From European Southern Observatory: “ESO’s La Silla Observatory to gain cutting-edge SOXS instrument”

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From European Southern Observatory

8 October 2018

Hans-Ulrich Käufl
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6414

Sergio Campana
INAF – Osservatorio astronomico di Brera
Via E. Bianchi 46
Merate (LC) – I-23807, Italy
Tel: +39 02 72320418

Calum Turner
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670
Cell: +49 151 1537 3591

ESO La Silla SOXS instrument for NTT preliminary

ESO has signed an agreement with an international consortium led by INAF, the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, to build and operate a cutting-edge spectrographic instrument known as Son Of X-shooter, SOXS [1]. Work on this innovative instrument’s design has been underway since 2017, meaning that SOXS could be installed at La Silla as early as 2020.

SOXS will be installed on ESO’s 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) [see below] at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, replacing SOFI, a venerable and highly productive ESO instrument that has been operating for over 20 years.


Designed as a unique spectroscopic facility, SOXS will study transient sources following triggers and alerts from telescopes, satellites, and detectors worldwide.

SOXS will provide vital spectroscopic follow-up observations to many transient surveys, and is poised to become the foremost transient follow-up instrument in the Southern hemisphere. The novel, highly specialized design of the instrument will ensure that it will have almost the same sensitivity as its progenitor, X-shooter, despite being installed on a much smaller telescope.

ESO X-shooter on VLT on UT2 at Cerro Paranal, Chile

Transients are astronomical events that — as the name suggests — are only visible for a short period of time. This includes some of the most fascinating astrophysical phenomena, such as supernovae and bursts of gravitational waves. It is critical that these triggers are followed up within hours, if not minutes, by dedicated spectroscopic facilities such as SOXS. Transients are being discovered at an impressive rate that will only be increased by future survey telescopes, making the combination of SOXS and the NTT a much-needed astronomical tool for capturing these fleeting events in wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to the near-infrared.

From its new home on the NTT at the La Silla Observatory, SOXS will follow up a variety of astronomical transients at all distance scales and from all branches of astronomy. Its targets will include fast alerts from space telescopes (such as gamma-ray bursts) or gravitational wave detectors, mid-term alerts (such as supernovae and X-ray transients), long-term monitoring of variable sources (such as blazars, and cataclysmic binaries), transit spectroscopy of extrasolar planets or one-off events like the close passage of newly discovered minor bodies. As well as its impressive ability to study transients, SOXS will also be able to carry out routine observations of objects which are simply too bright for other instruments like X-shooter to observe.

SOXS is expected to see first light in 2020 and to start operating in 2021. The contract foresees 5 years of operation with a possible extension of another 5 years.

[1] SOXS (Son of X-shooter) is a development of the X-Shooter instrument installed on the VLT. The SOXS consortium consists of: INAF (Italy), the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), Universidad Andrés Bello & Millennium Institute of Astrophysics (Chile), University of Turku & FINCA (Finland), Queen’s University Belfast (UK), Tel Aviv University (Israel), and the Niels Bohr Institute (Denmark).

See the full article here .


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ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre EEuropean Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

ESO La Silla HELIOS (HARPS Experiment for Light Integrated Over the Sun)

ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at Cerro LaSilla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

ESO/Cerro LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

ESO VLT Platform at Cerro Paranal elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft)

ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun

Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres

ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).

ESO/APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)

Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres