ann13015 — Announcement
New Hardware to Take Interferometry to the Next Level
1 March 2013: ESO has just taken delivery of the last of a series of sophisticated optical and mechanical systems called star separators for the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). These systems from the Dutch research institute TNO will allow the VLTI’s future instruments to observe much fainter objects than is possible at present. A bright star is needed as a reference so the VLTI can correct for the constantly changing atmospheric conditions and remain precisely adjusted to extremely high precision. Currently this bright star must also be the target of the observations, limiting the type of object that astronomers can study with the VLTI. But the new star separator technology allows two objects to be observed together: a bright star to track the atmosphere and a faint target to be studied. The corrections from the bright object are applied to the fainter one. Thanks to this development the reach of VLTI, using ...
ann13014 — Announcement
How is the Very Large Telescope Operated?
27 February 2013: ESO has produced and released a brochure containing information on the operation of the state-of-the-art instrumentation and facilities provided by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal, Chile. The publication, entitled Operating the Very Large Telescope, describes the end-to-end science operations process: how observing time on the VLT is allocated, the efficiency and flexibility of the process for obtaining some of this time; what it is like to observe at a world-class site like Paranal, and how the data are collected, stored and shared. The VLT’s observing schedule, as well as the collection and archiving of the gathered data, is managed by teams at the ESO Headquarters in Garching, Germany, and at the different ESO sites in Chile. The strong link between Garching and Chile, ESO’s host country, has enabled the VLT to develop from an idea into a very efficient science machine. As well as the VLT operations, astronomers ...
ann13013 — Announcement
Media Advisory: The Crown Prince Couple of Denmark to Meet the Press at Paranal Observatory
26 February 2013: On 14 March 2013, His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Denmark, will visit ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile accompanied by his wife, Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess. Denmark has been member of ESO since 1967, and the visit is part of the Crown Prince Couple’s official visit to Chile which will showcase several important cultural, industrial, health, environmental and scientific links between Denmark and Chile. The Crown Prince Couple will be meeting the press outside the Paranal Residencia at 20:45 CET/16:45 CLT on 14 March 2013. Members of the press are welcome to attend in person. To participate in this press and photo opportunity or to receive additional information, members of the media must obtain accreditation by contacting Mathieu Isidro ( A confirmation email will be sent and additional information will be provided only to the accredited media before the event. Accreditation will remain open until 8 March ...
ann13012 — Announcement
New ALMA Brochure Published
25 February 2013: A new brochure called The ALMA Universe detailing the design, construction, and use of the the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has been released by ESO in collaboration with its partners in the USA (NRAO) and East Asia (NAOJ). This publication describes the components and properties of the observatory that make it such a groundbreaking project, from its location to its revolutionary antennas, its specialised receivers and transporters, the powerful ALMA correlator supercomputer, its high imaging resolution and vividly clear astronomical images. The brochure also highlights some of the recent scientific discoveries made by ALMA. Although it is not yet fully functional, the array has achieved incredible results from just a partial arrangement of antennas during its Early Science observing phase. The ALMA brochure is available to view online in both English and Spanish.
ann13011 — Announcement
Final ALMA Front End Delivered
22 February 2013: The final front end for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has been delivered to the observatory’s Operations Support Facility (OSF) in Chile, marking another milestone in the completion of the project. With one installed in each of ALMA’s 66 antennas, the front ends are the first step in a long chain of devices that receive, convert, process and record the astronomical data collected by the telescope. Each front end contains a set of extremely sensitive receivers, cooled to temperatures of just four degrees above absolute zero (-269 degrees Celsius), which detect the millimetre- and submillimetre-wavelength light that ALMA “sees”. Construction of the front ends for ALMA has been shared between the European, North American and East Asian partners in the project. Twenty-six of the total complement of 70 units were built at the European Front End Integration Centre, based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the UK, including ...
