed structure of galaxies at high redshift, the study of individual stars in nearby galaxies, and, using its coronographic mode, the discovery and characterisation of exoplanets. MICADO will also be a uniquely powerful tool for exploring environments where gravitational forces are extremely strong, such as close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

In addition to its primary imaging role, MICADO also includes a single-slit spectrograph ideal for obtaining spectra of compact objects. It will also be a powerful tool in many areas of astronomy, such as measuring the masses of the central black holes of nearby galaxies from the velocities of their stars, and observing high-redshift galaxies to calculate their ages, chemical makeup and histories. The instrument will also obtain spectra of supernovae produced by the first generation of massive stars in the Universe.

To compensate for the blurring effect of the atmosphere MICADO will use two different kinds of adaptive optics systems. The “single conjugate” adaptive optics system (SCAO) will use the telescope’s deformable M4 mirror to provide sharp images over a narrow field of view; a “multi-conjugate” adaptive optics system (MCAO) uses M4 plus at least one additional deformable mirror built into the MAORY adaptive optics module to provide a wider field of view. Both SCAO and MCAO systems are required to deliver the wide range of astronomical observations that are planned for MICADO.

ESO supports the development of the MICADO instrument as an associate consortium member. It is responsible for two key areas: development and procurement of the science detector systems and the design of the adaptive optics wave front sensing and guide camera system with its associated real-time computer. Both activities are carried out by ESO for all ELT instrumentation projects.

In addition ESO is responsible for and manages the crucial interface between the MICADO science instrument and the multi-conjugate adaptive optics instrument MAORY.


The authoritative technical specifications as offered for astronomical observations are available from the Science Operation page.

Site: Cerro Armazones
Telescope: Extremely Large Telescope
Focus: Nasmyth
Type: Imager, spectrograph
Wavelength coverage: Near-infrared (0.8–2.4 µm)
Spatial resolution: 6-12 milliarcseconds
Spectral resolution: R~8000
First light date: 2025
Images taken with the instrument: Link
Images of the instrument: Link
Press Releases with the instrument: Link
Science goals: Milky Way centre, nearby galaxies, black holes, high-redshift galaxies


Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik (MPE)
Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA)
Universitäts-Sternwarte München (USM)
Institute for Astrophysics in Göttingen (IAG)

The Netherlands:
Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor Astronomie (NOVA), represented by the University of Groningen, the University of Leiden, and the NOVA optical/infrared instrumentation group based at ASTRON 

INAF Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica

CNRS/INSU, represented by LESIA, GEPI and IPAG

A*, a partnership represented by the University of Vienna, the University of Innsbruck, the University of Linz, and RICAM Linz, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Finnish Centre for Astronomy with ESO (FINCA), University of Turku