Announcements 2010

ann1082 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 8 November 2010
4 November 2010: Astronomers need patience: at the next Café & Kosmos Dr Stefan Gillessen will explain how astrophysicists at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics found a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy — after collecting 16 years worth of data. This black hole is four million times more massive than our Sun, but it doesn’t shine. During a clear night, you can easily see the star-spangled band of the Milky Way. However its centre is hidden behind dense gas and dust clouds, but astronomers can use modern infrared cameras to penetrate this veil and observe the stars at the galactic centre. Just as the planets orbit the Sun, these stars orbit an invisible object. Why does this have to be a black hole? Why do we think that all galaxies harbour such gravity monsters? Come to Café & Kosmos and find out! The Café & Kosmos series of ...
ann1081 — Announcement
Light from Four Telescopes Combined at ESO's Paranal Observatory
4 November 2010: Light coming from the four 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) based in Paranal, Chile, has been successfully combined for the first time using a new visiting instrument called PIONIER [1]. This is an important step towards unleashing the full potential of the VLTI to use multiple telescopes together to reveal fine detail in distant objects. A joint team from Grenoble LAOG [2] and ESO achieved this very challenging feat of engineering only five days after unpacking the equipment on the mountain. The VLTI engineers had to control the distance traversed by the light from the widely separated telescopes with an accuracy of about one hundredth of the thickness of a strand of human hair. Once the light reached PIONIER, it was then channelled into the heart of the instrument: a remarkable optical circuit [3], smaller than a credit card, that finally brought ...
ann1080 — Announcement
Press Invitation to Launch of EVALSO, An Important Advance in Communications for Remote Latin American Observatories
28 October 2010: On Thursday 4 November 2010, ESO’s powerful telescopes, which are located in a remote and barren desert landscape in Chile, will become more accessible than ever to astronomers in Europe, thanks to a new high-speed data link. Members of the press are invited to attend the launch of the new communications data link and to view a demonstration of the technology from the project site in the middle of the Atacama Desert. The high-speed data link is part of the Enabling Virtual Access to Latin American Southern Observatories (EVALSO) project. Previously, data from instruments at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) were sent back via a microwave link to a base station near the Chilean city of Antofagasta and from there to Santiago. This link supports a data transfer rate of only 16Mbit/s, but, since ESO’s VISTA telescope saw first light in December 2009, the Paranal Observatory now produces over 100 ...
ann1079 — Announcement
Electric Supercar on Pan-American Marathon Races to ESO’s Very Large Telescope
28 October 2010: The SRZero supercar, one of the most advanced electric vehicles ever created, sped to the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope on 27 October as part of its ambitious trek down the Americas. This was a remarkable meeting of two technological masterpieces that are both examples of the finest inventions that have taken humanity to the limits of the possible, both on this planet and beyond. Astronomers, journalists, engineers and other lucky guests enjoyed the extraordinary spectacle of this eco-friendly supercar revving around the four Unit Telescopes, bathed in glorious sunset light before the observatory domes opened to begin the night’s observations. The SRZero electric supercar is a project carried out by students from the Racing Green Endurance (RGE) team from Imperial College London’s Energy Futures Lab, sponsored by KPMG and supported in Chile by the British Embassy. The 400-bhp twin-motor vehicle is touring the full 26 000 km length of the ...
ann1078 — Announcement
The Science Train Visits the Antofagasta Region
26 October 2010: A mobile science exhibition called the Science Train will travel around the Antofagasta Region of Chile from 25 October to 6 November 2010, bringing the wonders of science to the local residents. Each of the six carriages of the Science Train is dedicated to a different topic: The Universe, The Earth is Alive, The Origins of Life, Mankind and Desert, Technological Development and The Future of Communications. The carriages promise to give a fascinating overview of each scientific topic in a rather unconventional environment for an exhibition. The Mankind and Desert carriage will introduce a cultural element to this travelling exhibition, as it explores the importance of the desert for the ancient cultures that settled in the Atacama. The train will make its first scheduled stop in Antofagasta on Monday, 25 October, before departing for stations in Mejillones, Baquedano, Sierra Gorda, Calama and Ollagüe. The Science Train is a project ...