ann13010 — Announcement
New Laser Improves VLT’s Capabilities
21 February 2013: A new and more powerful laser has successfully completed testing at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and has been formally accepted today. This new laser source is called PARLA and forms a vital part of the Laser Guide Star Facility (LGSF) at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The laser is used to generate an artificial star about 90 kilometres up in the atmosphere [1]. By creating and observing such a bright point of light astronomers can probe the turbulence in the layers of the atmosphere above the telescope. This information is then used to adjust deformable mirrors in real time in order to correct most of the disturbances caused by the constant movement of atmosphere and create much sharper images. The new laser will greatly improve the reliability and flexibility in operating the LGSF. It uses similar technology to that which will also be employed in the four lasers of the future ...
ann13009 — Announcement
ESO Extends Lead as World’s Most Productive Ground-based Observatory
19 February 2013: An analysis of the number of peer-reviewed scientific papers published in 2012 using data from ESO’s telescopes and instruments has shown that ESO remains the world’s most productive ground-based observatory. More than 870 refereed papers using ESO data were published last year, a significant increase from the previous totals, and the most in ESO’s history. The number of papers using observations from ESO in 2012 was slightly ahead of those that used data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. About 70% of all the papers credited to ESO in 2012 employ data acquired using the Very Large Telescope (VLT)/ VLT Interferometer facilities, a fraction that has been consistently increasing over the past three years. Other facilities of the La Silla Paranal Observatory — including the survey telescope VISTA at Paranal as well as La Silla telescopes and instruments — have similar numbers to the previous year, and they alone nearly ...
ann13008 — Announcement
ESOcast 53: Chile Chill 3
15 February 2013: This is the third installment of Chile Chill, a type of ESOcast designed to offer a calm experience of the Chilean night sky and ESO’s observing sites, undisturbed by facts or narration. In this episode we are treated to stunning views of the Atacama Desert, including the conical volcano Licancabur and slow moonrises over the Andes. This episode is focused on ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Watch the synchronised movement of the antennas as they dance to an audience of stars, which appear to race across the sky in time-lapse sequences. The ALMA project is very near to completion and is already providing scientists with many exciting and significant results. The video is set to instrumental music composed by John Stanford ( More Information The ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO — the European Southern Observatory. Subscribe to ...
ann13007 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 5 February 2013
31 January 2013: with Dr. Andreas Müller (Universe Cluster) Time paces our life. We plan our schedules and our whole lives using it. In contrast to space, time has only one direction. It is constantly progressing, and we can not move back in time to undo mistakes from our past. However, according to Einstein's theory of relativity, time is not as unalterable as we experience it. Worse: when studying time, we have to consider what the whole Universe is doing, and under some conditions, time might even vanish. At next Café & Kosmos on 5 February 2013, Dr. Andreas Müller (Excellence Cluster Universe), author of the book Space and Time will discuss the mysteries of time with the audience. Exceptionally, Café & Kosmos will take place on the first Tuesday of the month (instead of the second) on 5 February. Also, please note of the new venue: Café & Kosmos will take place ...
ann13006 — Announcement
ESO takes part in Chile’s biggest ever international summit
22 January 2013: The Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union, the largest such event ever organised in Chile, was opened by President Sebastian Piñera today. The summit is a forum for the discussion of international affairs, with 61 heads of state and of government and their delegations invited, and with 1500 journalists from around the globe among the 3000 delegates attending. The summit is taking place between 22 and 27 January in Santiago. Astronomy will be a strong theme throughout the event, featured on various occasions on giant screens at the conference, through imagery of and from ESO’s observatories in Northern Chile. In the “Retiro” (“retreat”), the small room where heads of state will gather in an intimate setting to discuss international matters, a scale model of ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope will decorate the centre of the room amidst constellations of the southern ...
