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  • richardmitnick 2:45 pm on October 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “Poland to Join the European Southern Observatory” 


    European Southern Observatory

    28 October 2014
    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Today Professor Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education, signed an agreement that will lead to the country joining the European Southern Observatory (ESO) — the world’s most productive ground-based observatory. ESO is looking forward to welcoming Poland as a Member State, following subsequent ratification of the accession agreement.

    table

    Poland’s accession agreement was signed today in Warsaw, Poland, by Minister Kolarska-Bobińska and ESO’s Director General Tim de Zeeuw, in the presence of other senior officials from Poland and ESO. Since this agreement means accession to an international treaty, it must now be submitted to the Polish Parliament for ratification [1]. The signing of the agreement followed its unanimous approval by the ESO Council during an extraordinary meeting on 8 October 2014.

    “We’re very excited to have our membership of ESO on the horizon,” says Minister Kolarska-Bobińska. “This will open up many future opportunities for us, and drive Polish industry, science and technology forward. This will be the beginning of a fantastic partnership for European astronomy and will also strengthen our links with Chile, with whom we are already cooperating intensively, for instance, in the mining industry — another field where Chile’s natural conditions are outstanding.”

    The connection between ESO and Poland extends beyond their respective astronomical communities. For example, the most recent ESO Industry Day was hosted in Warsaw in January 2013. This event gave ESO the chance to inform Polish industry about ESO’s current facilities and its future plans, including the construction of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

    “We are looking forward to having Poland as a member of our organisation,” says ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw. “Poland will bring a strong astronomical community, which will strengthen the expertise across the ESO Member States, for example in the time-series astronomy. Poland will gain access to some of the best telescopes and observatories in the world, including the Very Large Telescope on Paranal, ALMA at Chajnantor and, in the coming decade, also the European Extremely Large Telescope on Armazones which will be a tremendous step forward. Poland can now be part of the E-ELT construction effort.”

    Poland, the homeland of Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer who proposed that the Sun and not the Earth is at the centre of the Solar System, has a rich tradition in astronomy extending to the present. “Polish astronomers have contributed greatly to astronomical research in recent years, and with our accession to ESO this will only continue to grow,” says Minister Kolarska-Bobińska.
    Notes

    [1] After ratification of Poland’s membership of ESO, the ESO Member States will be Austria, Belgium, Brazil (pending ratification), the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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  • richardmitnick 4:25 am on September 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “Unravelling the Mystery of Massive Star Birth ” 2010 


    European Southern Observatory

    14 July 2010
    Contacts
    Stefan Kraus
    University of Michigan
    USA
    Tel: +1 734 615 7374
    Email: stefankr@umich.edu

    Richard Hook
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Henri Boffin
    ESO, La Silla Paranal and E-ELT Press Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6222
    Cell: +49 174 515 43 24
    Email: hboffin@eso.org

    All Stars are Born the Same Way

    Astronomers have obtained the first image of a dusty disc closely encircling a massive baby star, providing direct evidence that massive stars form in the same way as their smaller brethren. This discovery, made thanks to a combination of ESO’s telescopes, is described in an article in this week’s issue of Nature.

    star

    “Our observations show a disc surrounding an embryonic young, massive star, which is now fully formed,” says Stefan Kraus, who led the study. “One can say that the baby is about to hatch!”

    The team of astronomers looked at an object known by the cryptic name of IRAS 13481-6124. About twenty times the mass of our Sun and five times its radius, the young central star, which is still surrounded by its pre-natal cocoon, is located in the constellation of Centaurus, about 10 000 light-years away.

    From archival images obtained by the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope as well as from observations done with the APEX 12-metre submillimetre telescope, astronomers discovered the presence of a jet.

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer

    ESO APEX
    ESO/APEX

    “Such jets are commonly observed around young low-mass stars and generally indicate the presence of a disc,” says Kraus.

