Abstracts of Large Programmes and Public Spectroscopic Surveys scheduled in Period 101

This list of OPC approved Large Programmes (LPs) is updated every observing period.



Theoretical models of AGN radiative feedback predict that AGN-driven, galaxy wide massive outflows are not a rare and peculiar phenomenon, but a fundamental process affecting the bulk of the baryons in the universe. Currently, sparse observational evidence of AGN feedback exists at z$>1$ but mostly limited to high luminosity objects, therefore a comprehensive picture is still far from being reached. The time is ripe for a systematic approach. We propose a SINFONI Large Programme, SUPER, aimed at carrying out the first statistically-sound investigation of ionized outflows in AGN host galaxies at the peak epoch of AGN and galaxy assembly, z$\approx 2$. SUPER is designed to map the ionized gas kinematics ([OIII], \hbeta, \halpha) with $\sim 1$ kpc spatial resolution, by exploiting the SINFONI AO capabilities, in a sample probing four orders of magnitude in AGN bolometric luminosity. SUPER will deliver tight scaling relations between the frequency, mass, mass flow rate and momentum rate of ionized outflows, and AGN bolometric luminosity and Eddington ratio, which can be directly plugged into models of galaxy evolution. SUPER will constrain the morphology of different kinematical components, fast outflowing gas versus quiescent star-forming gas, directly probing the effect of outflows on the star-formation processes and galaxy shaping.




Asteroids in our solar system are metallic, rocky and/or icy objects, ranging in size from a few meters to a few hundreds of kilometers. Whereas we now possess constraints for the surface composition of most D$\geq$100 km primordial main-belt asteroids, little is known regarding their internal structure. Yet, this is a fundamental property whose characteristics result directly from (a) their formation location, (b) their time of formation, and (c) their collisional history. Characterizing the internal structure of the main compositional classes of asteroids would therefore allow us to address entirely new questions regarding the earliest stages of planetesimal formation and their subsequent collisional and dynamical evolution. To achieve this goal, we propose - for a modest amount of observing time ($\sim$3 nights/semester) - to carry out disk-resolved observations of a substantial fraction of all D$\geq$100 km main-belt asteroids (sampling the four main compositional classes) at high angular-resolution with VLT/SPHERE throughout their rotation. These observations will enable us to derive their volume (via their 3-D shape) which combined with already existing mass estimates will allow us to determine their bulk density and hence to characterize their internal structure. Such information will, in turn, provide unprecedented constraints on solar system formation models such as the Nice and Grand Tack models.




Novel wide-field synoptic surveys of the sky, combined with multi-wavelength and multi-messenger experiments, mean we have now entered a golden age in transient astronomy. PESSTO has changed the way such transient science is carried out within ESO, and has prepared us for these new surveys by gathering the ESO supernova community into one coherent team, making the NTT a key global facility (50+ papers). We have provided legacy datasets for the most luminous supernovae, unusual tidal disruption flares, faint transients in remote halo locations, and quantified how interaction powers the fastest and most unusual supernovae. The SOXS spectrometer has now been selected by ESO to replace EFOSC2 and SOFI in 2020, dedicating the NTT to time-domain astronomy in the next decade. We now propose `extended'-PESSTO (ePESSTO), building on the success of our PESSTO consortium and bridging the gap to SOXS. We will broaden the science to include of GRBs, gravitational wave sources, and high energy neutrinos, and will focus on the most exciting new transient populations now being discovered. The new all-sky surveys of Gaia, ASASSN, ATLAS and the upcoming Pan-STARRS2 and Zwicky Transient Facility demand extensive spectroscopic follow-up which we, the ESO community, are well placed to lead. We will continue to make all reduced data public as we do for PESSTO.




