SPIRou is a near-infrared spectropolarimeter / high-precision velocimeter being designed as a new instrument for Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CFHT).
Technically speaking, SPIRou is essentially a near-IR version of ESPaDOnS/ NARVAL with greatly improved RV stability (1m/s level), or a near-IR version of HARPS with spectropolarimetric capabilities. It consists of a high-resolution cryogenic échelle spectrograph fiber-fed from a Cassegrain achromatic polarimeter. It yields nearly complete spectral coverage in the YJHK bands (ie from 0.98 to 2.35 µm) at a spectral resolution of ~75,000.
It has two main science goals, the detection and characterization of habitable exo-earths orbiting low-mass stars on the one hand, and the measurement of magnetic fields in young protostars as a proxy to investigate the impact of magnetic fields on star / planet formation on the other hand. Besides these two main forefront goals, SPIRou can tackle many more science topics, from exoplanet atmospheres to weather patterns on brown dwarfs, or from dynamo processes in low-mass stars to solar-system planetary atmospheres.
SPIRou is being designed and managed through an international consortium involving France (IRAP/OMP, IPAG and OHP/LAM), Canada (UdeMontreal/ULaval, NRC HERZBERG), Taiwan (ASIAA), Switzerland (Observatory of Geneva) and CFHT. SPIRou has completed phase B, with a Preliminary Design review in 2012 October. SPIRou is now in phase C.