ESO-Enews #22: June 2012

A skyline shot of the Paranal Observatory taken in 2007 showing the VLT and the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) sharing the mountaintop, while the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy(VISTA) rises on the hill to the right. In the foreground are the Residencia and the basecamp.


The ALMA Director, on behalf of the partner organisations and all the personnel in Chile, East Asia, Europe and North America involved in bringing ALMA to Early Science readiness, is pleased to issue the Cycle 1 Call for Proposals.

Members of the astronomy community are invited to propose scientific programmes to be scheduled within the ALMA Early Science Cycle 1 period which is expected to begin on 1 January 2013. This provides an important opportunity for Early Science from this cutting edge facility. The Cycle 1 period will span 10 months.

In addition, a new programme of Science Verification aimed at testing new capabilities of ALMA for Cycle 1, and beyond, will begin on 20 June 2012. The list of suggested targets will be available shortly.

The full Call and all the information and tools relevant for proposal preparation are available through the ALMA Science Portal. The ALMA Helpdesk facility may also be accessed via the Science Portal. User support, including face-to-face assistance, is provided by the European ALMA Regional Centre.


As previously announced at the time of the Period 90 call for proposals:

  • Recent work on VLT UT4The UT4 Laser Guide Star (LGS) system will be unavailable for operations in January and February 2013. It will be replaced by a prototype laser for the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF). This new laser system is expected to provide easier maintenance and operations, and the number of LGS nights available should significantly increase.
  • NACO is foreseen to be refurbished from October to mid-December 2012 and will thus be unavailable for operations during that period.

Other news concerning upcoming instruments and instrument upgrades:

Activities related to the upgrade of VISIR began in May 2012. The instrument will return to operation in August 2012 with a new detector (larger field, better sensitivity and cosmetics) plus additional spectroscopic capabilities.

KMOS, the VLT 2nd Generation K-band multi-object spectrograph, will start to be commissioned in November 2012.


After the successful introduction of the new version of the Phase 2 Proposal Preparation tool (version 3, P2PP3) for Service Mode users of UT2 instruments in P89, it will be deployed to all remaining VLT/I instruments. P2PP3 is an upgrade of P2PP v.2.13.1 and allows encoding of the observing strategy using the new concept of scheduling containers (time-links, concatenations and groups of OBs) originally developed for the ESO Public Surveys. More details of P2PP3 can be found here.

A one-day workshop is being organised by the User Support Department to assist prospective Service Mode users in the preparation of Phase 2 for P90. The workshop, with presentations, tutorials and hands-on practical sessions, will take place on Thursday 19 July 2012 at ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany. If you are interested in participating, please register. The capacity of the workshop is limited so early registration is advised.


The Observing Runs Overview and Progress Pages for ongoing and past observing runs (accessible through the User Portal, via 'My Programmes and Runs' in the left hand menu, then 'View') have undergone some improvements:

  • The Overview page now lists all Service *and* Visitor Mode (SM and VM) programmes of the PI.
  • A second tab provides an overview of the observing runs delegated to the user (only data access delegation is currently available).
  • With the deployment of the new Night Log Tool (NLT) in Period 89 on UT2, and for VISTA and VST, the Run Progress Pages for ongoing SM/VM runs on these telescopes now provide the full content of the Night Reports (including the quality control grade and comments from the observer, lists of generated files and links to the Archive where the files can be downloaded).

As soon as the new tools (P2PP3 and NLT) are successfully deployed to all VLT Unit Telescopes and VLTI, Run Progress Pages (also available directly through the User Portal) will be NLT-based for all newly scheduled observing runs.


The main results of the 2012 Feedback Campaign, launched by the User Support Department earlier this year and aimed at collecting feedback from Period 88 and 89 Service Mode PIs on their Phase 2 experience, have been summarized in a dedicated report, now available

Those PIs who made use of the free-text boxes of the questionnaire and submitted specific comments on a variety of Phase 2 operational aspects are being contacted individually via email.


