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  • richardmitnick 12:37 pm on March 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "La Silla Observatory turns 50!", ESO La Silla   

    From European Southern Observatory: “La Silla Observatory turns 50!” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From European Southern Observatory

    29 March 2019

    Calum Turner
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6670
    Email: pio@eso.org

    1
    Since its inauguration in 1969, ESO’s La Silla Observatory has been at the forefront of astronomy. Its suite of state-of-the-art instruments has allowed astronomers to make ground-breaking discoveries and paved the way for future generations of telescopes. Even after 50 years of observations, ESO’s telescopes at La Silla continue to push the boundaries of astronomy, discovering alien worlds and unveiling the cosmos in breathtaking detail.

    Construction of La Silla on the summit of the Chilean mountain Cinchado-North in the outskirts of the Atacama desert, started in 1965, three years after ESO’s founding [1]. The site was chosen for its accessibility, dry climate, and ideal observing conditions — perfect for constructing a world-leading observatory.

    Observations began using the relatively small ESO 1-m and ESO 1.52-m telescopes.

    The ESO 1-metre Schmidt telescope at La Silla began its service life in 1971 using photographic plates to take wide-field images of the southern sky four degrees across — which would cover the full Moon 64 times over.

    The ESO 1.52m Telescope at La Silla

    The number and variety of telescopes on La Silla has increased as the observatory has matured, with the site now hosting 13 operating telescopes — not only from ESO but from countries, universities and collaborations around the world. These telescopes include TRAPPIST–South, the Rapid Eye Mount telescope (REM) and the TAROT telescope gamma-ray burst chaser.


    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist-South National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO Rapid Eye Mount fully automated telescope at La Silla, Altitude 2,375 m (7,792 ft)

    ESO La Silla TAROT telescope. Altitude 2,375 m (7,792 ft)

    Many of ESO’s top-ten discoveries were made using telescopes at La Silla. Highlights of the vast body of scientific research over the last five decades include: the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe — a finding that earned the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics; the discovery of a planet around the nearest star to the Sun; the observation of the first light from a gravitational wave source; the determination of the most accurate distances to nearby galaxies by the Chilean-led Araucaria project and the discovery of seven planets around an ultracool dwarf in the TRAPPIST-1 system.

    A size comparison of the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, lined up in order of increasing distance from their host star. The planetary surfaces are portrayed with an artist’s impression of their potential surface features, including water, ice, and atmospheres. NASA

    Two particular astronomical events shook the routine of La Silla, and captured the attention of its armada of telescopes for weeks: the explosion of SN 1987A and the collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter. The latter in particular disrupted life at La Silla, with 10 telescopes trained on Jupiter and live press events in Garching and Santiago sharing the latest developments in the cataclysmic collision with the media.

    As well as its astronomical breakthroughs, La Silla has played an extremely important role in the development of astronomy in Chile, and Chilean astronomers routinely use telescopes in La Silla for their scientific research. The operation and continuous development of ESO facilities including La Silla has also provided a wide variety of opportunities for the involvement of Chilean industry, engineering and science. The telescopes of La Silla have also served as a training ground for new generations of European and Chilean astronomers, as shown for instance by the ESO-NEON Observing Schools that are regularly hosted at La Silla.

    La Silla has endured challenges as well as enjoyed successes; while the observatory enjoys almost perfect observing conditions, it is also at risk of regular tectonic activity. No major problems have yet been caused by earthquakes at La Silla, despite occasionally being close to the epicentre of major earthquakes. The observatory now faces another troubling risk — light pollution from the nearby Pan-American Highway threatens La Silla’s dark skies.

    As this distinguished observatory celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, it will advance not just professional but also amateur astronomy and widespread appreciation of astronomical phenomena — this year a total solar eclipse will be visible from La Silla. As the Moon covers the face of the Sun, turning day into night over a 150-km-wide swathe of northern Chile, hundreds of visitors will celebrate not only this rare astronomical event, but also the scientific legacy of La Silla, ESO’s original observatory.

    Notes

    [1] “La Silla” — Spanish for “The Saddle” — comes from the name local charcoal burners gave to Cinchado-North, the saddle-shaped mountain that became the site of ESO’s first observatory.

    Links

    More information about La Silla
    Images of La Silla
    The 2019 Total Solar Eclipse at La Silla
    Article on the impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 in The Messenger

    Even 50 years after its inauguration, La Silla remains an ESO stronghold at the forefront of astronomy, providing the data for over two hundred papers each year. Though ESO’s flagship observatory is now the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal, ESO still operates two of the most productive 4-metre-class telescopes in the world at La Silla. ESO’s first major telescope, the ESO 3.6-metre, is home to the world’s foremost extrasolar planet hunter — the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a spectrograph with unrivalled precision that has discovered scores of alien worlds.

