The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) is one of the oldest facilities on the summit of Mauna-Kea. Once considered a large telescope with its 3.6-meter mirror, CFHT looks small in this time of 8 to 10 meter telescopes. However, a new instrument, MegaPrime, comes into operation this month after 6 years of development and a few months of engineering on the sky, placing CFHT once more on the forefront of optical astronomy in spite of its relatively small mirror size. The first astronomical images from MegaPrime are being released today to the general public.

    The result of a fruitful collaboration between CFHT and institutes in France and Canada, MegaPrime is a completely new structure installed on top of the telescope, equipped with specially designed optics and a unique made-in-France digital camera of 340 megapixels called MegaCam.

    With a field of view of 1 degree by 1 degree, the size of four Full Moons, MegaPrime will allow the astronomers from France, Canada and Hawaii to observe the Earth's neighborhood or remote galaxies using digital images of an unprecedented resolution for such a field of view. It will be possible to look for small objects moving around planets, or the outskirts of the solar system; astronomers will be able to watch the explosions of dying stars in remote galaxies, study the ripples of space due to unseen matter, or witness new and mysterious phenomena yet to be discovered.

    Scientific observations have already begun, including the CFHT Legacy Survey, a program of 500 nights spread over 5 years, to be shared by all Canadian and French astronomers.

    Opening a new era in astronomical wide-field imaging, MegaPrime will benefit the worldwide astronomical community, as the data will be subsequently released in the CFHT archives.

Contact: Christian Veillet - 1 (808) 885 2143