The nature of dark energy is one of the most enigmatic questions in Physics research. Cosmological surveys are now driving ambitious observational programmes to study the nature of dark energy. ESO is conducting the KiDS survey for this purpose and Europe is currently leading this effort from space with the upcoming Euclid mission, which has gathered wide support from the European research community. Weak lensing mapping of the dark matter distribution has emerged as the potentially most powerful observable to map the structure of the universe. In order to reach the full scientific potential of the weak lensing probe, we need to use photometric redshifts to determine the distances of the sheared galaxies. For that purpose, we need to know the mapping between colour space and redshift. However, if we explore the distribution of observed galaxy colours, we realize that there are regions of colour space ($\sim$50\%) which have not been explored. The properties, including redshifts, of galaxies in these regions are unknown. We want to fill this gap taking spectra of these galaxies ($\sim$2500 in this proposal) to properly map the redshift distribution of all galaxies and boost the dark energy Figure of Merit by a factor $\sim$4 to enable Euclid reach its scientific goals which otherwise are compromised. Mapping these galaxies will also help fill a gap in our coverage and knowledge of the galaxy population.




SPHERE, the VLT's new generation planet imager, provides exquisite exoplanet detection performance owing to a combination of high-order XAO correction, coronography, and differential imaging technics in visible and near-infrared. These capabilities enable the detection of faint planets at small angular separations from bright stars. The SHINE program for SPHERE High-contrast ImagiNg survey for Exoplanets, a significant component of the consortium Guaranteed Time Observations, is a large near-infrared survey of 400-600 young, nearby stars. The scientific goals are: i) to characterize known planetary systems (architecture, orbit, stability, luminosity, atmosphere); ii) to search for new planetary systems using SPHERE's unprecedented performance; and finally iii) to determine the occurrence and orbital and mass function properties of the wide-orbit, giant planet population as a function of the stellar host mass and age. Combined, the results will increase our understanding of planetary atmospheric physics and the processes of planetary formation and evolution. To explore the origin of planetary formation a small fraction of the GTO Large Programme is also devoted to the study of proto-planetary and debris disks, using a variety of SPHERE instrument modes optimized for these tasks.




We propose to take the next leap forward in our view of the universe through a \hour\ MUSE Ultra Deep Field (MUDF), which will stimulate progress in multiple fields of astrophysics by reaching the faintest flux limits ever obtained for emission lines. To maximise the science impact of the MUDF, we have selected the unique field \qso\ with two bright $z\sim 3.22$ quasars, separated by 500 kpc, which act as ``light bulbs'' to trace in absorption the distribution of the diffuse cosmic gas. The powerful synergy of absorption and emission diagnostics in the MUDF will allow us to: (i) redefine our view of the matter distribution at $z\sim3$, enabling the first detection of the cosmic web in emission; (ii) provide a definite picture of how the flow of gas inside halos shape the evolution of galaxies; (iii) open a new window to study the link between quasars and their environment by glimpsing at the assembly of a massive cluster during its infancy; (iv) obtain a new vantage point on how the Hubble sequence emerges from over 10 billion years of cosmic evolution in a rich dataset of over 400 galaxies between $z\sim 0-6.5$. The transformational MUDF will be a long-lasting legacy for the VLT, it will open a new discovery space, and it will be a prime spectroscopic survey that the ESO community will exploit in the coming decade in synergy with campaigns at world-class observatories like {\it JWST} and ALMA.




We request MUSE mosaics to map the star forming disks of 20 nearby galaxies. These data will be combined with in-hand PHANGS-ALMA high angular resolution CO data (17 galaxies from our programs plus 3 archival datasets). The aim of the proposal is to obtain for the first time a comprehensive view of the chemo-dynamical evolution of the star formation process across the different ISM environments present within a representative sample of nearby massive star forming main sequence galaxies . In particular we will (a) estimate the timescales of the star forming process (i.e. molecular cloud lifetimes, feedback lifetimes, feedback outflow velocities, star formation efficiencies, mass loading factors), (b) quantify the importance of star formation feedback in galactic disks, and (c) study chemical enrichment and mixing in radial and azimuthal direction (via $\sim$40,000 fully characterized HII regions). All these aspects will be linked to the local conditions under which star formation proceeds in disks (e.g. gravitational potential, ISM pressure, local dynamics, local radiation field and shielding), which at the same time are connected to global properties of galaxies such as the stellar mass, star formation rate, morphology, nuclear activity, and environment. Building this connection will inform the next generation of theoretical models and simulations, finally bridging the fields of star formation and galaxy evolution.




