Modes

The instruments sampled represent an impressive array of capabilities distributed around the world. Many naturally contain more than one primary functional mode and many are highly specialized instruments designed to observe targets using novel or unconventional techniques. Figure 2 shows the breakdown of instruments commonly in use in astronomy today, sorted by operating mode and wavelength.

Not surprisingly a significant fraction consists of direct imagers and single slit conventional spectrometers. The vast majority of the single slit spectrometers surveyed also support direct imaging, no doubt because target acquisition typically involves imaging a field before the slit is located precisely on the sky.

Figure 2. The distribution of observing modes across currently deployed instruments in the survey.

A number of integral field spectrometers were reported, which provide both imaging and spectroscopy across the instrument's field of view. This type of instrument invariably suffers from a lack of detector "real estate", given the intrinsically highly multiplexed nature of its data structure. Another instrument that offers considerable multiplex gains is the multi-object spectrometer (MOS). The popularity of this type of spectrometer has increased radically over the past 10-15 years since it is particularly efficient for complex target-rich fields like galaxy clusters or star formation regions.

Figure 3 shows the distribution of observing modes across future instruments.

Figure 3. Future instrument types are summarized, again broken into optical, near, and mid-infrared categories.

Imaging and long-slit spectroscopy appear to be the "mainstay" instruments in the near future. Interestingly, instruments offering greater multiplex gains are gaining popularity. Figure 3 demonstrates an increase in MOS and IFU based instruments being deployed in the future. Also, though highly specialized, note the increased deployment of coronagraphs in the future. This no doubt reflects an increase in interest in planet/disk observations in modern astronomy as well as advances in adaptive optics.

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