    Circumstellar discs are an essential ingredient in the formation process of low-mass stars such as our Sun. However, it is not known whether such discs are also present during the formation of stars more massive than about ten solar masses, where the strong light emitted might prevent mass falling onto the star. For instance, it has been proposed that massive stars might form when smaller stars merge.

    In order to discover and understand the properties of this disc, astronomers employed ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). By combining light from three of the VLTI’s 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes with the AMBER instrument, this facility allows astronomers to see details equivalent to those a telescope with a mirror of 85 metres in diameter would see. The resulting resolution is about 2.4 milliarcseconds, which is equivalent to picking out the head of a screw on the International Space Station, or more than ten times the resolution possible with current visible-light telescopes in space.

    ESO VLT Interferometer
    ESO VLT Interior
    ESO VLT

    With this unique capability, complemented by observations done with another of ESO’s telescopes, the 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope at La Silla, Kraus and colleagues were able to detect a disc around IRAS 13481-6124.

    ESO NTT
    ESO NTT Interior
    ESO/NTT

    ESO LaSilla Long View
    ESO/LaSilla

    “This is the first time we could image the inner regions of the disc around a massive young star”, says Kraus. “Our observations show that formation works the same for all stars, regardless of mass.”

    The astronomers conclude that the system is about 60 000 years old, and that the star has reached its final mass. Because of the intense light of the star — 30 000 times more luminous than our Sun — the disc will soon start to evaporate. The flared disc extends to about 130 times the Earth–Sun distance — or 130 astronomical units (AU) — and has a mass similar to that of the star, roughly twenty times the Sun. In addition, the inner parts of the disc are shown to be devoid of dust.

    “Further observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), currently being constructed in Chile, could provide much information on these inner parts, and allow us to better understand how baby massive stars became heavy,” concludes Kraus.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    More information

    This research was presented in a paper to appear in this week issue of Nature (A hot compact dust disk around a massive young stellar object, by S. Kraus et al.).

    The team is composed of Stefan Kraus (University of Michigan, USA), Karl-Heinz Hofmann, Karl M. Menten, Dieter Schertl, Gerd Weigelt, Friedrich Wyrowski, and Anthony Meilland (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany),Karine Perraut (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, France), Romain Petrov and Sylvie Robbe-Dubois (Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis/CNRS/Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, France), Peter Schilke (Universität zu Köln, Germany), and Leonardo Testi (ESO).

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  • richardmitnick 1:04 pm on August 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “Best View Yet of Merging Galaxies in Distant Universe” 


    European Southern Observatory

    See the full article here.

    Hugo Messias
    Universidad de Concepción, Chile / Centro de Astronomia e Astrofísica da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal
    Tel: +351 21 361 67 47/30
    Email: hmessias@oal.ul.pt

    Richard Hook
    ESO, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and many other telescopes on the ground and in space, an international team of astronomers has obtained the best view yet of a collision that took place between two galaxies when the Universe was only half its current age. They enlisted the help of a galaxy-sized magnifying glass to reveal otherwise invisible detail. These new studies of the galaxy H-ATLAS J142935.3-002836 have shown that this complex and distant object looks like the well-known local galaxy collision, the Antenna Galaxies.

    image

    ALMA Array
    ALMA Array

    The famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes used a magnifying lens to reveal barely visible but important evidence. Astronomers are now combining the power of many telescopes on Earth and in space [1] with a vastly larger form of cosmic lens to study a case of vigorous star formation in the early Universe.

    “While astronomers are often limited by the power of their telescopes, in some cases our ability to see detail is hugely boosted by natural lenses, created by the Universe,” explains lead author Hugo Messias of the Universidad de Concepción (Chile) and the Centro de Astronomia e Astrofísica da Universidade de Lisboa (Portugal). “[Albert]Einstein predicted in his theory of general relativity that, given enough mass, light does not travel in a straight line but will be bent in a similar way to light refracted by a normal lens.”