We propose to continue and complete our deep NaCo $L^{\prime}$-band coronagraphic angular differential imaging GTO survey for wide-separation giant planets around nearby young stars with circumstellar disks. Our main goal is the revelation and characterisation of the observationally not yet well-characterised wide-separation \mbox{($>$5-10\,au)} giant planet population during the time of formation and dynamical evolution. Our survey is therefore focused on stars with protoplanetary transition disks and with well-characterised debris disks, many of which show signatures of dynamical activity that could indicate the presence of giant planets. With the combination of $L^{\prime}$-band observations, the use of the AGPM coronagraph to minimise the inner working angle for bright stars, and a strategy for going significantly deeper than previous surveys, we optimise the sensitivity to both more embedded (younger) as well as cooler (lower-mass and older) planets than targeted by previous/other surveys. We also probe smaller separations, thus bridging the gap between orbital separations probed by RV and previous direct imaging surveys. Our GTO survey is distinguished from and complementary to other state-of-the-art exoplanet imaging surveys like SPHERE-SHINE by the focus on stars with planet formation-related circumstellar disks and by covering a different parameter range by exploiting the unique $L^{\prime}$-band capability of NaCo.




We propose to perform an ultra-deep observation of 160 hours of a single 1 arcmin$^2$ MUSE field in the UDF area. The additional depth, together with the improved spatial resolution brought by the GALACSI adaptive optics module, has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution, comparable in impact to the Hubble (Ultra) Deep Fields of the last two decades. Observing part of the UDF to an unprecedented depth with MUSE (4.3 \ergs{-20} 3$\sigma$ point-source sensitivity) has a huge potential for discoveries. It will enable for example the detection of several hundreds of galaxies purely from their \lya\ emission lines, with a continuum magnitude $m_{AB}\sim$32 beyond the limits of JWST imaging. It will also provide a wealth of information on galaxies and their environment: e.g. the search of the IGM in emission, the faint end of the \lya\ luminosity function at z$\sim$6, the physics of the ISM of z$<$4 galaxies, the characterization of the \lya\ haloes, the kinematics and spatially resolved properties of z$<$3 galaxies.




The most promising way to understand the complex process of planet formation is to study its outcomes in a range of formation environments, and evaluate how those environments influence the outcomes. Stellar mass and metallicity are two parameters that are known to have a significant impact on the prevalence of giant planets. The effects of metallicity are reasonably well studied, at least for Sun-like stars, while stellar mass dependencies have been more elusive, primarily due to technical difficulties. Here, we propose a large high-contrast imaging survey for 83 B-type stars in the Sco-Cen region. Sco-Cen is already being surveyed at $\sim$1--3~$M_{\rm sun}$ ($\sim$A/F/G-type) with direct imaging, and has been very fruitful due to a favourable proximity ($\sim$120--150~pc) and age ($\sim$10--16)~Myr. Scalings from lower-mass populations and previous imaging detections imply that B-type stars may be the richest hosts of detectable giant planets, but a large dedicated survey is required to uncover and characterize this hypothesized planet population. By comparing our B-star results to the existing surveys of $\sim$1--3~$M_{\rm sun}$ Sco-Cen members, we can eliminate dependencies of formation environments (including metallicity), and thus cleanly isolate stellar mass as the dominant parameter in our statistical study.