ann1077 — Announcement
Connecting Paranal to the World
22 October 2010: ESO and its partners in an international consortium are in the final stages of building EVALSO [1], a new data infrastructure in Chile. This brochure explains the why, the where and the how — why this fast data link is necessary, where it is located, and how the cutting-edge technology will make a big difference for operations at ESO and its partner institutions. The brochure is available for download in PDF format. Notes [1] EVALSO is an international consortium of astronomical organisations and research network operators, part-funded under the European Commission FP7.It is a partnership between Universita degli Studi di Trieste, Italy; ESO; Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany; Consortium GARR (Gestione Ampliamento Rete Ricerca), Italy; Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands; Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Italy; Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom; Cooperación LatinoAmericana de Redes Avanzadas (CLARA), Uruguay; and Red Universitaria Nacional (REUNA), Chile.
ann1076 — Announcement
Invitation to the Press: Electric Supercar Meets the World’s Most Advanced Telescopes on October 27 at Cerro Paranal, Chile
22 October 2010: An extraordinary event is set to take place on Wednesday, 27 October 2010 (note the change of date), when one of the most advanced electric vehicles ever made, the SRZero supercar, will stop by at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope at Cerro Paranal, Chile. The press are invited to attend this remarkable meeting of two technological masterpieces that are both examples of the finest inventions that have taken humanity to the limits of the possible, both on this planet and beyond. The event for journalists will begin with a 16:00 check-in at Paranal Observatory, followed by extensive photo and video opportunities, tours of the telescopes, interviews with leading engineers and astronomers, and a stunning sunset around 20:00. Interested journalists are asked to contact Gonzalo Argandona before the event at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Santiago Office (Alonso de Cordova 3107, Vitacura; tel: +56 2 463 3258); or send ...
ann1075 — Announcement
ESOcast 22: The Most Distant Galaxy Ever Measured
21 October 2010: An international team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope has measured the distance to the most remote galaxy known so far. This is the first time that scientists have been able to confirm that they are observing a galaxy as it was in the era of reionisation — when the first generation of brilliant stars stripped out the opaque hydrogen fog filling the young Universe, thus making it transparent and ending the cosmic Dark Ages. In the latest ESOcast host Dr J explains how the historic observations were made, and the science that can be learned from them. The ESOcast is available in multiple formats, including HD. Episodes can also be watched or downloaded directly from iTunes.
ann1074 — Announcement
The Sky Comes Closer in Northern Chile
20 October 2010: The Sky in our Hands (El Cielo en Nuestras Manos) is a new educational activity offered by the Cruz del Sur public observatory (Southern Cross Observatory), a popular tourist destination located near Combarbalá, in the Region of Coquimbo in Chile. The activity, which is intended for primary school children, consists of a new educational video entitled Laura Estrella (Laura Star), as well as printed materials and paper models for practical workshops. In the video, a little girl named Laura dreams of a space voyage where she — guided by her mother — discovers some secrets of the Universe, from planetary motions to the shape of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. The project also included the development of practical exercises and games, which are available from the Southern Cross Observatory. The Sky in our Hands was supported and financed by the European Southern Observatory, through the ESO–Chilean Government Joint Committee ...
ann1073 — Announcement
Media Advisory: Groundbreaking New Findings on Distant Universe to be Announced at ESO Online Press Conference
18 October 2010: A team of European astronomers has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope and its powerful instrumentation to push the study of the earliest galaxies further than ever before. An online press conference to announce the new results and offer journalists the opportunity for discussion with the scientists will be held at 16:00 CEST on Tuesday, 19 October 2010. To participate in the teleconference and receive additional material under embargo, bona-fide members of the media must get accredited by contacting Douglas Pierce-Price by email ( Reporters will need access to a computer with a recent version of Adobe Flash Player installed and a decent internet connection. Further information will be provided to the accredited reporters.
