Chemical Elements as Tracers of the Evolution of the Cosmos


Molėtai Astronomical Observatory, Vilnius University (Molėtai, Lithuania)


The Molėtai Astronomical Observatory (MAO) of Vilnius University (UNIVIL) offers the 1.65m Ritchey-Chretien telescope and the VUES high resolution echelle spectrograph.


MAO is located in the district of Molėtai, about 85 km north from Vilnius. The facility was established in 1969 and currently houses 1.65m Ritchey-Chretien, 0.63m Cassegrainian, and 0.35/0.51m Maksutov telescopes, as well as administrative and utility building. The 1.65m telescope is equipped with state-of-the-art fiber-fed echelle spectrograph VUES that was built at Yale University and installed at MAO in 2015. The instrument is used mainly for radial velocity monitoring and chemical abundance studies of stars and Galactic stellar populations. This instrument is one of the few high-resolution fiber-feb echelle spectrographs available at 2m-class telescopes in Europe. The 0.63 m and 0.35 m telescopes are equipped with the 2k CCD cameras and are used for photometric studies of minor planets, investigations of Galactic structure and evolution. The administrative building at MAO houses offices and a small guesthouse for visiting astronomers.

Currently, MAO is undergoing reconstruction during which the 0.63m telescope will be replaced with a new 0.8m Ritchey-Chretien telescope equipped with a 4k photometric CCD camera and a set of wide- and medium-band photometric filters. The foreseen installation date of the new photometric facility is 2022.

Services currently offered

MAO is operated by the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy which is part of the Faculty of Physics at Vilnius University. The VUES spectrograph operates at the resolution of R=30000, 45000, and 60000. At R=30000, the S/N~ 40 at 550 nm may be reached for V=10 with a 1hr exposure time. For the radial velocity measurements, VUES observations are stable at the level of several hundred meters per second. The average number of clear nights available at MAO for spectroscopic observations is 80-90 per year. MAO has a reliable high-speed internet connection with other facilities at Vilnius University, including dedicated data reduction and analysis workstations. Currently, observations with the 1.65 m telescope and VUES spectrograph are done in the visitor mode, with the observing astronomer performing observations at the telescope.

While the VUES spectrograph is one of the few high-resolution fiber-fed echelle spectrographs available at 2m-class telescopes in Europe, until now it was mainly used by the astronomers of Vilnius University. It is planned to open up access to the VUES spectrograph to the wider community of nuclear astrophysics. Then, access migh be provided to carry out spectroscopic observations with the VUES spectrograph. Also, observations might be carried out in service mode, i.e., will be run by a staff astronomer at MAO on clear observation nights.

Linked ChETEC institution

Web page

ChETEC contact person

  • Arūnas Kučinskas (