\veils, the VISTA Extragalactic Infrared Legacy Survey, is a new ESO Public Survey, covering 9 sqrdeg of extragalactic legacy fields with deep, cadenced observations. The innovative aspect of \veils\ is its design enabling the first wide-field $J$ and $Ks$-band extragalactic time domain survey. The goal of this time-domain survey is to use two independent standardisable candles -- type Ia supernovae and AGN dust time-lags -- to significantly improve constraints of cosmological parameters in a complementary way to BAO, weak lensing, or the CMB. In addition, we will search for new members of a recently discovered class of optically-elusive, infrared-bright transients. With the proposed Large Programme VOILETTE (= VEILS OptIcal Lightcurves of Extragalactic TransienT Events), we are seeking the crucial optical time-domain support to enable the transient science of \veils\ as the Dark Energy Survey is finishing. VOILETTE will use the VST to obtain cadenced $griz$ observations of the \veils\ fields to (1) discover, classify, and build light curves of new type Ia supernovae, (2) monitor the optical variability of AGN to determine dust time lags, and (3) support identification of infrared transients with and without an optical counterpart.




The closest massive star forming region, Sco-Cen, has been recognized in recent years as a unique niche for extrasolar planetary systems studies. Indeed, several extrasolar planets have been found by direct imaging in this association, as well as many debris disks, possible signposts of past giant and on-going terrestrial planet formation. A few systems orbit binary stars have been found, giving thus the opportunity to study planet formation and early dynamical evolution in a unique way. We propose a HARPS survey to search for planets with semi major axis less than typically 2 au around a sample of 112 young stars members of Sco-Cen, already observed or to be observed under SPHERE GTO. Coupling HARPS, SPHERE and GAIA data will allow a full exploration of each star environment, from a fraction of au to hundreds of AU. This will be the first exhaustive GP survey around stars with similar, well known ages, providing thus a detailed comparison with formation models. Other outputs of our program include a search for comet evaporation around our target stars, and the characterization of the stars themselves.




Planets orbiting both stars of a binary system -circumbinary planets- are challenging our understanding about how planets are assembled and how their orbits subsequently evolve. We aim to assess how similar and how different the orbital and physical properties of circumbinary planets are to the properties of planets orbiting single stars. Our detections will open a new window of investigation into a highly debated topic, and complement observations of circumbinary protoplanetary discs imaged with SPHERE and ALMA. \smallskip During 78 nights, our programme will turn HARPS on a unique and carefully selected sample of 40, bright, recently identified, single-line, low-mass, eclipsing binary systems. They have been discovered and characterised in the course of a 10-year long observing campaign. Composed of an F, G, or K + late-M pair, their mass ratios provide optimal conditions for high radial-velocity precision and accuracy, reaching a level where the detection of circumbinary planets with the mass of Neptune is feasible. Based on already discovered systems, we expect to find between 5 and 15 planetary systems orbiting our eclipsing binaries. Discovering them using the radial-velocity method also opens the door to study dynamical effects unique to circumbinary planets, to estimate their multiplicity, and to compute their true occurrence rate, information that has eluded {\it Kepler}.




The rotation curves of galaxies are still a major tool for determining the distribution of mass within galaxies. Their shapes and normalisation provide fundamental information for measuring the contribution of stars, gas and dark matter in galaxies' mass budgets, as well as their formation and evolution, Hubble type and environment. Recent results on the falling outer rotation curves of high-redshift galaxies suggest that massive galaxies at $z\sim$\,2 have dark matter fractions that are negligible. However, these results rely on stacking, and the three-dimensional renormalisation of the data cubes required has strong systematic effects on the resulting rotation curve shape. Indeed, flat curves can also be derived from the same data if the stack is weighted by stellar size rather than dynamical radius, leading to radically different conclusions about the dark matter content of galaxies at this epoch. Here, we propose to overcome these systematics by obtaining two deep (100-hr each) KMOS pointings to measure the H$\alpha$ rotation curves in 46 main-sequence galaxies at $z\approx1.5$ to radii extending up to (and beyond) six times the stellar disk-scale radius ($\sim$\,15\,kpc). We will use the data to measure the contribution of stars and dark matter on a galaxy-by-galaxy basis, to definitively determine to what extent high-redshift galaxies are either baryon or dark matter dominated all the way to their outer edges.