    These cosmic lenses are created by massive structures like galaxies and galaxy clusters, which deflect the light from objects behind them due to their strong gravity — an effect, called gravitational lensing. The magnifying properties of this effect allow astronomers to study objects which would not be visible otherwise and to directly compare local galaxies with much more remote ones, seen when the Universe was significantly younger.

    But for these gravitational lenses to work, the lensing galaxy, and the one far behind it, need to be very precisely aligned.

    “These chance alignments are quite rare and tend to be hard to identify,” adds Hugo Messias, “but, recent studies have shown that by observing at far-infrared and millimetre wavelengths we can find these cases much more efficiently.”

    H-ATLAS J142935.3-002836 (or just H1429-0028 for short) is one of these sources and was found in the Herschel Astrophysical Terahertz Large Area Survey (H-ATLAS). Although very faint in visible light pictures, it is among the brightest gravitationally lensed objects in the far-infrared regime found so far, even though we are seeing it at a time when the Universe was just half its current age.

    Probing this object was at the limit of what is possible, so the international team of astronomers started an extensive follow-up campaign using the most powerful telescopes — both on the ground as well as in space — including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, ALMA, the Keck Observatory, the Karl Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA), and others. The different telescopes provided different views, which could be combined to get the best insight yet into the nature of this unusual object.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Keck Observatory
    Keck Observatory Interior
    Keck

    NRAO VLA
    NRAO VLA

    The Hubble and Keck images revealed a detailed gravitationally-induced ring of light around the foreground galaxy. These high resolution images also showed that the lensing galaxy is an edge-on disc galaxy — similar to our galaxy, the Milky Way — which obscures parts of the background light due to the large dust clouds it contains.

    But this obscuration is not a problem for ALMA and the JVLA, since these two facilities observe the sky at longer wavelengths, which are unaffected by dust. Using the combined data the team discovered that the background system was actually an ongoing collision between two galaxies. From this point on, ALMA and the JVLA started to play a key role in further characterising this object.

    In particular, ALMA traced carbon monoxide, which allows detailed studies of star formation mechanisms in galaxies. The ALMA observations also allowed the motion of the material in the more distant object to be measured. This was essential to show that the lensed object is indeed an ongoing galactic collision forming hundreds of new stars each year, and that one of the colliding galaxies still shows signs of rotation; an indication that it was a disc galaxy just before this encounter.

    The system of these two colliding galaxies resembles an object that is much closer to us: the Antennae Galaxies. This is a spectacular collision between two galaxies, which are believed to have had a disc structure in the past. While the Antennae system is forming stars at a rate of only a few tens of the mass of our Sun each year, H1429-0028 turns more than 400 times the mass of the Sun of gas into new stars each year.

    Rob Ivison, ESO’s Director of Science and a co-author of the new study, concludes: “ALMA enabled us to solve this conundrum because it gives us information about the velocity of the gas in the galaxies, which makes it possible to disentangle the various components, revealing the classic signature of a galaxy merger. This beautiful study catches a galaxy merger red handed as it triggers an extreme starburst.”
    Notes

    [1] Among the armada of instruments that were used to provide evidence to help unravel the mysteries of this case were no fewer than three ESO telescopes — ALMA, APEX and VISTA. The other telescopes and surveys that were brought to bear were: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Gemini South telescope, the Keck-II telescope, the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, the Jansky Very Large Array, CARMA, IRAM and SDSS and WISE.
    More information

