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ann12026 — Announcement
ESO Invites UK Entries to New European Astronomy Journalism Prize
29 March 2012: A new journalism competition to capture and promote inspirational coverage of European astronomy is launched today (Thursday 29 March) at the UK National Astronomy Meeting 2012 [1]. The prize is the ultimate for any astronomy enthusiast — a trip to the world’s most advanced optical instrument: the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile. Entries for the European Astronomy Journalism Prize must be about astronomy and related areas of technology, or about the work and lifestyles of astronomers, engineers or others working in the field of astronomy. The entries must reflect European interests and they can be online, written or broadcast. The competition is being run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in conjunction with the Association of British Science Writers and the Royal Astronomical Society. It is open for entries from Monday 2 April 2012 until Friday 27 July ...
ann12025 — Announcement
ESO Remains World’s Most Productive Ground-based Observatory By Far
28 March 2012: Astronomers used observational data from ESO’s telescopes and instruments to write a total of 783 refereed papers during 2011. This is an all-time high in ESO’s history. ESO remains the most productive ground-based observatory by far. Over the past few years the number of papers using observations from ESO has been almost identical to the number from observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, with both rising rapidly after a slight dip in 2009. The VLT/VLTI alone provided data for 551 papers in 2011, an increase of about 8% since 2010. The total number of papers using VLT/VLTI data is now well above 4000. Papers that use data taken from the ESO archives have been accounting for a steady fraction of 12% during recent years, with a strong increase in 2011. Remarkably, even if the contribution from ESO’s flagship VLT/VLTI telescopes is excluded from the total, the remaining telescopes ...
ann12024 — Announcement
ESO Releases The Messenger No. 147
28 March 2012: The latest 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: A report on the progress of the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE), a second generation panoramic integral field spectrograph for the Very Large Telescope (VLT). The Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Instrument (APEX-SZ), four years of observing galaxy clusters. Testing the feasibility of the near-infrared surface brightness method to measure distances to Cepheid variables. The story behind the search of intermediate-mass black holes in globular clusters and their connection with supermassive black holes in early galaxy formation. The description of the GAIA-ESO Public Spectroscopic Survey, a large library of high quality spectroscopy of 100 000 Milky Way stars.
ann12023 — Announcement
Alistair McPherson named as E-ELT Project Manager
27 March 2012: The ESO Council has approved the appointment of Alistair McPherson as Project Manager for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), and E-ELT Division Head, effective 1 July 2012. This appointment follows Alistair’s successful tenure as interim E-ELT Project Manager, in which he lead the delta Phase B activities of the project, culminating in the definition of the 39.3-metre baseline design of the E-ELT and the successful cost reviews last year. Alistair has a proven track record with the placing and following of very large contracts, and of leading projects with values of in excess of 1 billion Euros. His previous role as Programme Manager for the UK Lynx Helicopter Fleet means that he is thoroughly experienced with projects where reliability and maintainability are paramount. Alistair has considerable experience with project management in the astronomical field, having led both the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) project and the ...
ann12022 — Announcement
ESO Images on the Star Walk
22 March 2012: The internet is buzzing with talk about the Retina display on the third generation iPad and we can see no better challenge for it than exploring the details of astronomical images. Take full advantage of the third generation iPad’s display and quad core graphics to enjoy ESO’s best views of the Universe. Vito Technology Inc.® has rebuilt the popular stargazing guide Star Walk for the new iPad with new superior graphics and content. Using astronomical images from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and ESA/HUBBLE, the Picture of the Day section of the app brings high-resolution pictures of star clusters, Messier and other astronomical objects. The Star Walk app delivers the ultimate cutting-edge experience to present-day astronomers, students and night-sky fans by allowing users to easily locate and identify 20 000+ objects in the night sky. The 360-degree, Multi-Touch star map displays 3D spinning models of constellations, stars, planets, satellites and ...
ann12021 — Announcement
ESOcast 41: Going South
21 March 2012: Leading up to ESO’s 50th anniversary in October 2012, we are releasing eight special ESOcasts, each a chapter from the movie Europe to the Stars — ESO’s First 50 Years of Exploring the Southern Sky. This first special episode — entitled “Going South” — describes the birth of ESO, and in particular why astronomers from European countries decided to explore the southern sky by placing an astronomical observatory in Chile. Until fifty years ago, almost all major telescopes were located north of the equator. However, astronomers soon realised the importance of the southern sky. For instance, the centre of the Milky Way, our home galaxy, can hardly be seen from the northern hemisphere but in the south it passes high overhead. Other important objects are the Magellanic Clouds — two small companion galaxies to the Milky Way — which cannot be observed from Europe, but which are very conspicuous south ...
ann12020 — Announcement
Science in School Issue 22 Out Now!