Giant planets are thought to form via core-accretion, whereby rocky/icy cores form early on in the protoplanetary disk, and then at a critical point attract gas from the disk to build up an atmosphere. The precise composition of the core, particularly the ice-mass fraction, tells us about the formation process and where in the protoplanetary disk the planet formed. In most cases the gaseous envelope hides this core, meaning we cannot determine its composition. However in situations where the planet is exposed to intense radiation, that gaseous envelope is lost, providing us with a unique opportunity to study the exposed core. We target cores by observing planets subject to gas evaporation, with orbital period $<5$d and radius between 1.8 and 4 $R_\oplus$. With this large program proposal, we want to measure the masses of up to 30 new planetary cores across the parameter space, studying the core composition, formation process and mass distribution statistically for the first time. This will in turn allow us to determine where in the disk these cores formed, and thus give us insight into where planet formation occurs and how far these planets migrated since their initial formation. We will source our targets initially from \textit{K2} planet discoveries, updating to include bright \textit{TESS} candidates from mid-P102 onwards. Our science goals can be met independently of \textit{TESS}, allowing the characterisation of 12 new cores using \textit{K2} targets alone.




Owing to their favorable planet-star contrast ratio, planets around small stars --whether transiting or not-- are top targets for follow-up characterization. Those that transit can be characterized with transmission and occultation spectroscopy whereas those that do not transit can be found closer, brighter and with larger separations, such that they will become amenable to characterization for the ELT. Our previous time allocation detected, confirmed or measured the masses of most known planets around bright M dwarfs. This proposal aims to continue that effort in the context of newly available and forthcoming instruments such as ESPRESSO, NIRPS, EXTRA and TESS. In particular, we propose : - to continue the sensus of nearby temperate planets amenable to characterization with the ELT (d$<$5pc) - to confirm, and then measure masses of new transit candidates identified by MEarth, K2, ExTrA and TESS - to refine RV orbits of known planets in view of their transit searches with MEarth, ExTrA, and CHEOPS Better masses are critical to understanding the formation and composition for many of the known super-Earths, which typically have much more precise radii than masses. New, smaller, cooler planets amenable to atmospheric characterisation will be most precious for upcoming JWST and ELT programs.




Multimessenger astronomy, the detection of an astrophysical source in more than one ``messenger'' (photons, gravitational waves, neutrinos), offers an entirely new way to study the Universe. The first detection of gravitational waves combined with electromagnetic radiation from the merger of a binary neutron star in August 2017 marks the start of a new era in which information about the behaviour of mass from gravitational waves are coupled with constraints on the transfer and release of energy from electromagnetic light. ESO facilities played a pivotal role in the discovery and characterisation of the counterpart, delivering spectacular photometric and spectroscopic sequences with great diagnostic power. Here we propose a comprehensive pan-European collaboration to observe gravitational wave sources identified in the year-long LIGO-Virgo observing run beginning in late 2018. These observations will determine the range of electromagnetic properties seen in compact object mergers and how these depend on the system parameters and viewing angle; assess the yields of heavy elements and determine if the mergers are indeed the dominant site for the synthesis of heavy elements; measure the structure of jets to demonstrate how mergers create short-duration gamma-ray bursts, and determine redshifts and independent electromagnetic distances, enhancing the science return for fundamental physics and cosmology.




During the past decade, the field of exoplanets moved from extended searches to statistical studies and characterisation of individual planets. The scientific driver of low-mass planets, possibly located in the `habitable zones' of their host stars, makes the obtention of precise measurements of planetary masses, radii and densities, a critical endeavour. High-fidelity spectroscopy and high-precision radial velocities are an essential technique to obtain these quantities, while also enabling for the atmospheric characterisation of these objects. In this proposal, we pursue one of the main science goals of the ESPRESSO GTO: the detection and characterisation of Earth-mass planets (possibly) inside the habitable zone of G, K and M stars. We address it with 3 sub-programmes: (1) An intensive search for habitable rocky planets, built on the HARPS(-N) experience, in a sample of the most suitable stars -- some of which already hosting planets -- in the solar neighbourhood. (2) A follow-up of the most challenging, i.e.\ low-mass candidates from K2 and the upcoming TESS mission by the Doppler technique, to obtain their precise densities. (3) A survey for exoplanetary atmospheres, in the footsteps of HARPS(-N), through transit and reflected-light spectroscopy, exploiting the unique spectroscopic capabilities of ESPRESSO and the collecting area of the UTs.




