06 Sep 2023



Installed on the Very Large Telescope in Chile, ERIS (Enhanced Resolution Imager and Spectrograph) combines an imager (NIX) and an integral-field spectrograph (SPIFFIER).


​​​​​​​​​​​​​ERIS installed at the VLT


The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) provided funding to allow the UK ATC to lead on the NIX imager, with key mechanisms provided by ETH-Zurich and high-contrast imaging components from Leiden.

Named after the Greek goddess of the night, NIX is a state-of-the-art, infra-red, cryogenic camera system developed with ground-breaking high-contrast imaging technology, that allows astronomers to acquire images which are even sharper and more detailed than those of the famous Hubble Space Telescope.NIX in the lab at UK ATC, it looks like a blakc cylinder.

Despite being only the size of a suitcase (about 0.8m x 0.4m x 0.6m), NIX manages to pack a lot of functionality into a very small space. Allowing astronomers to capture pin-sharp images with a range of filters and instrument set-ups, including some remarkable new high-contrast imaging optics that will deliver images of young exoplanets.

Young newly-formed planets are still hot, with temperatures similar to that of a candle flame, about 3-5µm – which is why NIX has been specially designed to image at these wavelengths. 

NIX and all of its components need to work at temperatures colder than many instruments, at around -200°C (or 70K), to mitigate for thermal radiation. To block out the glare from stars, NIX has been designed with a sophisticated system of light blocks, baffles and anti-reflective coatings; as well as high-contrast imaging technology.

Find out more about ERIS and Nix.​