ann13005 — Announcement
ESO Industry Day in Poland
22 January 2013: On 22 January 2013 an ESO Industry Day was held at the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center in Warsaw, Poland. The meeting offered representatives of Polish companies and institutions information about ESO, and the potential opportunities — should Poland at some point join the organisation — to take part in its industrial activities. “We are delighted to have this opportunity to inform industry in Poland about ESO's current facilities and its challenging future plans,” said Tim de Zeeuw, ESO’s Director General, at the opening of the meeting. "Many exciting opportunities for ESO's Member States will appear in the near future, both for scientists and for industry, now that the E-ELT programme has been fully approved by the ESO Council." Modern astronomical telescopes and detectors are composed of many elements, which have to be designed by engineers and scientists, and produced by scientific and technological companies and institutes. Observatories need advanced infrastructure ...
ann13004 — Announcement
New ESO Science Outreach Network countries
22 January 2013: ESO has extended its Science Outreach Network (ESON) further, by appointing national representatives for Russia, Romania and Latvia. The network now covers 27 countries, including the 15 member states. The core of the ESO website is now available in 19 different languages. This means that over one and half billion people can now access information about ESO and read about astronomical discoveries in their native language. Press releases are translated into 17 different languages, and many of the Pictures of the Week and announcements are made available in more and more languages. The nodes of the ESO Science Outreach Network act as ESO’s local media and outreach contacts with the general aim of promoting ESO's mission and demonstrating the many inspirational aspects of astronomy. They also serve as contacts between the media and scientists in their local area and can also be approached in connection with ESO’s projects and other ...
ann13003 — Announcement
ESOcast 52: It's Raining Stars!
15 January 2013: On 14–16 December 2012, the Geminid meteor shower made a spectacular appearance over ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile. As the meteors showered down over the site, ESO Photo Ambassador Gianluca Lombardi was ready with his camera to record the spectacle. He spent over 40 hours recording the shower. The Geminids is a shower of shooting stars appearing to emanate from within the constellation of Gemini (The Twins). This shower occurs when the Earth cuts through the orbit of an asteroid named 3200 Phaethon, which happens once each year, in December. Particles in the trail of dust along the orbit of Phaethon burn up in our atmosphere, creating the brilliant, fast-moving points of light characteristic of meteor showers. This is the second installment of Chile Chill, a type of ESOcast designed to offer a calm experience of the Chilean night sky and ESO’s observing sites, undisturbed by narration. The Very Large ...
ann13002 — Announcement
ALMA Doubles its Power in New Phase of More Advanced Observations
8 January 2013: ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) has begun a new and more advanced phase of science observations. This phase is known as Early Science Cycle 1, and will last until October 2013. The telescope’s power has been greatly increased: it will make observations with more antennas, spread over a greater distance, than ever before, and will use antennas from the Atacama Compact Array (ACA) for the first time. Although ALMA is still under construction, its first scientific operations began in 2011. This phase was known as Early Science Cycle 0. ALMA has already outperformed all other telescopes of its kind, and the unprecedented capabilities of the telescope have brought a first wave of exciting scientific results over the last year (see for example ann12101, eso1216, eso1239, and eso1248). The Cycle 0 observations started with just 16 of the telescope’s final complement of 66 antennas (which will be composed of a ...
ann13001 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 8 January 2013
4 January 2013: With Prof. Dr. Andreas Burkert (Universe Cluster) A gas cloud identified as G2 is rapidly moving toward the centre of the Milky Way. In 2013, it will make its closest approach to the supermassive black hole that is lurking there. The cloud has a mass a few times that of the Earth, and it is observable with the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile. Such an observation will be extraordinary for several reasons: first, the passage of a gas cloud near — or into — a black hole has never been observed before. Also, the evolution of the cloud is expected to be very fast. Theoreticians will therefore be able to check the predictions of their models very quickly. Prof. Dr. Andreas Burkert, from the Excellence Cluster Universe, will discuss the possible fate of this cloud with the guests of the next Café & Kosmos, on 8 January 2013. Please ...
