MUSE, the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer, is my favorite instrument.
This steam-punk fever dream barely fits on the Nasmyth B platform of Yepun, (UT4 on ESO's Very Large Telescope).
I was involved in commissioning and science verification of the instrument, so I'm not totally unbiased. But the data are absolutely stunning, and I think you'll agree.
For my non-astronomer friends, all you need to know is that MUSE is a special type of instrument called an Integral Field Unit (IFU) spectrograph.
It effectively takes an image of the sky, but every pixel in that image is also a spectrum. It's three dimensional data (recording two of space and one of wavelength), enabling one to map the kinematics of stars and gas in a galaxy, obtain spatially resolved spectral diagnostic maps, etc.
For my astronomer friends, you need only know two things:
- It is the highest throughput spectrograph on the mountain, beating even our slit spectrographs like UVES and X-shooter. That's ... astonishing.
- It has a one-by-one arcminute field of view with subarcsecond spatial resolution (initially seeing- limited).
That should blow your mind.
Here's how MUSE works, by the way.
I want to quickly show off one of the early science verification observations we obtained. In what would have taken more than fifty pointings with, e.g., GMOS on Gemini, we mapped the northern filaments in Centaurus A in about fifteen minutes with only two pointings.
Here's what we found.
Also, friends in the US: YES. You can propose for MUSE, and VLT time in general. There's a huge misconception that ESO time requires a European PI, and it's simply not true. A proposal consisting of mostly US investigators isn't even necessarily less competitive on the TAC, outside of rare edge-cases. So, propose for MUSE (and/but: good luck with that ten-to-one oversubscription. ;)
The MUSE story goes back more than a decade. Hear about it below, from MUSE PI Roland Bacon (U. Lyon).
Shameless Plug time!
Check out the Close AGN Reference Survey (CARS), our pan-chromatic survey of nearby Type 1 AGN anchored by MUSE observations.