    ESO APEX
    ESO/APEX

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO Vista

    Gemini South telescopeGemini South Interior
    Gemini South

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer

    Carma
    Caltech CARMA

    IRAM
    IRAM

    Sloan Digital Sky Survey Telescope
    SSDS Telescope

    NASA Wise Telescope
    NASA/Wise

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    This research was presented in a paper entitled “Herschel-ATLAS and ALMA HATLAS J142935.3-002836, a lensed major merger at redshift 1.027”, by Hugo Messias et al., to appear online on 26 August 2014 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    The team is composed of Hugo Messias (Universidad de Concepción, Barrio Universitario, Chile; Centro de Astronomia e Astrofísica da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal), Simon Dye (School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, UK), Neil Nagar (Universidad de Concepción, Barrio Universitario, Chile), Gustavo Orellana (Universidad de Concepción, Barrio Universitario, Chile), R. Shane Bussmann (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA), Jae Calanog (Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of California, USA), Helmut Dannerbauer (Universität Wien, Institut für Astrophysik, Austria), Hai Fu (Astronomy Department, California Institute of Technology, USA), Edo Ibar (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Departamento de Astronomía y Astrofísica, Chile), Andrew Inohara (Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of California, USA), R. J. Ivison (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, UK; ESO, Garching, Germany), Mattia Negrello (INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Italy), Dominik A. Riechers (Astronomy Department, California Institute of Technology, USA; Department of Astronomy, Cornell University, USA), Yun-Kyeong Sheen (Universidad de Concepción, Barrio Universitario, Chile), Simon Amber (The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK), Mark Birkinshaw (H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol, UK; Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA), Nathan Bourne (School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, UK), Dave L. Clements (Astrophysics Group, Imperial College London, UK), Asantha Cooray (Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of California, USA; Astronomy Department, California Institute of Technology, USA), Gianfranco De Zotti (INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Italy), Ricardo Demarco (Universidad de Concepción, Barrio Universitario, Chile), Loretta Dunne (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, UK), Stephen Eales (School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University,UK), Simone Fleuren (School of Mathematical Sciences, University of London, UK), Roxana E. Lupu (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania, USA), Steve J. Maddox (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, UK), Michał J. Michałowski (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, UK), Alain Omont (Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, UPMC Univ. Paris, France), Kate Rowlands (School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews, UK), Dan Smith (Centre for Astrophysics Research, Science & Technology Research Institute, University of Hertfordshire, UK), Matt Smith (School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University,UK) and Elisabetta Valiante (School of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University, UK).

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    DSee the full article here.

    Just for reference:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/30/Antennae_Galaxies_reloaded.jpg/604px-Antennae_Galaxies_reloaded.jpg

    The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has snapped the best ever image of the Antennae Galaxies. Hubble has released images of these stunning galaxies twice before, once using observations from its Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) in 1997, and again in 2006 from the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Each of Hubble’s images of the Antennae Galaxies has been better than the last, due to upgrades made during the famous servicing missions, the last of which took place in 2009.

    The galaxies — also known as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 — are locked in a deadly embrace. Once normal, sedate spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, the pair have spent the past few hundred million years sparring with one another. This clash is so violent that stars have been ripped from their host galaxies to form a streaming arc between the two. In wide-field images of the pair the reason for their name becomes clear — far-flung stars and streamers of gas stretch out into space, creating long tidal tails reminiscent of antennae.

    This new image of the Antennae Galaxies shows obvious signs of chaos. Clouds of gas are seen in bright pink and red, surrounding the bright flashes of blue star-forming regions — some of which are partially obscured by dark patches of dust. The rate of star formation is so high that the Antennae Galaxies are said to be in a state of starburst, a period in which all of the gas within the galaxies is being used to form stars. This cannot last forever and neither can the separate galaxies; eventually the nuclei will coalesce, and the galaxies will begin their retirement together as one large elliptical galaxy.
    This image uses visible and near-infrared observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), along with some of the previously-released observations from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

    NASA Hubble WFC3
    NASA/ESA Hubble WFC3

    NASA Hubble ACS
    NASA/ESA Hubble ACS

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  • richardmitnick 3:42 pm on August 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “New ALMA Equipment Designed in Chile” 


    European Southern Observatory

    25 August 2014
    Richard Hook
    ESO, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    ALMA Array
    ALMA Array

    New equipment for transporting one of the most sensitive components of the ALMA array — the antenna Front Ends (cryogenic refrigerators) — has been delivered to ALMA by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the North American associate of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. This new vehicle, which will save lots of time and increase safety during manoeuvers, was completely designed and built in Chile. It is the first shipment of one of four vehicles for handling the Front Ends that hold the set of detectors inside ALMA´s antennas, and is part of the technological exchange policy with the host country.

    set3

    The Front End Handling Vehicle (FEHV) — a robust elevator-crane car — is the result of a three year design and manufacturing collaboration between NRAO and a team of Chilean professionals from the Prolaser and Maestranza Walper companies, located in the city of Valdivia in the south of Chile. The main tourist attractions of this region inspired the names of each of these four vehicles, being the first one called after a river: Calle-Calle.

    The FEHV will help to shorten the time needed to set up and remove the receivers from the antennas. “This replacement job takes place every five days. Over the 30 year lifetime projected for the observatory using this vehicle will save a huge amount of resources, considering that this specific task takes 2000 person hours a year, approximately”, proudly stated Rodrigo Brito, team leader supervising the official shipment of the manufacturing contribution from the North American partner of ALMA.

    Each cryostat, together with the receivers comprising each Front End, costs about one million dollars, weighs around 750 kilogrammes and must be lifted up almost two metres to be positioned precisely in the confined space inside the antennas cubicles. The FEHV has a built-in platform to lift its load in a safe way, move it and rotate it for perfect alignment during the setup. It weighs 709 kilogrammes and is 2.20 metres long, 1.05 metres wide and 1.50 metres tall.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:19 pm on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/Goddard: “NASA’s 3-D Study of Comets Reveals Chemical Factory at Work” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    NASA Goddard Space flight Center

    August 11, 2014
    Elizabeth Zubritsky
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-614-5438
    elizabeth.a.zubritsky@nasa.gov

    Nancy Neal-Jones
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-0039
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov

    A NASA-led team of scientists has created detailed 3-D maps of the atmospheres surrounding comets, identifying several gases and mapping their spread at the highest resolution ever achieved.

    “We achieved truly first-of-a-kind mapping of important molecules that help us understand the nature of comets,” said Martin Cordiner, a researcher working in the Goddard Center for Astrobiology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Cordiner led the international team of researchers.

    Almost unheard of for comet studies, the 3-D perspective provides deeper insight into which materials are shed from the nucleus of the comet and which are produced within the atmosphere, or coma. This helped the team nail down the sources of two key organic, or carbon-containing, molecules.

    The observations were conducted in 2013 on comets Lemmon and ISON using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, a network of high-precision antennas in Chile. These comets are the first to be studied with ALMA.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    The ALMA observations combine a high-resolution 2-D image of a comet’s gases with a detailed spectrum at each point. From these spectra, researchers can identify the molecules present at every point and determine their velocities (speed plus direction) along the line-of-sight; this information provides the third dimension – the depth of the coma.

    “So, not only does ALMA let us identify individual molecular species in the coma, it also gives us the ability to map their locations with great sensitivity,” said Anthony Remijan, a scientist with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, one of the organizations that operates ALMA, and a co-author of the study.

    The researchers reported results for three molecular species, focusing primarily on two whose sources have been difficult to discern (except in comet Halley). The 3-D maps indicated whether each molecule was flowing outward evenly in all directions or coming off in jets or in clumps.

    In each comet, the team found that two species – formaldehyde and HNC (made of one hydrogen, one nitrogen and one carbon) – were produced in the coma. For formaldehyde, this confirmed what researchers already suspected, but the new maps contained enough detail to resolve clumps of the material moving into different regions of the coma day-by-day and even hour-by-hour.

    For HNC, the maps settled a long-standing question about the material’s source. Initially, HNC was thought to be pristine interstellar material coming from the nucleus of a comet, whereas later work suggested other possible sources. The new study provided the first proof that HNC is produced during the breakdown of large molecules or organic dust in the coma.

    “Understanding organic dust is important, because such materials are more resistant to destruction during atmospheric entry, and some could have been delivered intact to early Earth, thereby fueling the emergence of life,” said Michael Mumma, Director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, and a co-author on the study. “These observations open a new window on this poorly known component of cometary organics.”

    The observations, published today by the Astrophysical Journal Letters, also were significant because modest comets like Lemmon and ISON contain relatively low concentrations of crucial molecules, making them difficult to probe in depth with Earth-based telescopes. The few comprehensive studies of this kind so far have been conducted on bright, blockbuster comets, such as Hale-Bopp. The present results extend them to comets of only moderate brightness.

    This research was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute through the Goddard Center for Astrobiology and by NASA’s Planetary Atmospheres and Planetary Astronomy programs. ALMA is an international astronomy facility. Its construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by the European Southern Observatory, on behalf of North America by the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA

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  • richardmitnick 6:11 am on July 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “Solar Farm to be Installed at La Silla” 


    European Southern Observatory

    21 July 2014
    Roberto Tamai
    E-ELT Programme Manager
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6367
    Email: rtamai@eso.org

    Lars Lindberg Christensen
    Head of ESO ePOD
    ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
    Cellular: +49 173 3872 621
    E-mail: lars@eso.org

    As part of its green initiatives, ESO has signed an agreement with the Chilean company, Astronomy and Energy (a subsidiary of the Spanish LKS Group), to install a solar farm at the La Silla Observatory. ESO has been working on green solutions for supplying energy to its sites for several years, and these are now coming to fruition. Looking to the future, renewables are considered vital to satisfy energy needs in a sustainable manner.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO at LaSilla

    solar

    ESO’s ambitious programme is focused on achieving the highest quality of astronomical research. This requires the design, construction and operation of the most powerful ground-based observing facilities in the world. However, the operations at ESO’s observatories present significant challenges in terms of their energy usage.

    Despite the abundance of sunshine at the ESO sites, it has not been possible up to now to make efficient use of this natural source of power. Astronomy and Energy will supply a means of effectively exploiting solar energy using crystalline photovoltaic modules (solar panels), which will be installed at La Silla.

    The installation will cover an area of more than 100 000 square metres, with the aim of being ready to supply the site by end of the year.

    The global landscape for energy has changed considerably over the last 20 years. As energy prices are increasing and vary unpredictably, ESO has been keen to look into ways to control its energy costs and also limit its ecological impact. The organisation has already managed to successfully reduce its power consumption at La Silla, and despite the additions of the VISTA and VST survey telescopes, power use has remained stable over the past few years at the Paranal Observatory, site of the VLT.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO VISTA Telescope

    ESO VST telescope
    ESO VST Telescope

    The much-improved efficiency of solar cells has meant they have become a viable alternative to exploit solar energy. Solar cells of the latest generation are considered to be very reliable and almost maintenance-free, characteristics that contribute to a high availability of electric power, as required at astronomical observatories.

    As ESO looks to the future, it seeks further sustainable energy sources to be compatible across all its sites, including Cerro Armazones — close to Cerro Paranal and the site of the future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). This goal will be pursued not only by installing primary sources of renewable energy, as at La Silla, but also by realising connections to the Chilean interconnected power systems, where non-conventional renewable energy sources are going to constitute an ever-growing share of the power and energy mixes.

    The installation of a solar farm at La Silla is one of a series of initiatives ESO is taking to tackle the environmental impacts of its operations, as can be viewed here. Green energy is strongly supported by the Chilean government, which aims to increase the Chilean green energy share to 25% in 2020, with a possible target of 30% by 2030.

    See the full article, with note, here.

