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ann11039 — Announcement
ESO’s New Compact Laser Guide Star Unit Tested
22 June 2011: Last night, ESO’s Wendelstein laser guide star unit had its first light at the Allgäu Public Observatory in Ottobeuren, Germany. Laser guide stars are artificial stars created high up in the Earth’s atmosphere using a laser beam with a power of several watts. The laser, in this case a powerful 20 watt yellow beam (operating at 589 nm), makes the sodium atoms in a layer 90 kilometres up in the atmosphere glow and so creates an artificial star in the sky that can be observed by a telescope. The adaptive optics equipment can then use measurements of the artificial star to correct for the blurring effect of the atmosphere in the observations.ESO has developed a concept for compact laser guide star units, whereby small powerful lasers are combined with a telescope that launches the beam, creating a single modular unit that can be mounted directly on a large telescope. This ...
ann11038 — Announcement
Alan Moorwood, 1945–2011
20 June 2011: Dr. Alan Moorwood, the longest serving astronomer at ESO until his retirement in May 2010, died on Saturday 18 June 2011, after a short and incurable illness. Alan Moorwood, born in May 1945, was educated in the United Kingdom. After a few years at ESA, he joined ESO as an infrared astronomer on 1 October 1978, when the Organisation was still based in Geneva. During an exemplary career at ESO, spanning more than three decades, Moorwood pioneered the development of infrared instrumentation for La Silla and co-authored the Very Large Telescope (VLT) instrumentation plan. He oversaw ESO’s entire instrumentation effort while at the same time maintaining a very active research programme resulting in nearly 400 publications, making him one of ESO’s most-cited astronomers. Moorwood’s research centred on using infrared imaging and spectroscopy obtained with space observatories and ground-based telescopes to understand star formation in galaxies, including the study of molecular ...
ann11037 — Announcement
ESO releases The Messenger No. 144
20 June 2011: ESO has released a new edition of its quarterly journal, The Messenger. This issue covers a range of topics from ESO’s telescopes to Open Days: Find out how the first South America country, Brazil, became a member of ESO. Keep up-to-date with ESO’s new telescopes and instruments. Learn about recent science results on the Magellanic Clouds and the Carina Dwarf Galaxy. Find out about recent and forthcoming ESO workshops. Follow ALMA as it gets ready to begin science observations. The Messenger is now available for download in PDF format. You can also subscribe to receive a free printed copy, just visit The Messenger website.
ann11036 — Announcement
Sweden Starts Committing to the E-ELT
17 June 2011: On 16 June 2011 Mariann Samuelson, acting director general of the Swedish Research Council, signed an agreement committing Sweden to provide the second instalment of its share of the additional financial contribution required for construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Sweden is now one step closer to its full financial commitment to the E-ELT. The country is the second ESO Member State to start providing financial contribution to the giant telescope, after the Czech Republic committed to provide its full share on 3 June 2011 (ann11030). The additional funding needed from the ESO Member States [1] consists of €250 Million in total and a 2% year-on-year increase of the annual contributions on top of the normal indexation over a decade. The agreement was handed over to Dr. David Edvardsson of the Swedish Research Council and Prof. Claes Fransson of Stockholm Observatory — the Swedish members of the ESO ...
ann11035 — Announcement
ESO Annual Report 2010 now available
15 June 2011: The ESO Annual Report 2010 is now available. It presents the many activities of the European Southern Observatory throughout the last year, covering topics including: ESO’s research highlights, with the latest results from the fields of exoplanet detection, the study of massive stars, and the history of star formation. An overview of the activities of ESO’s telescopes. A description of the status of the astronomical instruments at the La Silla and Paranal observatories, detailing new installations and upgrades. The progress of the exciting ALMA and E-ELT projects.