    The second ESO telescope still in operation at La Silla — the 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) — broke new ground for telescope design and was the first in the world to have a computer-controlled main mirror. This innovative technology, called active optics, was developed at ESO and is now applied to most of the world’s large telescopes. As well as performing a wide variety of scientific observations, this telescope was instrumental in paving the way for the VLT.

    Both telescopes will receive upgrades to keep them at the astronomical vanguard. The NTT will soon host the pioneering SoXS instrument, a spectrograph designed to follow up transient and variable astronomical events from imaging surveys. The ESO 3.6-metre will host NIRPS, an infrared planet-hunting instrument that will complement the already impressive abilities of HARPS. These new arrivals, alongside new hosted telescopes like ExTrA and BlackGEM, will ensure that La Silla Observatory remains at the forefront of astronomical science.

    See the full article here .


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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre EEuropean Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO La Silla HELIOS (HARPS Experiment for Light Integrated Over the Sun)

    ESO/HARPS at La Silla

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at Cerro LaSilla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO/Cerro LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Platform at Cerro Paranal elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft)


    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres



    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).

    ESO/APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level


    ESO Speculoos telescopes four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes at ESO Paranal Observatory 2635 metres 8645 ft above sea level


    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

    A novel gamma ray telescope under construction on Mount Hopkins, Arizona. a large project known as the Cherenkov Telescope Array, composed of hundreds of similar telescopes to be situated in the Canary Islands and Chile. The telescope on Mount Hopkins will be fitted with a prototype high-speed camera, assembled at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and capable of taking pictures at a billion frames per second. Credit: Vladimir Vassiliev

     
  • richardmitnick 2:23 pm on September 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESO La Silla, , , The Rise of Astrotourism in Chile   

    From ESOblog: “The Rise of Astrotourism in Chile” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    21 September 2018

    1
    Outreach@ESO

    For the ultimate stargazing experience, Chile is an unmissable destination. The skies above the Atacama Desert are clear for about 300 nights per year, so this high, dry and dark environment offers the perfect window to the Universe. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Chile each year to take advantage of the incredible stargazing conditions, and to visit the scientific observatories — including ESO’s own — that use these skies as a natural astronomical laboratory. But one challenge now affecting Chile’s world-renowned dark skies is that of light pollution.

    The intense Sun beats down on the tourists’ cars as they climb the dusty desert road up Cerro Paranal. The 130-kilometre journey from the closest city of Antofagasta will be worth it because waiting at the top is ESO’s Paranal Observatory.

    ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
    elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo

    The tourists have been eagerly awaiting their tour of this incredible site since they booked it a month ago. Every Saturday, two of ESO’s Chile-based observatories — Paranal and La Silla — open their doors for organised tours led by ESO’s education and Public Outreach Department on behalf of the ESO Representation Office.

    ESO/Cerro LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    Tourists come from far and wide to find out about the technology behind ESO’s world-class telescopes — how they are built and operated, and how astronomers use them to make groundbreaking discoveries. Each tour begins at the visitor centres, which are currently being upgraded with new content designed for the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre, before the guests are taken to see what they really came for: the telescopes.

    ESO Supernova Planetarium, Garching Germany

    Visits to Paranal are centred around ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced optical instrument and the flagship facility of European optical astronomy. Visitors also see the control room where astronomers work, and the Paranal Residencia — the astronomers’ “home away from home” when they are observing in Chile.

    ESO Paranal Residencia exterior

    ESO Paranal Residencia inside near the swimming pool

    ESO Paranal Residencia dining room

    At La Silla, on the other hand, visitors spend time at the ESO 3.6-metre telescope and the New Technology Telescope before ending the day at the Swedish–ESO Submillimetre Telescope.


    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at Cerro LaSilla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.


    ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres

    ESO Swedish Submillimetre Telescope at La Silla at 2400 meters

    Astronomy enthusiasts can also visit the Operational Support Facility for the impressive Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    The word “alma” means “soul” in Spanish, and there is definitely something spiritual about this extraordinary location. With its 66 antennas spreading across the desert, ALMA is a hugely popular observatory to visit — tourists book at least two months in advance for an eye-opening tour of the control room, laboratories, and antennas under maintenance.

    The tours at each of these three sites are led by a team of enthusiastic guides. Most are local students who love to share their passion for astronomy. Gonzalo Aravena, a guide at Paranal, thinks that “being a small part of the great astrotourism that exists in Chile today is something to be proud of”, and Jermy Barraza, a La Silla guide, believes that guiding visitors is “a great support to our country’s culture, and encourages awareness of the natural resources that should be protected”.