ann12103 — Announcement
ESO Virtual Tours: 50th Anniversary Edition
20 December 2012: The fourth generation of ESO’s Virtual Tours is now available to view on the ESO website. The 50th anniversary edition of ESO’s virtual tours take you on all-inclusive journeys into and around some of ESO’s most breathtaking sites and groundbreaking instruments. This brand new version surpasses earlier tours by including more than double the original number of panoramic scenes. Thanks to a user-friendly and interactive navigation system, these virtual tours allow everyone to visit and explore some of ESO’s most spectacular sites. Labels describing the locations and major landmarks are included throughout the tour as well as a google maps link-up that lets you to pinpoint exactly where each ESO site is in relation to the rest if the world, and allow you to jump across the globe to visit them in seconds. It is also possible to click on interactive squares throughout the tour that display short video clips ...
ann12102 — Announcement
ESO Releases The Messenger No. 150
18 December 2012: The latest edition of ESO’s quarterly journal, The Messenger, is now available online. This landmark 150th issue celebrates a milestone for the journal as well as ESO’s 50th anniversary. It also comes with an anniversary DVD insert. Find out more about ESO’s 50 years of reaching the stars, as well as the latest news from ESO on topics ranging from new instruments to the latest science discoveries.Highlights of this edition include: A look back over ESO’s 50th anniversary celebrations and some reflections from past Directors General. An article describing the evolution and growth of observing programmes at ESO. An update on the progress made by the La Silla-QUEST Variability Survey. A review of the main discoveries made by studying the Beta Pictoris system. Download The Messenger in PDF format or visit The Messenger website to subscribe and receive a free printed copy.
ann12101 — Announcement
Astronomers Around the World Meet to Share ALMA Observatory First Results
17 December 2012: Astronomers from around the world have been meeting in Chile to discuss the exciting first year of scientific results from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope. ALMA started Early Science operations at the end of September 2011, and the first scientific papers have recently been appearing in refereed journals. “Out of this first year of ALMA science we already have transformational results in the main ALMA science areas,” says Leonardo Testi from ESO, Chair of the Conference Scientific Organising Committee. “We now have a much better understanding of the process of planet formation around other stars. New and important results were obtained in the area of pre-biotic molecules in space, which may be linked to the origin of life. With ALMA we are starting to study in detail the chemistry of water and complex organic molecules and this is important for understanding our origins,” he added. Two hundred astronomers ...
ann12100 — Announcement
Venus Transit Seen Reflected from the Moon
14 December 2012: On 6 June 2012 Venus passed directly between the Earth and the Sun and the planet appeared as a silhouette against the solar disc. Such a transit of Venus will not happen again until 5 December 2117. The recent transit could not be seen from ESO’s Chile observatories as the Sun was below the horizon. But, undaunted, a team of Italian astronomers led by Paolo Molaro of the Instituto Nazionale di Astrofisica at the University of Trieste used the opportunity to perform an unusual and challenging experiment, looking at the sunlight reflected off the Moon to see how it changed during the transit. This measurement, done with ESO's High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph installed on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile, could help scientists to find planets in orbit around other stars. The team has published their results in the journal Monthly Notices of ...
ann12099 — Announcement
ALMA Time-lapse Video Compilation Released
12 December 2012: A video compilation of time-lapse footage of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is now available. The video is a collection of time-lapse shots of the ALMA site in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, showing the synchronised dance of the array’s antennas as they observe the clear night sky circling overhead. The several minutes of time-lapse video show the antennas in various conditions: as night falls and at dawn, under bright moonlight or with the centre of our Milky Way sparkling against the dark sky, and with the glow of lights from observatory vehicles and the antennas themselves. These observations take place against a backdrop of stunning night skies over the Chilean Plateau. The compilation, produced by ESO using footage from ESO Photo Ambassadors Christoph Malin (, Babak Tafreshi (, and José Francisco Salgado (, shows only a small cluster of the array’s many antennas. When completed, ALMA will ...
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