ann1072 — Announcement
Latest Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal Highlights Cultural Astronomy
15 October 2010: This special issue of Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal (CAPjournal) looks at IYA2009 events that focused on cultural astronomy and discusses how including a historical or cultural aspect can help communicators to engage with a wider audience. During IYA2009, many countries ran projects that can be classed as “Cultural Astronomy”. The activities described focused on indigenous astronomy, the history of astronomy and the inclusive nature of astronomy — as a hobby that can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere. Activities included public events that combined telescope observing with storytelling, new learning modules for school children, theatre productions and cultural astronomy exhibitions. Articles in this issue include “Australian Aboriginal Astronomy in the IYA2009”, “Mi’kmaq Night Sky Stories”, “Making Astronomy Culturally Relevant” and many more. It is hoped that the selection of events presented in CAPjournal 9 will encourage others to highlight the cultural aspect of astronomy in their own education and ...
ann1071 — Announcement
Pinning Down an Asteroid Collision
13 October 2010: Astronomers have used the ESO New Technology Telescope (NTT) and other ground-based telescopes, in conjunction with the ESA spacecraft Rosetta to study a very strange celestial object that resembles a highly unusual comet tail. Using the new observations they could reconstruct the sequence of events, and concluded that, in the first half of February 2009, a small rock with a diameter of only a few meters smashed into the asteroid P/2010 A2. This high-speed collision created the trail of dust that was discovered as the bizarre “comet”. The result is also confirmed by independent results from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. To work out the history of this unique event, Colin Snodgrass (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and ESO) and collaborators have combined images from ground and space, including those taken from a very different position by the Rosetta probe, which is currently far out in the Solar ...
ann1070 — Announcement
European Virtual Observatory Shows that Galaxies like the Milky Way Form Easily
10 October 2010: A new study has confirmed that galaxies like the Milky Way form easily. The investigation, carried out by Kambiz Fathi at the Institute of Astronomy of Stockholm University, also shows that Milky-Way-sized galaxies have been the biggest spiral galaxies for at least the last 3.4 billion years of the Universe’s 13.7-billion-year history. To come to his conclusions, Fathi measured images of 30 000 galaxies, using the facilities of the European Virtual Observatory (EURO-VO) [1]. ESO is a co-leader of the EURO-VO Facility Centre. Virtual Observatories allow astronomers to use the power of the internet and large databases to re-use and combine existing observations from many different telescopes in innovative ways. For each of the 30 000 galaxies, he estimated the number of stars in the parts of galaxies where spiral arms are prominent, using images from the Sloan Digitized Sky Survey telescope [2]. The Sun occupies just such a place in the ...
ann1069 — Announcement
Science in School issue 16 now available
8 October 2010: The latest issue of Science in School, a free science education journal, is now available. The many exciting stories in this issue cover topics such as marine conservation, car racing in the physics classroom, flying doctors, and hot stuff in the deep sea. Science in School is published by EIROforum, a collaboration between seven European intergovernmental scientific research organisations, of which ESO is a member. The journal addresses science teaching both across Europe and across disciplines: highlighting the best in teaching and cutting-edge research.
ann1068 — Announcement
Predicting the Size and Shape of an Asteroid at a Distance
7 October 2010: Astronomers have used the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), in conjunction with other telescopes, adaptive optics technology and an advanced computer program, to accurately predict the size and shape of an asteroid 200 million km from Earth. As the asteroid, (21) Lutetia, is only 100 km across, the challenging Earth-based observations were equivalent to trying to measure the size and shape of a large baked potato at a distance of about 200 km. Each of the approximately 300 snapshots shows the asteroid as little more than a small blob, but by combining all of them, together with further measurements of the brightness of the asteroid over time, the team were able to reconstruct a three-dimensional model of Lutetia. Following this, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft took high-resolution photographs of Lutetia during a fly-by in July 2010. The images show convincingly that the ground-based observations correctly predicted both the size and shape of the ...
