eso0201 — Organisation Release
ESO PR Highlights in 2001
3 January 2002
The year 2001 brought further success to European Astronomy and ESO. All of the four 8.2-m Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) are now in regular use and the VLT Interferometer (VLTI) had "first fringes" early in the year. The first tests were made with two small telescopes and later the light beams from two of the large telescopes were combined. The first scientific observations proved the extraordinary stability of the complex VLTI system and already produced excellent results. The Adaptive Optics technique was introduced at the VLT when the new NAOS-CONICA instrument had "First Light" in November. The sharpest-ever VLT images were obtained and immediately demonstrated the enormous potential for exciting front-line research programmes with this new facility.
An extraordinary amount of first-class data were obtained by the astronomical communities in the ESO member countries and beyond from the VLT and other ESO telescopes. They resulted in numerous new discoveries and hundreds of articles in the professional literature - some of them were also presented to the public in ESO Press Releases.
Portugal became the ninth ESO member country. The UK decided to join ESO by mid-2002 and other countries expressed interest.
Japan moved closer to the intercontinental ALMA project and ESO continued its concept studies for a future 100-metre optical/IR telescope (OWL).
The ESO Educational Office was established in July 2001. The aim is to provide support for astronomical and astrophysical education, especially at the secondary level. The Europe-wide, EU-sponsored "Life in the Universe" educational project was successfully accomplished, in collaboration with CERN, ESA and other international research organisations.
At the end of a hectic and fruitful year, ESO and its staff in Europe and Chile can be optimistic about the future. New state-of-the-art astronomical instruments will be mounted on the ESO telescopes at La Silla and Paranal in 2002, further enhancing the great research possibilities at these sites. And this year will also see further development of Europe's Astrophysical Virtual Observatory, a most powerful research tool of the future.
Many of these developments are described in ESO's Press Releases, most with Press Photos and several also with PR Video Clips, cf. the 2001 PR Index. Some of last year's ESO PR highlights may be accessed directly via the clickable image on the present page.