MUSE will be an extraordinarily powerful integral field spectrograph
fed by a new adaptive optics system on the VLT. In its usual
operating mode, MUSE will, in a single observation, produce a
3-dimensional data cube consisting of 90,000 R~3000 spectra, each
covering a full spectral octave (465-930 nm), and fully sampling
a contiguous 1´x1´ arcmin^2 field with 0.2´x0.2´ arcsec^2
apertures. A high-resolution mode will increase the spatial sampling
to 0.025 arcsec per pixel. MUSE is built around a novel arrangement
of 24 identical spectrographs (each comparable to a 1st generation
VLT instrument) which are fed by a set of 24 precision image slicers.
MUSE is designed for extreme stability, with no moving parts,
allowing very long exposures to be built up. Together with high
throughput, this ensures that MUSE will have extreme sensitivity
for observing faint objects.
Based on its innovative capabilities, MUSE will have a major
impact on a broad swathe of astrophysical problems, ranging from
studies of the most distant Universe to observations within the
Solar System. The full science case can be found
MUSE is uniquely well suited to the study of faint galaxies in
the early Universe, and will be able to detect the small progenitors
of the Milky Way galaxy at high redshift, thus providing a map
of the mass assembly of galaxies at early epochs. It will also
give new insights into the physical processes operating within
young galaxies, and into the feedback mechanisms that control
their development. Closer to home, MUSE will enable unprecedentedly
detailed studies of the complex environments within galaxies,
including those in star-forming regions and around the central
black holes, sharpening our observational picture of the co-evolution
of stars and black holes. Within our own Galaxy, MUSE will produce
new understanding of proto-stellar objects and star-formation.
Finally, MUSE will allow synoptic monitoring of solar system bodies
at high resolution over extended periods of time.
MUSE is under construction and will see first-light at the 8m ESO VLT telescope in 2011.