ann11034 — Announcement
ESO Moves One Step Closer to the First Extremely Large Telescope
15 June 2011: With a decision by ESO Council to endorse a revised baseline design for the E-ELT, ESO is one step closer to starting construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) on 3060-metre-high Cerro Armazones near ESO’s Very Large Telescope site in Chile. After the successful E-ELT Design Review in September 2010 and with Brazil joining ESO (eso1050), the E-ELT project is now not only technically ready to enter the construction phase, but is also backed by a solid funding scenario.Between the end of 2010 and the summer 2011, the E-ELT project extended the detailed design phase in order to consider the recommendations of the E-ELT Design Review. The main goals were the reduction of risk by optimising the cost and constraining the schedule to make sure that ESO can further expand its leading role in astronomy by constructing the world’s first extremely large telescope.In June 2011, the ESO Council endorsed ...
ann11033 — Announcement
Science in School Issue 19 Out Now!
10 June 2011: The latest issue of Science in School, the European journal for science teachers, is now available online and in print. As with previous issues, number 19 is packed with inspiring science articles, classroom games, and hands-on activities. The science news and educational projects featured in issue 19 cover topics that range from biology and chemistry to the environment, particle physics, and astronomy. An exciting article, about a planet of extragalactic origin that is now within our own galaxy, tells more of the story behind a recent ESO news item. The planet, detected by a European team of astronomers using the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope, orbits a star that originally belonged to a dwarf galaxy that was captured by the Milky Way. Other articles cover topics including space habitats, DNA fingerprinting, the chemistry of amber, and why the famously bright yellows of van Gogh’s paintings are darkening over time. Science in School is ...
ann11032 — Announcement
ESOcast 30: First Images from the VLT Survey Telescope
8 June 2011: This ESOcast introduces the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the latest addition to ESO’s Paranal Observatory. This new telescope has just made its first release of impressive images of the southern sky. The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre telescope, with the huge 268-megapixel camera OmegaCAM at its heart. It is designed to map the sky both quickly and with very fine image quality. It is a visible-light telescope that perfectly complements ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope. Strikingly detailed images of the Omega Nebula and the globular cluster Omega Centauri demonstrate the VST’s power. Credit ESO Visual design and editing: Martin Kornmesser and Luis Calçada Editing: Herbert Zodet Web and technical support: Lars Holm Nielsen and Raquel Yumi Shida Written by: : Richard Hook and Bárbara Ferreira Narration: Dr. J and Gaitee Hussain Music: Movetwo Footage and photos: ESO and Stéphane Guisard ( Directed by: Richard Hook and Herbert Zodet Executive producer: ...
ann11031 — Announcement
VLT's Interferometer Goes Deeper
6 June 2011: On the nights of 15–17 May 2011, astronomers successfully applied a new observing technique on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). The new procedure is called “blind observation mode” and will allow interferometric observations to be made of targets significantly fainter than before. It has already produced detailed observations of the spectrum of a quasar, 10 times fainter than the best currently known results. The result was obtained by combining the light from three of the VLT’s 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes in the AMBER [1] beam combiner. The ground-breaking technique, developed by a team of astronomers led by Romain Petrov from the Laboratoire Fizeau (Université de Nice, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur and CNRS, France), allows them to observe targets that would ordinarily be far too faint to be detected by an interferometer. They do this by first observing a bright star near the faint target, which allows them to calibrate ...
ann11030 — Announcement
Czech Republic Commits to the E-ELT
3 June 2011: On 3 June 2011 in Prague, an agreement was signed committing the Czech Republic to provide its full share of the additional financial contribution required for construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The agreement was signed by the Director of the Department of International Cooperation in Research and Development of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic, Dr Jan Marek — authorised by the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Josef Dobeš — and the ESO Director General, Prof. Tim de Zeeuw. The contribution will be made in two equal instalments, in 2012 and 2014, subject to approval of E-ELT construction by the ESO Council, which is currently planned to occur in December of this year. This agreement will help ESO keep its leadership in the field of ground-based astronomy. “This agreement is an important step on the road to building the E-ELT, which ...
