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The company ABB will build a novel astronomical instrument in collaboration with CRAQ researchers

A $M2.3 contract from Université Laval will allow for the company ABB to build a new optical instrument for astrophysical research to improve our understanding of the formation of galaxies and stars, as well as the evolution of the Universe.

ABB, leader in energy technologies, was attributed a $M2.3 contract from Université Laval, for the SITELLE project (Spectromètre Imageur à Transformée de Fourier pour l'Etude en Long en Large de Raies d'Emission, in french). The cutting-edge instrument will be installed at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) located atop the Mauna Kea, on Big Island, in Hawaii. The funding for this project was provided in part by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) through a grant awarded to the Observatoire du Mont-Megantic (OMM) and its Experimental Astrophysics Laboratory.

This instrument will be built by a collaboration between ABB and the research group of Dr. Laurent Drissen (member of the CRAQ and professor at the physics department of the Université Laval). In the spring of 2013, the novel instrument should see its first light. No other spectro-imager instrument in the world will match the capabilities of SITELLE. A previous instrument, SpIOMM (Spectromètre Imageur de l'OMM, in french), was developed by the Université Laval, the Canadian Space Agency and ABB, as a pathfinder instrument for SITELLE. Following the ground-breaking results of SpIOMM, the Canadian astronomical community recommended the funding and the construction of SITELLE for the CFHT. The collaboration for the SITELLE project is made possible through a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Québec government.

"We are very proud to be selected by the Université Laval for this important contribution to the CFHT. This technology is the results of multiple collaborations between the university, the Canadian Space Agency, and ABB. We are convinced that SITELLE will lead to major discoveries that will certainly benefit the scientific community", said Marc-André Soucy, director of the tele-detection department at ABB.

Not only SITELLE will benefit the Canadian astronomers, but it will also be a strong asset for the community at large. The technology developed for SITELLE can potentially be adapted for the new generation of weather satellites used for the prediction of hurricanes, tornadoes and for the measurements of atmospheric pollution.

Unlike most other scientists, astronomers do not have a direct access to the objects under investigation. With a few exceptions (particles from the Solar wind, lunar samples, meteorites, and some cosmic rays), the information available to an astronomer exclusively comes from light. The challenge resides in the detection, using powerful telescopes, and the interpretation of the light signals travelling through the universe for thousands, millions and even billions of years. SITELLE has precisely been designed for this purpose.

ABB (www.abb.com) is a leader in the field of energy and automation technologies, providing its customers (public services and industries) with productivity solutions while reducing their footprint on the environment. The ABB group is present in about 100 countries in the world and employs about 130000 people.

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