Breaking new ground in County Durham

The KMOS instrument
The KMOS instrument

A HI-TECH instrument could soon answer some of the key questions about the beginnings of the Universe.

The KMOS (K-Band Multi Object Spectrometer) has been partly made by the Centre for Advanced Instrumentation, based at the Netpark Research Institute, near Sedgefield.

Its final assembly and testing is due to happen at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, in Edinburgh.

Once that takes place, KMOS looks set to be shipped out for use by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in South America, where it will be fitted to one of four telescopes at Paranal, in Chile.

It will provide astronomers with a far quicker solution to uncover details about galaxies and their properties.

Durham University have been leading on the KMOS project and Professor Ray Sharples, of the Department of Physics, who is also the director of the centre for advanced instrumentation, said: “The instrument will provide a uniquely powerful tool for studying the formation and evolution of galaxies like our own Milky Way and is eagerly anticipated by observational cosmologists working both in Durham and Europe.”

What makes KMOS unique is its ability to image many galaxies simultaneously, but – via the use of image slicers – still see the individual properties of each single galaxy.

Until now, each galaxy has had to be identified individually to obtain that information, a process that takes years. KMOS will be able to see the same amount of detail in just two months.