ann11029 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 7 June 2011
3 June 2011: As people see no connection between their everyday experience and the concepts of quantum mechanics, they usually perceive the subject as strange and complicated. Quantum mechanics is the theme of the next Café & Kosmos discussion on Tuesday, 7 June 2011: Dr Stefan Kluth, from the Max-Planck Institute for Physics, will show that quantum mechanics has much more impact on our daily life than it appears. He will also discuss how important the principles of quantum mechanics are for our understanding of astronomical observations.               The Café & Kosmos series of discussions is organised jointly by ESO, the Excellence Cluster Universe and the Max-Planck Institutes for Physics, Astrophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics. The discussions take place on the second Tuesday of each month at the Vereinsheim, in Munich (please note the change of day and venue, as of May 2011). After a brief introduction the scientists take questions from the ...
ann11028 — Announcement
"Extremely Large" opportunity for UK companies
20 May 2011: A special event has been held in London on 19 May 2011, at which officials from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) briefed UK companies on what they need to do to get involved in the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) project. Around 60 UK businesses attended the event. As with companies from the other ESO Member States, British companies are being urged to bid for a share of a billion Euros that will be available in contracts for the E-ELT, which will be the biggest optical and infrared telescope in the world. The E-ELT will be a 42 metre telescope that will be a revolutionary tool in astronomy. Among other goals, it will have the task of tracking down Earth-like planets, capable of harbouring life, that orbit distant stars. Building the E-ELT will take more than just its state-of-the-art optics. The telescope is a major civil engineering project and will ...
ann11027 — Announcement
ESOcast 29: Running a Desert Town
12 May 2011: The Cerro Paranal site was chosen to host ESO’s flagship telescope, the VLT, because it is one of the driest and most remote places on Earth. This may make for excellent observing conditions, but the desert is a hostile environment. Water and vegetation are virtually non-existent, not to mention the lack of modern amenities such as power. How is it possible to run such advanced technology in this barren environment? And how does the site manage to support the staff and visitors at the Paranal Residencia? This episode of the ESOcast takes us behind the scenes of the Paranal Observatory and shows us how they overcome the immense challenges of life in the Atacama Desert. Watch more ESOcast episodes here. Credits ESO Visual design and editing: Martin Kornmesser and Luis Calçada Editing: Herbert Zodet Web and technical support: Lars Holm Nielsen and Raquel Yumi Shida Written by: Herbert Zodet and ...
ann11026 — Announcement
New Territories for Science Outreach
11 May 2011: Public information officers, educators, science communicators, journalists, bloggers and professional and amateur astronomers are invited to attend or give talks at the 2011 Communicating Astronomy with the Public (CAP2011) conference, to take place between 10 and 14 October 2011 at the Xiyuan Hotel in Beijing, China. With online platforms boosting popularity and traffic, there is a whole new world building up in the social media and elsewhere online, a world where individuals become opinion leaders by owning and sharing information. For this new audience, traditional ways of communicating science are no longer enough. If science wants to keep up, it needs to learn how to communicate through the social media and online as well as continuing to come up with innovative and unconventional approaches in the offline world. CAP2011 will focus directly on how to bring science to the people of today and tomorrow. The major themes of the conference ...
ann11025 — Announcement
Café & Kosmos 10 May 2011
3 May 2011: Black holes are probably the most exotic objects in astronomy: they are the most compact objects the Universe has to offer, they bend space and time and they hurl jets of matter out into the vastness of space at almost the speed of light. It is also interesting to consider the celestial objects associated with black holes: X-ray binaries, gamma-ray bursts, quasars and blazars. It is no wonder that they haunt the imaginations of science fiction authors. Black holes also play an important role in astrophysics; their influence on the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies has only become clear in recent decades. But can the existence of these extraordinary objects be explained? This and other fascinating questions will be addressed during the next Café & Kosmos on Tuesday, 10 May 2011, at 19:00, by the astrophysicist Andreas Müller (Excellence Cluster Universe, & TUM), who has been studying black ...