In addition to the already well-known e-mail contact addresses such as or , a web interface to the support helpdesk has been implemented for all User Portal account holders who wish to ask a question or report a problem.

The interface is available from the ESO User Portal menu under the entry "Ask for help". A list of available topics (including "Other") is provided to ensure that questions are promptly directed to the operational group best suited to assist with the problem. The follow-up proceeds via the web interface or e-mail (as in the past). A notable advantage of this new tool is the capacity to collect all the questions sent by a given PI in one single place, thus always available for her/him to review.


A new version of the ESO Recipe Flexible Workbench (Reflex 2.1) was made on 16 May 2012. Reflex is a new environment to run ESO pipelines. Currently, Reflex supports workflows for UVES point source echelle data and X-shooter slit data.

Reflex provides an intuitive way of organising the data, running the pipeline recipes, inspecting intermediate and final results, and optimizing pipeline parameters. An all-in-one installation script is available which can be used to install both Reflex and any supported pipelines. The whole package is easy to install and includes test data. Tutorials and detailed manuals are also available. Reflex has been tested and is certified to run under Scientific Linux 5.5 and it should install on any recent Linux distribution and Mac OS.

A one-day workshop to demonstrate Reflex will be organised at ESO Headquarters in Garching on 24 October 2012 and details will be announced later.


A major upgrade of the Phase 3 infrastructure for the validation and ingestion of catalogues from the VISTA public surveys has been completed. The changes are described on the Phase 3 web pages.

The PIs of the VISTA public surveys and their teams can now begin the submission of their catalogue releases. Once the releases are validated by the Archive Science group, the catalogues will become accessible for content queries via the new catalogue query interface of the Science Archive Facility.


The list of workshops organised by ESO can be found here.
Registration for the following workshops is open:

ALMA Community Days 2012: Early Science in Cycle 1
From Stars to Black Holes: mm-VLBI with ALMA and Other Telescopes

ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany, 25-27 June and 27-28 June 2012.

The ALMA Community Days 2012 will feature introductions and updates to the ALMA capabilities in Cycle 1 and tutorials. Further information can be found here.

Immediately following the ALMA Community Days there will be a short workshop to assess the future of very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) experiments at millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelengths and the role of new telescopes like ALMA.

An inventory of the science interests of the European user community of ALMA for VLBI experiments from wavelengths of 7 mm (for which receivers are yet to be built) all the way to sub-mm wavelengths will be drawn-up. This workshop will be of interest not only to current VLBI users but also those who are just becoming interested in this rapidly evolving field. The main focus of the meeting will be on developing the European science case. In addition there will be first discussions on the organisation of mm-VLBI efforts and review of some of the technical capabilities available in Europe.

Further information on the mm-VLBI workshop can be found here.

Science from the Next Generation Imaging and Spectroscopic Surveys

Poster for Next Generation Surveys workshopESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany, 15-18 October 2012.

The workshop will cover the science from the ongoing and upcoming large public surveys with a special focus on the first results from the VISTA and VST public surveys, including invited talks by the survey PIs (see the list of invited speakers).

Registration and abstract submission for the workshop are now open. Since the workshop capacity is limited to 100 participants, those interested are advised to register as soon as possible. Deadline for registration and abstract submission is 2 July 2012.

Further details are available and for information please contact:

The First Year of ALMA Science

Hotel Cumbres Patagónicas, Puerto Varas, Chile, 12-15 December 2012.

Poster for First Year of ALMA Science WorkshopThe Joint ALMA Observatory in collaboration with all the ALMA partners is organising an international conference focused on the first science results from Cycle 0 and commissioning and science verification data. As well as many exciting new science results, the conference will include a discussion of the future scientific priorities for ALMA in the context of these first results. In order to allow more ALMA users to propose contributions based on results from their Cycle 0 projects, a late deadline for abstract contributions of 27 October 2012 has been set.

The conference is co-sponsored by the Joint ALMA Observatory and the ALMA partners (ESO, NAOJ and NRAO) with additional support provided by the EC-FP7 Radionet3 project.

The conference website is:
Email inquiries can be made to: