The exceptional circumstances imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic led to the suspension of science operations at the La Silla and Paranal observatories, as well as at the APEX telescope, since the end of March. ESO has been closely monitoring the constraints imposed by the pandemic in Chile and has developed plans for a safe and progressive resumption of science operations at the observatories as soon as circumstances allow. Following a detailed assessment of the current situation and the logistic, technical, and safety constraints, as well as the capacity to guarantee the compliance with all measures needed to protect the health of its staff at all times, ESO has concluded that it will be able to re-establish a minimum level of science operations at the observatory sites in the coming weeks.
Minimal Science Operations to be Resumed at Paranal, APEX and La Silla
Under the minimal science operations scheme, the following activities will be resumed:
- Paranal Observatory: science operations at the VLT with FORS2 at UT1 and UVES at UT2, in Service Mode and Delegated Visitor Mode.
- La Silla Observatory: science operations at the NTT with EFOSC2, in Delegated Visitor Mode. The possibility of adding HARPS at the 3.6m telescope is still under consideration.
- APEX: science operations with SEPIA at frequencies below 500 GHz. The possibility of adding nFLASH or PI230 is still under consideration.
The expected dates of re-starting operations under this scheme are 23 September at Paranal and APEX. It is not yet possible to provide an estimated restart date for La Silla, which would take place in any case after Paranal. The observations to be performed will be selected from the backlog accumulated during the past months. Please note that the Director's Discretionary Time channel remains closed at this time.
ESO will continue to closely follow all the developments influencing its ability to proceed with the planned resumption of minimal science operations and eventual further expansion to include more instruments and telescopes, and it will revert back to the present safe mode if health and safety considerations so dictate.
Further inquiries on this matter can be addressed to the ESO User Support Department.