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  • richardmitnick 4:10 pm on May 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: Another Great Video, ALMA UHD Video Compilation 


    European Southern Observatory

    From ESO, a great video compilation about ALMA in UHD

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  • richardmitnick 10:12 am on May 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “First Results from the ESO Ultra HD Expedition” 


    European Southern Observatory

    Richard Hook
    ESO, La Silla, Paranal and E-ELT Press Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    The ESO Ultra HD Expedition may now be over, but there is much work being done behind-the-scenes to process and combine all the footage the team has taken — a staggering 10 TB of images and video. With four times the resolution of HD, Ultra HD takes our view of the night sky into a new, immersive dimension. The expedition team can now present some of their first results in dramatic Ultra HD footage — bringing the Universe closer than ever before.

    man

    While the production of Ultra HD TV displays and cameras has flourished, very little Ultra HD content has been made universally available until now. ESO is now changing this by delivering free Ultra HD content to all, from consumer to broadcaster, under a very liberal licensing model.

    A little over a month ago, ESO’s videographer Herbert Zodet and the three ESO Photo Ambassadors: Yuri Beletsky, Christoph Malin and Babak Tafreshi embarked on their expedition to Chile with the goal of capturing footage at ESO’s three observing sites in all their grandeur — using state-of-the-art Ultra HD tools.

    First the team visited ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile, home to the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) — ESO’s flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy. They then drove to ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array — a huge new facility at 5000 metres above sea level on the Chajnantor Plateau, dedicated to studying the cool Universe. Finally, the team headed to La Silla, ESO’s first observatory — home to the ESO 3.6-metre telescope and the 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope.

    ESO VLT
    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal

    ALMA Array
    ALMA Array at Chajnantor

    ESO LaSilla Long View
    ESO La Silla

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at LaSilla
    ESO 3.6 meter telescope at LaSilla

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT

    The team created a wide range of content including timelapses, stills and panoramas in Ultra HD quality — as well as timelapses and stills in planetarium fulldome format — footage which will be used in fulldome planetarium shows in the ESO Supernova facility from 2017. The almost perfect atmospheric conditions at each of the sites provided crystal-clear views of the night sky, further enhancing this visually stunning production.

    A number of impressive videos and photos are now being released, and some linked to this Announcement in the right sidebar [in the original article]. Direct links for more of the first results from the expedition are here:

    [links to the below items are in the main article]
    For media and others:
    UHD stills, of which several are large panoramas, adding to ESO’s already large collection of high resolution stills and panorama stills
    UHD timelapses adding to ESO’s already large collection of time-lapses
    UHD day-time video footage adding to ESO’s already large collection of Ultra HD videos
    For use for broadcasters the expedition is captured in a five UHD compilations featuring:
    Photographers at ESO’s UHD Expedition
    La Silla
    Very Large Telescope
    ALMA
    UHD timelapses
    For planetarium producers:
    UHD fulldome stills (fish-eye, 4K) (adding to ESO’s collection of fulldome stills)
    UHD fulldome timelapses (fish-eye, 4K) (adding to ESO’s collection of fulldome timelapses)
    UHD 360 degree panoramas (adding to ESO’s collection of 360 degree panoramas)

    Much more is in the pipeline, so stay tuned for much more ultra HD content over the coming weeks. The very best images will be released as ESO Pictures of the Week over the coming months. Also look out for the upcoming ESOcast about the ESO Ultra HD Expedition.

    See the full article, with notes, here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:04 pm on April 15, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “ESO Site Shortlisted for Cherenkov Telescope Array” 


    European Southern Observatory

    15 April 2014
    Contacts

    Lars Lindberg Christensen
    Head of ESO ePOD
    ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
    Cellular: +49 173 3872 621
    E-mail: lars@eso.org

    ESO’s Paranal–Armazones site in Chile has been shortlisted as one of two potential sites in the southern hemisphere for the international Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) — a large array for ground-based gamma-ray astronomy. This is an important step towards the realisation of the project and if the site is selected, this will open up a new frontier for ESO.

    cta

    On 10 April 2014 Government representatives from the 12 of the countries involved in the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) project met in Munich and decided to start negotiations with the two sites — Aar in Namibia and ESO’s Paranal–Armazones site in Chile — keeping Leoncito in Argentina as a third option.

    The CTA project is an initiative to build the next generation of ground-based, very high energy gamma-ray instruments. The CTA project aims to use detection of high-energy gamma-rays to provide a deeper insight into the high-energy Universe.

