Announcements

ann12013 — Announcement
Multiple E-ELT Mirror Segments Tested Together for the First Time
24 February 2012: The next pieces of the jigsaw for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) — the world’s biggest eye on the sky — are coming together. At ESO’s Garching facility in Germany, a full-size mock-up of a small section of the E-ELT primary mirror and its support structures provides a first test of multiple segments of the E-ELT’s main mirror. Four of the 1.45-metre segments — the final mirror will have 798 — are being put through their paces to see how these hexagonal mirrors and their complex support units behave in real conditions, and whether they match the exacting requirements needed for the telescope. The mirror segments are made from different types of material from different manufacturers and are not yet coated to make them reflective. The current tests focus on the mechanical support systems, whose advanced sensors and actuators are used to keep the separate segments in the right ...
ann12012 — Announcement
VLT's New Laser Launchers Arrive at ESO
22 February 2012: Four special telescopes to fire laser beams high into the atmosphere to create artificial stars have been delivered to ESO. These are vital components of the Four Laser Guide Star Facility (4LGSF) for ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) that were developed by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). The 4LGSF is part of a next-generation adaptive optics system, the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF), that will make the VLT’s 4th Unit Telescope Yepun a fully adaptive telescope in 2013. Composed of four powerful 20-watt lasers, the 4LGSF will help the VLT correct the image distortion caused by turbulence in the air. Telescopes usually collect light coming from the sky and focus it into an instrument. However, the new components send light in the opposite direction. These “launchers”, are used to project the lasers into the sky to create brilliant points of light. The laser beams excite a layer of ...
ann12011 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 8 February 2012
6 February 2012: with Dr Markus Kissler Patig, ESO The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is setting out to build the largest optical telescope ever conceived: the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). This giant, with a primary mirror of 40 metres in diameter, is one of the most ambitious research infrastructures of the next decade, worldwide! Dr Markus Kissler-Patig (ESO), the Project Scientist for the E-ELT, will present the project and its technical challenges. Much of the necessary technology is forefront research, and the complexity of the machine is immense, promising headaches for many engineers over the next decade. He will discuss with the guests of Café & Kosmos why such a challenge is worthwhile: this observatory will allow ground-breaking discoveries in many fields. For the first time, we will be technically capable of not only detecting, but also characterising habitable planets beyond the Solar System. We will also be able to measure the ...
ann12010 — Announcement
Leading Exoplanet Hunters Awarded Science Prize
3 February 2012: World-renowned Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of the Geneva Observatory have been awarded the 2011 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Basic Sciences for their work on exoplanets. The foundation recognised their groundbreaking efforts in developing “new astronomical instruments and experimental techniques that led to the observation of planets outside the solar system”. These were instrumental in the first discovery of an exoplanet around a normal star, made by their team in 1995. The discovery revolutionised astronomy and initiated an entire new field that is focused on finding and characterising exoplanets. Since then, this field has been recognised by agencies and institutes around the world as one of the major challenges for astronomy in the coming decades. Michel Mayor and his then PhD student Didier Queloz developed the radial velocity technique for planet detection, which looks for the wobble of a star caused by the gravitational pull ...
ann12009 — Announcement
Franco Pacini, 1939–2012
26 January 2012: The Italian astronomer Franco Pacini, who was a key figure in the astronomy community, passed away yesterday, on 25 January 2012. Pacini began his long-term involvement with ESO in 1975, when he joined the newly created Scientific Division, based in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1978 he moved back to Italy as Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Florence and Director of the Arcetri Observatory, which he led until the creation of INAF in 2001. He played an important role in the accession of Italy to ESO in 1982, represented Italy on the ESO Council — ESO’s governing body — and was also Council President between 1991 and 1994. He served as President of the International Astronomical Union between 2001 and 2003, and was the founding father of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, a huge success for scientific outreach and increasing the awareness of astronomy around the world. He will ...
