UK-led robotic sky-scanner takes its place on telescope

William Herschel Telescope upgrade WEAVE

A major upgrade to the William Herschel Telescope which will allow a comprehensive census of the universe to answer fundamental astrophysical questions, is now close to completion.

In a significant milestone for the project, all the main components of a new instrument for the William Herschel Telescope (WHT) are now being tested and integrated.

The William Herschel Telescope (WHT) is a 4.20-metre (165 in) optical/near-infrared reflecting telescope located at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos in the Canary Islands, Spain. The telescope, which is named after William Herschel, is part of the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes. It is funded by research councils from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain.

The WHT Enhanced Area Velocity Explorer (WEAVE) is an unique upgrade to the WHT. It will extend the telescope’s field of view to two degrees on the sky in order to increase the rate of measurements to up to 1,000 stars per hour.

The UK has led the European consortium to design and produce this major new instrument, with around 20 million Euros provided by STFC.

WEAVE is led by the University of Oxford and STFC RAL Space. Additional technology is supplied by Liverpool John Moores University and a complex data processing pipeline development led by the University of Cambridge.

Professor Gavin Dalton, WEAVE principal investigator, University of Oxford and STFC RAL Space, said: “It is tremendous to see the sustained efforts of so many groups of people finally coming together at the telescope, and to finally be able to bring the system to operation.

“WEAVE has been 10 years in development with lots of complex moving parts and components scattered in laboratories across Europe.

“With everything now at the telescope and operating correctly we are on the cusp of offering astronomers a new and improved eye on the stars.”