ann1067 — Announcement
ESO Photo Ambassadors Share Spectacular Images of the Night Sky
5 October 2010: ESO boasts many talented astrophotographers among its employees and collaborators, the finest of whom have been rewarded for their dedication by being designated official ESO Photo Ambassadors. These devoted individuals take awe-inspiring images of the night sky from ESO sites in Chile, using their photographic skills to remind us all of the beauty of the night sky. Backed with official ESO support, this team ensure that we can all — regardless of where we live — see the exquisite southern night sky in its full and untainted glory. Selected photographs from the Photo Ambassadors are regularly released as ESO Pictures of the Week, via the ESO Twitter feed and Facebook page, and as slideshows on the group’s web page. Current Photo Ambassadors include Yuri Beletsky, Stéphane Guisard, Gerhard Hüdepohl, José Francisco Salgado and Serge Brunier. If you are an ESO employee or collaborator and think you have what it takes ...
ann1066 — Announcement
Discover ESO's Hidden Treasures
4 October 2010: The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is proud to present Hidden Treasures — a free competition for everyone who enjoys making beautiful images of the night sky using real astronomical data. The competition has some extremely attractive prizes for the lucky winners who produce the most beautiful and original images, including an all expenses paid trip to ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal, in Chile, the world’s most advanced optical telescope. And the winner will have a chance to participate in the nightly VLT observations under the crisp Chilean skies. The job however is not for the faint-hearted, as many terabytes of data are available, spanning many years, different instruments and technologies. The goal is to dig a dataset out of the ESO science archive, process the raw frames and assemble them into a stunning colour or greyscale image. Can you compete with the best astrophotography specialists? There are ...
ann1065 — Announcement
ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator Version 3 Released
1 October 2010: Today, the third — and best — version of the popular ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator image-processing software has been released with several significant improvements. As with the previous versions of the FITS Liberator, the new version makes another leap towards making the creation of colour images from raw astronomical observations easier and faster. The FITS Liberator continues to support the FITS and PDS formats, preferred by astronomers and planetary scientists respectively, which enables data to be processed from a wide range of telescopes and planetary probes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, ESA’s XMM–Newton Telescope and Cassini–Huygens or Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The new FITS Liberator incorporates a faster and more streamlined workflow. The CPU-intensive calculations have been optimised, thanks to significantly improved memory management, and this allows for time savings of up to 35%. For large images the savings in efficiency are even ...
ann1064 — Announcement
ESO Postdoctoral Fellowships open for application
30 September 2010: Several Postdoctoral Fellowships will soon be awarded at ESO Germany and Chile. These Fellowships will offer young and bright scientists opportunities and facilities to enhance their science research projects at the most productive observatory in the world. ESO is presently operating the VLT and La Silla Telescopes and APEX, is the European partner in the ALMA project, and is designing the E-ELT, the largest optical-infrared telescope in the world. The ESO Fellowship Programme is a competitive one: don’t miss the deadline on 15 October!
ann1063 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 4 October 2010: How Large is the Universe?
30 September 2010: The next Café & Kosmos discussion evening will take place on 4 October 2010. It will deal with the question of the scale of the Universe. We will start with familiar scales: the Sun has a diameter of about 1 million kilometres. But it is only one of about 100 billion stars in our Milky Way, which stretches over a distance of 100 000 light-years. And our home galaxy is just one of many! During the Café & Kosmos evening, astrophysicist Dr. Wolfram Freudling, from ESO, will discuss large-scale structures in the Universe, where galaxies and galaxy clusters cling like drops of dew on a giant, three-dimensional spider’s web. But how can astronomers discover and measure these structures? These and other questions will be answered in the light of frontline scientific research. The Café & Kosmos series of discussions is organised jointly by ESO, the Excellence Cluster Universe and the Max-Planck Institutes for Physics, Astrophysics ...
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