WEAVE: The next generation wide-field spectroscopy facility for the WHT - Interim Support

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics


WEAVE is a new facility instrument, designed for the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope on the island of La Palma, which will upgrade the telescope with new correcting optics to give a high quality 2 degree-diamter field of view (4x the diameter of the full moon). Within this field, a robotic positioning system will allow optical fibres to select up to 1000 simultaneous targets for observation by a new highly efficient spectrograph which is optimised to deliver accurate measurements of the velocities and chemical signatures of the target sources. This facility will enable a survey of close to 10 million stars within the disk and halo of our Galaxy. These observations will be combined with new data from ESA's imminent Gaia mission to provide a detailed map of both the structure and the assembly history of the Milky Way.

WEAVE will also be used to study the population of external galaxies, extending over most of the observable history of the Universe, that will be identified by the new European LOw-Frequency ARray radio telescope (LOFAR), providing detailed information on the evolutionary history of star-formation, and a trace of the elusive Dark Energy component that appears to dominate the present-day expansion of the Universe.

In the nearby Universe, WEAVE will be able to reveal the internal dynamics of 10,000 galaxies, providing for the first time a detailed comparison of the dynamics of the older stellar populations, the areas of current star-formation activity, and (from new radio-frequency observations) the underlying distribution of cold hydrogen gas.

The construction of WEAVE is a collaboration between UK institutions, the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes in La Palma (currently operated by STFC) and partners in the Netherlands, Spain and France. With a 4 year construction preiod, the instrument will be delivered to the telescope early in 2017.

Planned Impact

WEAVE is intended to be a low-risk project, with little scope for technology development in most areas. The primary impact is expected to arise from the science data itself, both in terms of the development of our understanding of the key scientific issues, and in the accessibility of this understanding to the wider public audience,in terms of both the scientific results from the project, and the opportunities to build new citizen science projects (e.g. within the framework of Zooniverse) using 10 million high quality stellar spectra.
We are currently in discussion with the Oxford Zooniverse team (Lintott) to see if the WEAVE archive can be developed from the ground up in partnership with their industrial contacts to provide an efficient route to this development.

In addition, WEAVE's use of Schunk's gantry technology goes some way beyond their current commercial experience, and we are working closely with them to understand how the WEAVE experience can be used to develop their technology for higher performance in commercial applications.


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