{\it Herschel} imaging surveys of nearby Galactic clouds support a filamentary paradigm for solar-type star formation, whereby Jeans-type fragmentation of 0.1-pc wide ``supercritical'' filaments produces $< 0.1\,$pc prestellar cores, which subsequently collapse to ``core-fed'' protostars. This paradigm largely relies on the finding of a characteristic filament width $\sim 0.1$~pc based on {\it Herschel} results in the Gould Belt ($d < 0.5\,$kpc). There is a growing body of evidence, however, that massive prestellar cores may not exist and that high-mass protostars may be ``clump-fed'', gathering mass from parsec-scale `hub-filament' structures. Higher-resolution submm surveys are crucially needed to resolve molecular filaments and clarify the nature of high-mass star formation in massive GMCs at $d > 0.5\,$kpc. We propose to use the new submm continuum camera ArT\'eMiS on APEX, which provides a factor of 3.5 better resolution than {\it Herschel} at 350/450 $\mu$m, to achieve, for the first time, an essentially complete survey of the structure of the densest ($A_V > 40$) molecular gas at $< 0.1\,$pc resolution out to $d \sim 3\,$kpc in the Milky Way (total survey area $\sim 5.5\ {\rm deg}^2$). We wish to i) investigate whether fragmentation of 0.1-pc wide filaments remains the dominant mode of star formation beyond the Gould Belt, and ii) clarify where and how the transition between a ``core-fed'' and a ``clump-fed'' regime of protostellar mass growth occurs.




Most extensions of the Standard Physical Model predict a space-time variation of the fundamental physical constants. Examples include models where Dark Energy is in the form of a scalar field (quintessence), string and GUT theories. Absorption lines of intervening systems towards distant quasars are the most effective way to test the stability of the fine-structure constant $\alpha$ or the proton-to-electron mass ratio $\mu$. These tests require measurements of a tiny variation of the position of one or few lines with respect to other reference lines. Claims of variability have already been made but the signal, at the level of few ppm (part per million), is comparable to the value of possible instrumental systematics (2-10 ppm). ESPRESSO is a high spectral resolution, ultra stable spectrograph, delivering precise radial velocity measurements in the optical wavelengths and these fundamental physics tests have been one of its scientific drivers. Here, we use the GTO to collect spectra of a sample of 18 carefully selected, relatively bright and well studied QSOs to significantly improve current measurements of $\alpha$ as well as $\mu$ (when possible) with the aim to break the 1 ppm precision. The proposed observations will further test the universality of physical laws in an unexplored regime, which directly impact fundamental physics and theoretical cosmology.




We propose an ambitious program to characterize, in terms of mass, radius, and density, at least 20 small transiting planets (1--4\,R$_\oplus$). By determining planetary masses to better than 10-15\%, we will be able to distinguish between internal structure models, and determine whether these systems are silicate-based planets like our Moon, planets with an iron core like the Earth, or even denser systems like Mercury. We will do so by conducting HARPS radial velocity (RV) observations of planets detected to transit by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (\textit{TESS}), scheduled for launch in April 2018. Our extensive experience with planet detection and characterization for the \textit{K2} mission, will allow our \textit{KESPRINT} team to carry out quick and efficient \textit{TESS} transiting planet detection and vetting, and carry out a systematic RV characterization campaign. The detailed characterization of small transiting planets, enabled by the bright stars to be observed by \textit{TESS}, is key to understand planet formation. Our observations will provide constraints on photo-evaporation models and models of planet formation, by investigating the core composition of super-Earth planets and ultra-short period planets (USPs) that have lost their atmospheres. We will further investigate the population of sub-Neptune planets and identify key targets for future atmospheric studies such as with the James Webb Space Telescope.


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Last update: OPO - July 16, 2018