I was hired in 2011 at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics to help write the pipeline of the MUSE instrument. Back then it seemed so distant that the instrument would actually collect photons one day. In September of that year, we were so excited to test our pipeline on lab photons and to work with the first simulated data. This year in 2014 MUSE will begin actual astronomical observations, first light is only a few day away!
It has been quite exciting to slowly integrate myself within the MUSE team. While I have not done any hardcore programming on the pipeline itself (my colleague Peter Weilbacher did the excellent work of building the core and framework of the program), we have been testing, adjusting and writing lots of technical reports relating to the pipeline. Furthermore, as part of the science team, we have run many simulations, feasibility studies to test whether the science vision of our team members will be possible. Over the last 2 years, I have also written the User Manual for the pipeline, so if you are interested in MUSE data reduction, I am your gal (hint, hint for all you science collaborators out there).
Now the instrument is becoming a reality. We are already working on data taken at the VLT UT 4 telescope! They are only flats and arc lamp exposures, no on-sky data yet, but it is exciting that the mounting of the instrument went so smoothly and that data is actually coming in from Chile. Nevertheless, there are some kinks to be worked out. Beginning of February there will be a 2 week commisioning run testing out the instrument’s performance on different (calibration) objects on the sky – bright stars, galaxies and other objects.
If you are interested in this stage of the MUSE development, either because you may be interested in proposing to observe with MUSE or just because of general astronomical interest, I suggest you follow the blog over at http://muse-vlt.eu/blog/MUSE-Comm/Blog/Blog.html. We plan on being very community conscious and want to release as much information to the scientific community as possible. The intent of the blog is geared towards the professional astronomer or the very interested amateur, hopefully you will find it helpful and will propose to observe with MUSE! In the future, we plan not only to write about the instrument’s progress, but to show behind the scenes reduction and new science results relating to MUSE. Stay tuned, 2014 will be an exciting year for large datasets related to integral field (3D) astronomy!