SPIRou is a near-infrared spectropolarimeter and a high-precision velocimeter optimized for both the detection of habitable Earth twins orbiting around nearby red dwarf stars, and the study of forming Sun-like stars and their planets.
Technically speaking, SPIRou is an heritage from previous successful spectropolarimeters (ESPaDOnS and NARVAL) and high-precision velocimeters (HARPS), and consists of a high-resolution cryogenic Echelle spectrograph fiber-fed from a Cassegrain achromatic polarimeter and calibration system.
SPIRou is managed in the framework of an international consortium led by France and involving, in addition to the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), Canada, Switzerland, Brazil, Taiwan and Portugal. The construction of SPIRou is about to start, with integration in Toulouse, France, scheduled for 2016 and first light at CFHT for 2017.
Though located in one of the best astronomical sites worldwide, CFHT nevertheless has to face fierce competition and must innovate through ambitious science programs. SPIRou is one of the key instruments that will bolster the future of the telescope over the next decade.