ann12008 — Announcement
ESO’s Paranal Observatory Chosen as “Perfect Place” by Land Rover
19 January 2012: The site of ESO’s Paranal Observatory, home of the world’s most advanced optical instrument, the Very Large Telescope (VLT), was one of the selected locations for an ad campaign entitled “Perfect Places”, recently launched worldwide by the British car maker Land Rover. The campaign presents Land Rover vehicles shot in unique places around the globe. The combination of state-of-the art technology, cutting-edge science, a stunning environment and impressive facilities makes ESO’s Paranal Observatory a unique place in the world for scientists, engineers and visitors alike. However, ESO’s site in Chile has recently drawn the attention of Land Rover as well, as being the perfect choice for “Perfect Places”, their new print and digital media ad campaign. Apart from being the best place for ground-based optical astronomy due to the astronomical quality of the atmosphere — characterised by the number of clear nights and the stability of the atmosphere (also known ...
ann12007 — Announcement
ALMA Director Receives Instrumentation Award
19 January 2012: The American Astronomical Society has awarded the 2012 Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation to Thijs de Graauw for his leadership in the construction of powerful new astronomical instruments including the Short Wavelength Spectrometer on the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) and the Heterodyne Instrument For the Infrared (HIFI) on the Herschel Space Observatory. HIFI is a spectrometer placed on the European Space Agency's infrared space observatory Herschel, which was launched in May 2009. HIFI was built to look for water in a variety of celestial objects, to probe stellar environments, and to study the role of gas and dust in the formation of stars and planets, and the evolution of galaxies. Recently, thanks to HIFI, Herschel confirmed that some comets contain water similar to that on Earth, supporting the theory that Earth's water comes from comets. It also discovered cold water vapour in a disk of dust around a young ...
ann12006 — Announcement
Black Hole Scientists Receive Prestigious Science Prize
19 January 2012: Earlier today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2012 Crafoord Prize in Astronomy to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their separate work on proving the existence of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. German astronomer Reinhard Genzel is director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, located in Garching on the same campus as ESO’s headquarters. His team has been involved in an unprecedented 20-year-long study of the movement of stars around the galactic centre, which is based on observations made with ESO’s New Technology Telescope at La Silla as well as ESO’s Very Large Telescope on Paranal. The tracking of the orbits of these stars over many years has enabled astronomers to provide the strongest evidence yet of the presence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy, as evidenced by the tight orbits of the stars due ...
ann12005 — Announcement
Educational App with ESO Content in New York Times Top 10 Best iPad Apps
18 January 2012: The New York Times has included the Back in Time app developed by the company Landka among its Top 10 iPad apps in 2011. ESO went into partnership with Landka to deliver content for this educational app, which is an animated history e-book that guides the reader through time from the first moments of the Universe’s history until the most recent events. ESO contributed images and animations for the first four chapters: The Big Bang, The First Stars, The Milky Way and The Solar System.According to The New York Times: “The coolest history textbook you’ll find on the iPad, Back in Time tells the story of the Universe using a 24-hour clock, where the Big Bang starts the day and humans appear in the final seconds.”An intuitive interface allows the user to scroll quickly through time, entering any major event in the history of our civilisation. Each event is documented ...
ann12004 — Announcement
ESOcast 40: Nobel Prize for Accelerating Universe Discovery
16 January 2012: This episode of the ESOcast looks at one of the key discoveries in physics made by astronomers in the past two decades: that our Universe is not only expanding, but that this expansion is also speeding up. Observations from ESO’s telescopes in Chile played a significant role in this revolutionary discovery, and scientists Saul Perlmutter (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, USA), Brian P. Schmidt (Australian National University), and Adam G. Riess (STScI, Baltimore, USA) were awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the find. Two of the follow-up projects were led by ESO staff members, Chris Lidman and Bruno Leibundgut, and other ESO staff members, Isobel Hook and Jason Spyromilio, were contributors to crucial papers. By observing exploding stars known as Type Ia supernovae, teams led by the Nobel laureates established that the expansion of the Universe was not slowing down, as had been expected ...
