ESO's mission is to provide its astronomical community with worldwide competitive ground-based observing capabilities to probe the Universe from its first billion year to the present time. In order to achieve this it is essential that ESO's state of the art telescopes are equipped with comprehensive instrument suites. The ESO community is deeply involved in the development of instruments and telescope systems for the ESO observatories, with most projects pursued through collaborations between research institutes in the ESO member states and ESO.
ESO develops, implements and deploys a wide range of instrumentation technologies. In particular:
Adaptive Optics: ESO's AO systems (see the infrastructure development list below) are either built in-house or by external consortia. In parallel, it conducts a major R&D programme in conjunction with the community, in particular with the goal of developing an expanding standard toolkit for the AO systems.
Detectors and Controllers: ESO designs and develops optical, near and mid IR detector systems used at all its telescopes. ESO's in-house detector team:
- works closely with detector manufacturers in the specification and design of detectors optimized for astronomical applications,
- designs bespoke control electronics, the most recent development is the New General detector controller (NGC) which can be used to operate all detector types.
Integration and Cryo-vacuum - ESO provides expertise and facilities for:
- Subsytem testing
- Integration of subsystems
- Testing of fully assembled instruments
- Design and construction of detector cryostats
- Testing detector cryostats
- Cryogenics and integration support for externally developed instruments.
Laser Guide Stars: ESO designs and develops LGS systems to supplement natural guide stars as reference objects for AO image corrections. LGS projectors are installed at the VLT and will be a crucial technology for the future generation of Extremely Large Telescopes, like the ESO European Extremely Large Telescope.
Software: ESO develops software to facilitate instrument and telescope design, performance optimization and validation
ESO exercises strict control over the interfaces between the VLT observatory and its instruments. The detailed requirements on VLT instruments are available online.
Instruments completed and delivered to La Silla Paranal Observatory
The instruments below are now maintained (and documented on the ESO web) by the Directorate of Operations/La Silla Paranal Observatory:
Development together with external consortia
Together with external consortia ESO was responsible for the definition and contributed to the design, construction and implementation at the observatories of the following instruments and facilities:
FORS1+2 (VLT; FORS1 retired)
For La Silla