The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) is a 4m diameter wide-field survey telescope, dedicated to conducting detailed imaging surveys of the sky. This ground-based infrared telescope, will be sited at the Cerro Paranal Observatory in Chile, one of the best all-round observing sites in the world in terms of image quality.
VISTA is a custom-designed survey telescope and camera, which will obtain wide-field surveys of the southern sky in the near-infrared. The field of view is very wide, an area about the size of twelve full moons, and can take exposures of objects deep into space.
Within five years VISTA will have mapped the whole sky in four colours of infrared light, to impressive depths, as well as being able to look in more detail at specific regions of the universe. RAL Space is involved in the system engineering, mechanical design and manufacture of the body of the camera and the thermal design of the camera amongst other elements of the construction and testing of the camera.
The camera comprises a large vacuum vessel with sixteen 2k x 2k pixel infrared detectors cooled to liquid nitrogen temperatures, making up the largest IR focal place in the world.
VISTA was originally funded through a Joint Infrastructure Fund award to a consortium of 18 universities led by Queen Mary, University of London with additional funding contributed by STFC as part of the UK’s membership fee for the European Southern Observatory.
VISTA is now providing UK scientists with a valuable share in the ESO (European Southern Observatory) and a position at the cutting edge of astronomical science and instrumentation. It is being used in six large public surveys which all began in 2010, this is scheduled to take five years and will provide answers to a wide range of scientific questions.