ann12003 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 10 January 2012
9 January 2012: with Prof. Jochen Schieck, Excellence Cluster Universe The Standard Model of particle physics is one of the best-validated models in physics today. Nevertheless, this model fails to account for some observed phenomena, such as dark matter, or the fact that there is no longer any antimatter in the Universe. With particle accelerators, scientists are trying to recreate the conditions in the early Universe and attempt to tackle these open questions. At Café & Kosmos on 10 January 2012, Professor Jochen Schieck (Excellence Cluster Universe) will describe two new accelerators before discussing their collision experiments: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and the new Super KEKB accelerator, which will start up in 2014, from the Japanese High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation, KEK. While the experiments at the LHC are tuned for very high energies, the physicists are adjusting the "newcomer" Super KEKB for maximum precision. Jochen Schieck will discuss with ...
ann12002 — Announcement
European Radio Astronomy Leaps into Future with RadioNet3
5 January 2012: On 1 January 2012, European radio astronomy entered a new era with the implementation of RadioNet3, the third iteration of RadioNet, the European radio astronomy collaboration. As the recognised European body for radio astronomy, RadioNet aims at facilitating access to leading radio astronomy facilities around the world for European radio astronomers. The European Commission recently secured the project by granting it 9.5 million euros for the period 2012–2015. The Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) will work with 24 European partner institutions, as well as South Korea, Australia and South Africa, to offer access to all 18 existing radio astronomy facilities in Europe. The project will also take full advantage of the APEX telescope operated by ESO, as well as the recently opened Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) of which ESO is a partner, both located in Chile. By promoting cooperation and making use of state-of-the-art facilities around the world, ...
ann12001 — Announcement
Share Your ESO Photo Memories!
5 January 2012: The year 2012 is ESO’s 50th anniversary. Established in 1962, ESO has evolved into a key focal point for Europe’s activities in ground-based astronomy, becoming the most productive observatory in the world, and now poised to take on a global role. Fifty years have brought many changes to ESO’s observatories, as the monthly ESO Then & Now Pictures of the Week [1] will showcase. For those who have witnessed ESO’s historical voyage from the inside, either as members of staff or simply as visitors to our sites, we have expanded the Your ESO Pictures Flickr Group [2] to include historical images. Please share your photo memories of ESO with us and everyone else by posting these “golden oldies” to the group — whether in colour or black and white, digital or analogue! The best pictures might make it into our Pictures of the Week section, or into our Anniversary coffee-table ...
ann11089 — Announcement
ALMA’s Oasis in the Desert
21 December 2011: ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, will soon have its own “hotel” for the astronomers, engineers, and other staff working at the observatory. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) — the European partner in ALMA — is providing the accommodation and living complex for the project, and has just signed a contract for the detailed design with the Finnish architects Kouvo & Partanen. The hotel residence will be built at 2900 metres above sea level, at the ALMA Operations Support Facility in the Atacama Desert, in the foothills of the Chilean Andes. The design phase is planned to last six months, followed by the procurement actions for the construction. Completion of construction is expected in 2014. The buildings’ architectural design will be integrated into the landscape by using local materials such as stone, copper and volcanic rock. Their facades and structures will use the colours and tones of the surroundings, and ...
ann11088 — Announcement
ESO’s 2012 Calendar is Available
21 December 2011: The European Southern Observatory’s 2012 calendar has been released. The 2012 edition is dedicated to ESO's 50th anniversary. It sports a specially designed ESO logo, and features a timeline of the most important dates in the history of ESO and its front-line telescopes, as well as ESO’s ten most significant scientific discoveries. For added convenience, lunar phases throughout the year are also indicated. Combining a selection of the most stunning images of astronomical objects from the past year, as well as of ESO’s flagship telescopes, the 2012 calendar is a tribute to ESO’s historical achievements and tradition of innovation acquired over 50 years of experience at the forefront of astronomy. The calendar measures 42 x 42 cm and has 15 pages, with a cardboard back.
ann11087 — Announcement
ESO Awarded Highest Engineering Prize in Chile
21 December 2011: The Chilean Engineers Association awarded the National Prize 2011 to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in the category of institutions, for its valuable contribution to engineering development in Chile. On behalf of ESO, the Representative in Chile, Massimo Tarenghi, received a medal and a diploma during a ceremony held on 11 October 2011. In the category of professional of the year, the prize was awarded to the Chilean engineer Santiago Arias Soto, a global expert on seismic structural design.This prize has been awarded every year since 1992, to the engineer or institution that excels in the construction of complex civil works and contributes to the development of Chile with challenging projects, technological transfer to and from the country, high standards of environmental protection and an active role for Chilean engineering.
ann11086 — Announcement
First Complete Set of Detectors for ALMA Delivered to ESO
21 December 2011: The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has just taken delivery of the last of a set of 73 state-of-the-art extremely sensitive detectors for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project, from NOVA (the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy). When complete, ALMA will consist of 66 large antennas, operating as a single telescope. It will observe the Universe in light with wavelengths around one millimetre or less — very short wavelength radio waves. To do this, each of the antennas must be equipped with an arsenal of detectors, like highly sensitive radio receivers, operating in different wavelength bands. The receivers, which are being made by institutes in Europe, North America, and Japan, must be cooled to temperatures of -269 degrees Celsius in order to detect the faint signals from space. The so-called “Band 9” receivers are the second-shortest wavelength ALMA detectors, detecting light with wavelengths as short as 420µm (0.42 millimetres). The ...
ann11085 — Announcement
ESO Releases The Messenger No. 146
21 December 2011: The newest edition of ESO’s quarterly journal, The Messenger, is now available online. Find out the latest from ESO, with topics ranging from new instruments to the latest discoveries. Highlights include: The dramatic story behind the new VLT Survey Telescope (VST) on Paranal, and its 300-megapixel wide-field optical camera, OmegaCAM. The milestone of four-telescope interferometry with PIONIER for the Very Large Telescope Interferometer. The spectra of extremely metal-poor stars, and the discovery of an extremely primitive star with X-shooter. Probing the epoch of reionisation by studying the Ly-alpha luminosity function at high redshift. Download The Messenger in PDF format or visit The Messenger website to subscribe and receive a free printed copy.
ann11084 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 21 December 2011
16 December 2011: with Dr Hubertus Thomas, Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics On 21 December 2011 Café & Kosmos goes to the International Space Station! There, scientists perform many different experiments, including those on plasma crystal research, about which Dr. Hubertus Thomas (MPE) will speak this evening, bringing the Café & Kosmos visitors and the ISS closer. A plasma is an ionised gas, which is, after the solid, liquid and gaseous states, a fourth state of matter. Therefore, a plasma crystal is in itself an impossible state of matter! Crystallisation in a plasma is only possible with the addition of "dust". But then the scientists can distinguish separate particles, ie individual "atoms", and dynamically monitor processes such as melting, or investigate directly the motion of lattice defects. Since the particles are about one thousandth of a millimetre in size, gravity plays a major role in the generation of plasma crystals. In the laboratory, ...
ann11083 — Announcement
ESOcast 39: A Black Hole's Dinner is Fast Approaching
14 December 2011: This episode of the ESOcast looks at exciting new observations of a mysterious object that is a favoured theme in science fiction: the black hole. But the science fiction is fast becoming science fact, and the ending won’t be a happy one for the black hole’s victim. Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have discovered a gas cloud with several times the mass of the Earth accelerating fast towards the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. This is the first time ever that the approach of such a doomed cloud to a supermassive black hole has been observed. Watch the episode to learn more about how astronomers discovered this cloud, and what is going to happen to it over the next few years. More Information The ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO — the European Southern ...