Institute of Astronomy

Massively multiplexed spectroscopy for the coming decades: the science and status of the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer

SpeakerTalk DateTalk Series
Alan McConnachie (Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Canada)10 April 2019Institute of Astronomy Seminars


The Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) is a planned 11-m telescope designed to fill what is the most obvious missing link in the emerging network of international multi-wavelength facilities; namely, fully dedicated, large aperture, highly multiplexed spectroscopy at a range of spectral resolutions in the optical and near infrared wavelength range. It will be completely dedicated to multi-object spectroscopy of samples of between thousands and millions of astrophysical objects. It will lead the world in this arena, due to its unique design capabilities: it will boast a large (11.25 m) aperture and wide (1.52 sq. degree) field of view; it will observe at a wide range of spectral resolutions, from R2500 to R40,000, with massive multiplexing (4,332 spectra per exposure, with all spectral resolutions available at all times). In total, more than 10 million fiber hours of 10-m class spectroscopy will be available for forefront science every year. With these unrivalled capabilities, MSE will unveil the composition and dynamics of the faint Universe and impact nearly every field of astrophysics across all spatial scales, from individual stars to the largest scale structures in the Universe. Major pillars in the science program for MSE include (i) the ulitimate Gaia follow-up facility for understanding the chemistry and dynamics of the distant Milky Way, including the outer disk and faint stellar halo at high spectral resolution (ii) galaxy formation and evolution at cosmic noon, via the type of revolutionary surveys that have occurred in the nearby Universe, but now conducted at the peak of the star formation history of the Universe (iii) derivation of the mass of the neutrino and insights into inflationary physics through a cosmological redshift survey that probes a large volume of the Universe with a high galaxy density. MSE naturally complements and extends the scientific power of Gaia, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, the Square Kilometer Array, Euclid, WFIRST, the 30m telescopes and many more. I will present a broad overview of MSE, including the key science, the current design status, as well as the international partnership, and highlight numerous opportunities for engagement in the ongoing scientific and technical development of this next generation observatory.