After more than two years of work constructing a two-ton astronomical instrument known as APOGEE-South, University of Virginia astronomers traveled to Chile’s Las Campanas Observatory. There they installed the $6 million infrared spectrograph.
This device will allow astronomers to peer through dense cosmic dust scattered through the Milky Way and view stars at the farthest reaches of our home galaxy.
The infrared-sensitive spectrograph, which operates at wavelengths longer than optical light, allows astronomers to examine the chemical composition and motions of hundreds of thousands of stars that otherwise – because of obscuring interstellar dust – would not be readily visible optically.
Using data from both devices, astronomers soon will achieve a much fuller view of the Galaxy, gaining new insights to how the Milky Way formed, how it is evolving, and by implication how other, similar galaxies formed. Used in conjunction with other telescopes and instruments worldwide, the APOGEE project also is helping astronomers identify potential planets in other solar systems.
APOGEE-South will operate well into the 2020s, gathering enough data to keep international astronomers busy for decades.