From European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU): “Let the show begin-APEX’s CONCERTO instrument sees first light”

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From European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU)

6 July 2021

Guilaine Lagache
CONCERTO’s Principal Investigator
Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille
Marseille, France
Tel: +33 6 50 77 35 45

Alessandro Monfardini
CONCERTO’s Instrument Scientist
Institut Néel
Grenoble, France
Tel: +33 4 76 88 10 52

Carlos De Breuck
ESO APEX Project Scientist
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6613 Email:

Bárbara Ferreira
ESO Media Manager
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6670

ESO The CONCERTO instrument on APEX [below].

An exciting new instrument, a spectrometer called CONCERTO, has successfully produced its first observations: test images of the Cat’s Paw Nebula and the Crab Nebula. The instrument, installed on the ESO-operated Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), will help astronomers probe the mysterious, ancient cosmic epoch during which the first stars lit up.

The main goal of CONCERTO, which stands for CarbON CII line in post-rEionisation and ReionisaTiOn epoch, is to study the birth of the first generation of stars. To do so, it will look at cosmic objects that formed between 600 million and 1.2 billion years after the Big Bang. This era, known as cosmic reionisation, is poorly understood yet crucial in the history of the cosmos, as it marks the transition between the “dark ages” — a very obscure period in the life of the Universe in which stars had not formed yet — and the time when the most distant galaxies we see in the Universe today formed.

CONCERTO will also map distant galaxy clusters and star-forming regions in our Milky Way.

As an instrument that is able to scan the sky at frequencies between infrared and radio waves, CONCERTO will look at radiation emitted by ionised carbon atoms, one of the most valuable tracers of star formation in the early cosmic ages. “The objective of shedding light on the reionisation period is very hard, as the signal we are searching for is very small,” says CONCERTO’s Principal Investigator Guilaine Lagache from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (FR), in France. “We will tackle this by using a totally innovative and experimental observing technique, called intensity mapping. CONCERTO will be the first instrument in the world to perform intensity mapping of the primordial carbon radiation on a large field of the sky.”

“CONCERTO is completely unique at APEX,” says ESO Astronomer and APEX Project Scientist Carlos De Breuck. “The other instruments either concentrate on imaging or spectroscopy, but not on both like CONCERTO is doing. And in terms of imaging, with a diameter of about 20 arcminutes on sky, it is by a margin the largest field-of-view ever used at APEX.” The new instrument has replaced the LArge APEX BOlometer CAmera (LABOCA), enabling a four-time improvement in terms of field of view.

CONCERTO’s first light marks the end of its installation process, which started with the delivery of the instrument to the APEX site in the Chanjantor plateau in the Chilean Atacama Desert in late March 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic posed a considerable challenge to the CONCERTO team, who managed to prepare the instrument for fully remote operations, ship it to Chile, and install it at APEX under strict health and safety conditions. “A large part of this success comes from the team spirit and the fact that we all work with passion and determination,” says CONCERTO’s instrument scientist Alessandro Monfardini from Institute Néel[Institut Neel] (FR) in Grenoble, France. The team is also grateful to the local APEX staff for their dedication and help installing and testing the instrument.

More Information

CONCERTO received funding from the ERC: European Research Council (EU) under grant agreement No 788212, from the Aix-Marseille Initiative of Excellence (France) and LabEx FOCUS (France). The institutes involved in the CONCERTO consortium are the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (FR), the Institute Néel[Institut Neel] (FR), the French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics [Institut national de physique nucléaire et de physique des particules](FR), the IPAG | Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble (FR) and the Astronomy Instrumentation Group at the Cardiff University [Prifysgol Caerdydd] (WLS). The Institut Néel, LPSC and IPAG are laboratories of the National Centre for Scientific Research [Centre national de la recherche scientifique, [CNRS] (FR) and the University of Grenoble Alpes [Université Grenoble Alpes] (FR). LAM is a laboratory of the CNRS and the Aix-Marseille University [Aix-Marseille Université] (FR).

APEX is a collaboration between the MPG Institute for Radio Astronomy [MPG Institut für Radioastronomie](DE), the Onsala Space Observatory [Onsala rymdobservatorium] (SE) and ESO. Operation of APEX at Chajnantor is entrusted to ESO.

See the full article here .


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European Southern Observatory [Observatoire européen austral][Europäische Südsternwarte] (EU) 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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

European Southern Observatory(EU) , Very Large Telescope at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ) •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ) •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star). Elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo.

ESO Very Large Telescope 4 lasers on Yepun (CL)

European Southern Observatory(EU)/MPG Institute for Radio Astronomy [MPG Institut für Radioastronomie](DE) ESO’s Atacama Pathfinder Experiment(CL) high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft).

European Southern Observatory(EU) ExTrA telescopes at erro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres.