eso9302 — Science Release
Frontiers of Astronomy
Exciting Astronomy Exhibition Opens in Florence
27 March 1993
The past decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in our knowledge of the Universe we live in. New instruments for astronomical observations and analysis are unveiling the secrets of deep space at an ever-increasing pace. Detailed studies of planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies and strange, exotic celestial objects have provided us with new insights into the formation, structure and evolution of our Universe.
Giant astronomical telescopes, now under construction in several countries, will soon increase our possibilities to observe and better understand what is going on in the space that surrounds us. This is the background for the exhibition "Frontiers of Astronomy" which opens at the Sala D'Armi of the famous Pallazzo Vecchio in Florence on March 27, 1993.
This event takes place within the official programme of the "Terza settimana della cultura scientifica" (April 19-25, 1993). The exhibition is sponsored by the Ministero dell'Universita della Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica, the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, the Regione Toscana, the Commune di Firenze and the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze.
The exhibition has been produced by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Florence. ESO, the European astronomy organisation, is supported by eight European countries, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. It operates the world's largest optical astronomical observatory at La Silla in the Atacama desert in northern Chile where 15 large astronomical telescopes are available for Europe's astronomers. More than 500 of them make use of this facility each year.
Here is also the ESO New Technology Telescope (NTT) with a 3.5 m diameter mirror, a unique instrument of its kind which became operational in 1990. It represents a great step forward in telescope technology and was to a large extent built by Italian firms. An ``Italian'' twin of the NTT (for use by Italian astronomers) is now being built by the same firms; it will be placed in the Northern Hemisphere.
The exhibition describes some of the most recent, exciting discoveries in astronomy and also presents ESO's La Silla observatory as well as the 16-m Very Large Telescope (VLT) — ESO's current, ambitious project which aims at building the largest and most advanced optical telescope in the world. The construction of the VLT is well underway, again with the strong involvement of Italian industry, and it is scheduled for completion in 1999—2000.
Large photos, models and videos are on display at the exhibition, as well as interactive computer programmes where the visitor can learn more about the sky and the universe. There is also a unique 8-m wide panoramic picture of our galaxy - the Milky Way - the only existing
photo of the entire Milky Way which shows this amount of details.
Visitors will also see the famous Southern Cross and the Summer Triangle, that striking constellation in the summer sky of the Northern hemisphere. Impressive photos of the Magellanic Clouds, not visible from Europe, are also displayed.
One part of the exhibition illustrates the astronomical research carried out at the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory and of past developments of astronomy in Florence, including copies of Galileo's original instruments, preserved in the Museum of Science in Florence.
While the exhibition itself is aimed at the general public, an important scientific event will take place in Florence within this period, that is the Annual Meeting of the Italian Astronomical Society
(May 4-8, 1993).
The exhibition will remain open until May 8, 1993.