ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive astronomical observatory. It operates three sites in Chile — La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor — on behalf of its fifteen member states. It builds ALMA together with international partners, and designs the European Extremely Large Telescope.
A group of astronomers has been able to follow stardust being made in real time — during the aftermath of a supernova explosion. For the first time they show that these cosmic dust factories make their grains in a two-stage process, starting soon after the explosion, but continuing for years afterwards. The team used ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in northern Chile to analyse the light from the supernova SN2010jl as it slowly faded. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 9 July 2014.
The little-known cloud of cosmic gas and dust called Gum 15 is the birthplace and home of hot young stars. Beautiful and deadly, these stars mould the appearance of the nebula from which they formed and, as they progress into adulthood, will eventually also destroy it.
Groundbreaking for the E-ELT — Ceremony marks next major step forward for the world’s largest optical/infrared telescope
Today a groundbreaking ceremony took place to mark the next major milestone towards ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Part of the 3000-metre peak of Cerro Armazones was blasted away as a step towards levelling the summit in preparation for the construction of the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world.
Observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have for the first time directly mapped out the molecular gas and dust in the host galaxies of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) — the biggest explosions in the Universe. In a complete surprise, less gas was observed than expected, and correspondingly much more dust, making some GRBs appear as “dark GRBs”. This work will appear in the journal Nature on 12 June 2014 and is the first ALMA science result on GRBs to appear. It shows ALMA’s potential to help us to better understand these objects.
SPHERE — the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument — has been installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile and has achieved first light. This powerful new facility for finding and studying exoplanets uses multiple advanced techniques in combination. It offers dramatically better performance than existing instruments and has produced impressive views of dust discs around nearby stars and other targets during the very first days of observations. SPHERE was developed and built by a consortium of many European institutes, led by the Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble, France, working in partnership with ESO. It is expected to revolutionise the detailed study of exoplanets and circumstellar discs.
Contacts and Bio
Blackrock Castle Observatory
Tel: +353 21 4357917
Clair McSweeney has a background in festival and event management, visitor centre management, social media and cultural and community outreach. She works closely with local education, community and tourism facilitators in her position as Facilities Manager at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, home to Cosmos at the Castle, an internationally award winning astronomy exhibit. BCO is also the site of BCOLabs, a research observatory.
Clair was born in Limerick, Ireland and has many years experience in cross-cultural event and facilities management with related positions in Ireland, Jamaica, Germany and San Francisco, USA. She graduated from University College Galway with an Honours BA in Arts and Languages in 1992 and has postgraduate diplomas in tourism and communications.
Clair is the only non-scientist in a work team of six scientists; this allows for varied and complementary skill sets to create agendas and programmes that showcase both the interactive astronomy exhibit and the outreach which manifests from Cosmos at the Castle, the research at BCO Labs and the facility’s global astronomy links. This includes work with her position as ESON representative in Ireland, projects with ESERO (European Space Education Resource Office) Ireland, spearheading local and national IYA2009 events and Beyond, UNAWE projects, Cork Science Café, Cork Skeptics at the Castle, high profile events such as an on-orbit live link to the ISS, international affiliations — EarthHour, Globe at Night, GAM, pan-global observatory links and locally, a host of Cork festivals that have found that astronomy really IS everywhere!
Her position at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory has opened her eyes to the opportunities afforded to a science centre that uses astronomy as a tool to engage with a wider audience.
Clair’s position as ESON representative in Ireland has both generated an enhanced BCO audience and a greater awareness of the work of ESO in Ireland. Her work with ESERO in Ireland has created new opportunities for developing space as a theme to engage STEM learning in the classroom.
Clair managed a highly successful programme of astronomy related activities for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 including orchestrating the theme of the Cork St Patrick’s Day Parade, UNAWE projects and lecture tours with the Vatican Astronomer, Br Guy Consolmagno and Carolyn Porco, Imaging Director for the Cassini Huygens mission to Saturn. She has also organised the Earth Hour action in Cork city.
Check the website of the Blackrock Castel Observatory, their Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Cork Institute of Technology
About the ESO Science Outreach Network
The ESO education and Public Outreach Department has established a network of contacts in the ESO Member states and other countries. The goal of this ESO Science Outreach Network (ESON) is to act locally as ESO's media and outreach representative, in order to promote ESO's mission and achievements, and demonstrate the many inspirational aspects of astronomy.
More information about ESON is available on: http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/eson.html