    The representatives received consultation from an international Site Selection Committee as well as the CTA consortium’s extensive input on the merits of the proposed sites. The Consortium expects to close the site selection by the end of 2014.

    The spokesperson of the CTA Consortium, Professor Werner Hofmann said: “The site choice is on the critical path towards implementing CTA; this decision represents a major step forward and we appreciate very much the engagement and support of the funding agencies and the country delegates involved in the decision.”

    Gamma-rays are emitted by the hottest and most powerful objects in our Universe — such as supermassive black holes, supernovae and possibly remnants of the Big Bang. When a high-energy gamma photon hits the Earth’s atmosphere, it may produce a cascade of secondary particles and cause emission of what is known as Cherenkov radiation — a characteristic faint blue visible-light flash. This flash may last only a few billionths of a second so must be imaged with super-fast and sensitive cameras and with telescopes of enormous light gathering power.

    The Cherenkov Telescope Array is a multinational, world-wide project with which 1000 scientists and engineers from 28 countries and over 170 research institutes are involved. The CTA will provide an order-of-magnitude jump in sensitivity over current instruments, providing novel insights into some of the most extreme processes in the Universe. Most systems measuring Cherenkov radiation use only a handful of telescopes, but the CTA will consist of about 100 Cherenkov telescopes of 23-metre, 12-metre and 4-metre dish sizes located in the southern hemisphere, plus a smaller site in the northern hemisphere. An array of this size will increase the number of detected flashes, it will also cover the full energy range [3] and improve drastically upon the angular resolution [4], allowing for identification of the emitting objects at other wavelengths.

    “Although formal discussions have not yet started, the shortlisting of Paranal-Armazones as a potential site for CTA illustrates the excellence of the site and the infrastructure for the Very Large Telescope and European Extremely Large Telescope. If chosen, CTA would take advantage of ESO’s great expertise in ground-based astronomy.” said ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw. “We look forward to the discussions with CTA.”

    See the full article, with notes here.

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  • richardmitnick 2:48 pm on April 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From ESO: “Capturing the Ultra High Definition Universe” 


    European Southern Observatory

    hd

    This photo, taken at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, is the first photograph from the ESO Ultra HD Expedition — a pioneering journey currently being undertaken by four world-renowned videographers and ESO Photo Ambassadors. Equipped with state-of-the-art Ultra HD tools, the team are capturing ESO’s three unique observing sites in Chile in all their grandeur, while documenting their journey and escapades in a blog.

    par
    Paranal Observatory

    The four Unit Telescopes — Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun — one of the Auxiliary Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), are captured from an unusual perspective in this image. Taken using a fisheye lens, this photography technique produces a 360° view of the location — creating an immersive Paranal world with the swirling Milky Way at the centre of it.

    Distant cosmic gems are seen scattered above the VLT — speckling the sapphire shades of the night sky. Near the top of the image, the Moon and Venus sit side-by-side, beaming brightly along with Saturn (just above the dome towards the bottom of the picture) as they align beautifully across the line of the ecliptic. Antares, Vega and Altair — some of the brighter stars in the sky are also visible. Two irregular dwarf galaxies which are neighbours of the Milky Way, known as the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, can be seen glowing faintly to the left, near the Auxiliary Telescope. The fulldome footage gained from the fisheye lens during the expedition will soon be distributed for free for use in planetarium shows (such as those in the upcoming ESO Supernova facility from 2017).

    The expedition began in Santiago, Chile, on 25 March 2014. The following day the team set off for their first observatory stop: ESO’s Paranal Observatory, where this image was taken on 26 March 2014. Here they will spend the next few days shooting time-lapse stills, videos and panoramas of Paranal — home to ESO’s flagship facility the Very Large Telescope — before moving onwards to snap the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the La Silla Observatory, returning to Europe on 8 April.

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Paranal

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    ESO LaSilla
    LaSilla

    See the full article here.

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    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.


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