Université Laval and ABB develop a unique measurement instrument for astronomy
Quebec City, April 10, 2015 – Université Laval and ABB announce today the final phase of a major development project for an astronomical measurement instrument offering unsurpassed precision. Named SITELLE (Wide-field Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer), this instrument integrates several advanced technologies that will be installed at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), one of the most productive telescopes in the world, located at the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island. SITELLE will analyze the characteristics of the light emitted by each component of large astronomical objects such as nebulae and galaxies, making it possible to analyze these celestial objects as never before.
The design of SITELLE presented a tremendous technical challenge. The heart of the instrument is based on the displacement of a mirror to an accuracy of one millionth of a millimeter assisted by laser beams. SITELLE must operate in difficult weather conditions at 4,200 meters/13,778 feet above sea level at the top of the highest volcano in the Hawaiian archipelago, while following the course of the stars in the sky. SITELLE is the result of the expertise of the team headed by astrophysicist Laurent Drissen and optical design specialist Simon Thibault, both professors at Université Laval's Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the know-how of the CFHT team in wide-field cameras and ABB's Measurement & Analytics team the prime contractor of the project in the field of spectroscopy and optical instrumentation.
"We are very proud to have built this new camera with Université Laval,that will be the pride of the CFHT internationally. It is the result of a long-standing collaboration between Université Laval and ABB. Standing 2 meters tall, weighing more than 400 kg/882 lbs, with lenses the size of dinner plates, SITELLE will be the largest and most ambitious Fourier Transform imaging spectrometer ever built and the most powerful of its kind in astronomy," said Marc Corriveau, general manager of the ABB Measurement & Analytics' Analyzer factory in Quebec City.
Project manager Laurent Drissen explained that SITELLE is the logical continuation of SpIOMM project, an imaging spectrometer prototype developed jointly by Université Laval and ABB, which for nearly 10 years has been one of the most used instruments at the Mont-Mégantic Observatory at the entrance of the National Park of Mont-Mégantic in Notre-Dame-des-Bois, Quebec, Canada within the framework of masters and doctorate projects. He added, "I would like to acknowledge the priceless contribution of a dozen students, both for the design of data analysis software and for the development of the observation methods and testing phases, as well as the outstanding support of management and CFHT staff. SITELLE is an exceptional instrument which I believe will make its mark in the history of astronomical instrumentation."
Building SITELLE also involved the expertise of several companies in the Quebec region, particularly in the areas of carbon fiber molding, precision machining, and fiber laser source. Université de Montréal, partner of Université Laval in the Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Québec (CRAQ), also provided opto-mechanical expertise for the project. Building SITELLE was made possible through a grant from the federal and provincial governments through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) program.
ABB's Measurement & Analytics business unit (www.abb.com/measurement) is among the world's leading manufacturers and suppliers of instrumentation and analyzers. With thousands of experts around the world and high-performance technology, ABB's team is dedicated to making measurement easy for its customers. ABB (www.abb.com) is a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. The ABB Group of companies operates in around 100 countries and employs about 140,000 people. In Canada, ABB has more than 5,000 employees from coast to coast.
About Université Laval
Located in Quebec's historic capital, a World Heritage City, Université Laval is the first French-language university in North America. It is one of Canada's leading research universities, ranking 8th among the country's top 50 research universities with more than $300 million devoted to research last year. Université Laval's 3,200 faculty members share their knowledge with some 48,000 students, 10,000 of whom are enrolled in graduate-level programs.
For more information:
Laurent Drissen, Full Professor
Faculty of Science and Engineering
418-656-2131, Extension 5641
Nancy Rochette, Communications and Marketing Specialist
ABB – Measurement & Analytics Business Unit (Quebec City, Canada)
+1-418-877-2944, Extension 356