ann11024 — Announcement
Superb New Mirrors Bring Exoplanet Discoveries Nearer
28 April 2011: Three unique and remarkably perfect toric mirrors, which are a vital component for SPHERE, a new instrument at the VLT, have been successfully completed and tested. SPHERE is one of the second generation of VLT instruments and it will search for giant Jupiter-sized exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, using direct imaging. The mirrors were manufactured for SPHERE at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (LAM) in France. The mirrors are called toric because their surfaces have slightly different curvatures in different directions — like the surface of a large torus, or doughnut. Directly detecting exoplanets is one of the most exciting areas of modern astronomy, but it is also undoubtedly one of the most challenging. Sometimes likened to trying to spot a firefly against the overwhelming light of the Moon; the enormous contrast in brightness between the host star and the orbiting planets means that an extraordinarily sensitive and precise instrument is ...
ann11023 — Announcement
Spinstars: The First Polluters of the Universe?
27 April 2011: By studying some of the oldest stars in our galaxy, an international team of astronomers led by Cristina Chiappini [1] has used data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope to show that the first massive stars in the Universe were probably very fast rotators, which they have dubbed spinstars. Their findings will be published in an article in Nature on 28 April 2011. Massive stars live fast and die young, so the first generation of massive stars in the Universe is already dead. However, their chemical imprint, left behind like an incriminating fingerprint, can still be found today in the oldest stars in the Milky Way. These fossil records provide valuable clues about the mysterious first stellar generation to enrich the pristine early Universe. Soon after the Big Bang, the Universe was made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. It was only enriched with other elements around 300 million years later ...
ann11022 — Announcement
First European ALMA Antenna Handed Over to Joint ALMA Observatory
21 April 2011: The first European antenna for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project has just been handed over to the Joint ALMA Observatory. The antenna, which has a dish 12 metres in diameter and weighs about 95 tonnes, was moved from the Site Erection Facility where it was assembled and tested, to the observatory’s Operations Support Facility (OSF). Although this was only a short trip between two adjacent sites at an altitude of 2900 metres in the foothills of the Chilean Andes, the move is nevertheless very important. “This move was just a short trip for this antenna, but it marks a big step for the project. This milestone is the result of many years of hard work by the engineering teams of the AEM Consortium [1] and by the ESO staff involved in following up the design, and the construction and testing activities in Chile,” says Stefano Stanghellini, the ALMA ...
ann11021 — Announcement
Light from all Four VLT Unit Telescopes Combined for the First Time
20 April 2011: On 17 March 2011 light collected by all four of the 8-metre Unit Telescopes of ESO’s Very Large Telescope was successfully combined for the first time using PIONIER [1], a new generation instrument in the VLT Interferometer. To have all four Unit Telescopes (UTs) finally working together as a single telescope is a major step in the development of the VLT — the original design always anticipated that the four 8-metre telescopes would be able to work either independently or together as part of the giant VLT Interferometer (VLTI). Coincidentally, the new observations took place on the 10th anniversary of the first successful combination of two beams within the VLTI. Among the main science goals for the four UTs, working together with PIONIER, are to try to reveal the signatures of planets in the making, to explore the natures and fates of stars by providing images of their surfaces and ...
ann11020 — Announcement
ESO and HISTORY Channel Join Forces to Share the Wonders of the Southern Skies
20 April 2011: The HISTORY TV channel network will broadcast a series of short films in Latin America featuring ESO telescopes. Viewers will have the chance to win a trip to ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile and admire the southern skies from one of the best observing sites in the world. Starting today, and continuing until June, the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes will be presented every day on screen by HISTORY Latin America and HISTORY Brazil, letting up to 32 million households share the excitement and mystery of the Universe. Viewers will have the chance to participate in a special contest. Four lucky winners will get the once-in-a-lifetime experience of spending a night at the Paranal Observatory, and experiencing the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory for themselves. To participate, viewers must register on the competition’s website.To celebrate the fifth season of the documentary series “The Universe” currently being aired by ...