19 March 2012: The latest issue of the free magazine Science in School is now available online and in print. As always, the European journal dedicated to science teachers and educators offers numerous interesting articles and activities for students. Issue 22 takes a closer look at the real science behind forensics, and at how students can do genetic fingerprinting at school. In the same vein, an article explains how you can build your own microscope. In “Harnessing the power of the Sun”, you can find out how a tokamak fusion reactor works, while other articles include natural production of hydrogen by bacteria, global warming research in Antarctica, one space scientist’s passion for astronomy and a guide to build and launch your own paper rocket. You can also find out about the most recent European Union Contest for Young Scientists, at which the EIROforum members — including ESO — offered great prizes. Science in ...
ann12019 — Announcement
Erasure Shoots for the Stars with ESO
12 March 2012: The famous British synthpop band Erasure today released a video for their latest single — Fill Us with Fire (ESO 50th Anniversary Exclusive), as a tribute to ESO’s 50th Anniversary. The video, which was improvised on the spur of the moment during an informal visit, features the Very Large Telescope as well as some of ESO’s stunning images of the night sky. This is the third single to be released from their 2011 album Tomorrow’s World. The project started with a visit to the observatory by Andy Bell, lead singer of the band. The observatory, home of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), sits atop a solitary mountain at 2635 metres altitude in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, and offers stunning vistas of the surrounding desert and of the night sky. Taken with the magnificent setting, Andy asked if he could take the opportunity to film while on site. Andy ...
ann12018 — Announcement
ESO Images in a Universal Context
9 March 2012: The European Southern Observatory has launched an initiative to attach extra information about context (metadata) to the images in its huge collection. The Astronomy Visualization Metadata standard that is now implemented has been developed in collaboration with many other major observatories, including partners from NASA, ESA, the California Academy of Sciences and the University of Arizona. It is now easier than ever to learn more about the fantastic imagery of the Universe, including the archives of ESO. The Astronomy Visualization Metadata (AVM) standard was created to make access to astronomical images easier by collecting extra information in a standard way [1]. This extra information — known as metadata — includes details similar to those included with every digital snapshot picture coming from cameras today — who took the picture, when was it taken, where in the sky was the camera pointed and so on. It is, however, specifically designed for ...
ann12017 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 14 March 2012
9 March 2012: with Dr. Henk Spruit (Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik) Global warming and the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide affect us all. The Sun brings us the warmth that we need to live. But could part of global warming be caused by changes in the Sun, and not by our greenhouse gases? In other words, are we the main culprits after all? In the news, we hear regularly about destructive tropical storms, extreme cold, or unusually warm winters. Are these caused by the global warming? Insurance companies have gathered a lot of statistics. Dr. Henk Spruit (Max-Planck-Institute für Astrophysik) will debate these critical issues with Café & Kosmos guests on 14 March. He will also discuss recent changes in the Sun, and explain how we understand our star and what is happening inside it. Please note that the Café & Kosmos events take place in German. What: Sun, sunspots and climate changeWhen: Wednesday, ...
ann12016 — Announcement
BMW and Paranal
6 March 2012: The iconic Bavarian car-maker BMW chose ESO’s Paranal Observatory, home of the Very Large Telescope (VLT), for the global campaign featuring the brand’s latest high-end model, the 6 Series Gran Coupé, which will have its world debut at the Geneva International Motor Show on 6 March 2012. The exclusive car can be seen parked in front of some of the VLT’s Unit Telescopes and Auxiliary Telescopes. People who know the real observatory will no doubt notice that a new building was added. The revised site, with its prominent metallic and earth colours and BMW’s new coupé could seem straight out of a James Bond movie. In fact, the Paranal Observatory’s award-winning Residencia is just that. Another unusual element of the image is the presence of clouds. While clouds are common in most places on Earth, Paranal enjoys 330 clear days per year, so to get a balanced composition clouds had ...
ann12015 — Announcement
Super-thin Mirror for Sharper Star Images
2 March 2012: A remarkable thin-shell mirror for ESO’s Very Large Telescope has been delivered by the French company SAGEM. It is 1120 millimetres across but just 2 millimetres thick, making this mirror much thinner than most glass windows. This mirror has to be thin enough to act almost like a flexible film. When installed in the telescope the shape of its reflective surface will be constantly changed by tiny amounts to correct for the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere and create much sharper images. The shell mirror is a sheet of ceramic material that has been polished to a very accurate shape. The manufacturing process starts with a block of Zerodur ceramic, provided by Schott Glass (Germany) that is more than 70 millimetres thick. Most of this material is ground away to create the final thin shell. The challenge is to apply very little pressure and low levels of stress to ...
ann12014 — Announcement
ESO Call for Proposals for Period 90 Released
29 February 2012: The ESO Call for Proposals for Period 90 has been released. The deadline is 29 March 2012, 12:00 noon CEST.
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 ...