    2
    Tourists visiting ESO’s Paranal Observatory pose for a snapshot in front of two of the VLT Unit Telescopes.
    Credit: ESO

    With almost 10,000 visitors a year to Paranal and 4000 to La Silla, these ESO observatories are the most popular Chilean sites for astrotourists, especially those who want to visit scientific facilities. Francisco Rodríguez, ESO’s Press Officer in Chile, explains, “Astrotourists are increasingly enthusiastic about experiencing dark skies and impressive astronomical observatories, and ESO sees this reflected in the growing number of visitors that arrive each year — over the last four years we’ve seen the numbers double”. This value is especially impressive considering how difficult the observatories are to get to.

    ESO avoids organising tours and events at night, leaving astronomers undisturbed and able to focus on their scientific research. Usually daytime tours are the only way to visit an ESO observatory, however, the doors are often opened for special events; for example Mercury’s transit of the Sun in 2003 and the partial solar eclipse in 2010. Visitors come to ESO to see the impressive technology and to understand how a professional observatory works, which often leads them to make nighttime visits to other stargazing locations.

    “Chile is an amazing country for astrotourism,” says Rodríguez. “Visitors can combine day visits to the most impressive telescopes in the world, with nighttime views of the stars at tourism observatories across the country.”

    Observatories such as the Collowara Tourism Observatory are popping up specifically for amateur stargazers, and many hotels provide telescopes for their guests to enjoy the beautiful skies. Elqui Domos Hotel has gone even further — dome-shaped rooms feature removable ceilings that open onto the sky, and guests can sleep in observatory cabins with glass roofs. Various astronomical museums have also been opened, including the San Pedro Meteorite Museum, which also conducts stargazing tours.

    Recently, ESO actively collaborated with other governmental, academic, and scientific groups to support a governmental initiative called Astroturismo Chile. Its aim is to “transform Chile into an astrotouristic destination of excellence, to be admired and recognised throughout the world for its attractiveness, quality, variety and sustainability”. Fernando Comerón, the former ESO representative in Astroturismo Chile, elaborates that the strategy “aims to improve the quality and competitiveness of existing astrotourism activities, in addition to preparing the Chilean astrotourism roadmap for 2016–2025”.

    But Chile’s dark skies are facing a growing challenge. La Serena, the closest major city to La Silla Observatory, is expanding rapidly; the region’s population has swelled to over 700 000, growing by more than 200 000 people in the last 20 years. Although some of these people are astronomers and dark sky lovers, increased development can mean increased light pollution if not carefully handled.

    Light pollution is artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted or needed, arising from poorly-designed, incorrectly-directed light fixtures. Light that shines into the sky is scattered by air molecules, moisture and aerosols in the atmosphere, causing the night sky to light up. This phenomenon is known as skyglow. Solutions include power limits for public lighting; shielding street lamps, neon signs, and plasma screens; and stricter guidelines for sport and recreational facilities.

    4
    The arch of the Milky Way emerges from the Cerro Paranal on the left, and sinks into the bright lights of Antofagasta, the closest city to Paranal Observatory.
    Credit: Bruno Gilli/ ESO

    Dark skies are incredibly important to ESO Photo Ambassador, Petr Horálek, who reflects, “I remember a law called Norma Lumínica was signed in 1999 requiring that lighting in the three astronomically-sensitive regions of Chile be directed downwards instead of into the sky… Of course, there are no lamps along the roads close to the observatories”.

    The Norma Lumínica, which establishes protocols for lighting regulations in Chile, was recently updated in 2013 to adapt to new technologies.

    5
    The spectacularly clear skies over the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla show the Milky Way and its galactic bulge.
    Credit: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

    Chile is also working with international observatories to encourage UNESCO to add major astronomy sites such as Paranal Observatory to its World Heritage List.
    “By promoting the preservation of natural conditions, particularly the dark skies, astronomy contributes to the formation of an environmentally-aware society”, says Comerón.

    Over the next ten years, Chile plans to invest in many new observatories.

    LSST


    LSST Camera, built at SLAC



    LSST telescope, currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    Giant Magellan Telescope, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Currently, more than 50% of the world’s large telescopes are located there, and the Chilean government believe that by 2020 that value could rise to more than 70%. IndexMundi, a data portal that gathers statistics from around the world, suggests the annual number of visitors to Chile has more than quadrupled in the past 15 years In 2017, 6.45 million visitors arrived in Chile, many of whom were enticed by the incredible night skies, and the reports from the Astroturismo Chile initiative estimate that in the next decade, the number of astrotourists visiting Chile will triple.

    Chile has its work cut out to limit the impact of light pollution on its magnificent skies, but if successful the country will benefit greatly — as will the visitors who continue to flock there. As La Silla guide Yilin Kong says, “Astrotourism helps teach people about the importance of astronomy, and to encourage the next generations to participate in it”.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Visit ESO in Social Media-

    Facebook

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m.

    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

     
  • richardmitnick 9:53 am on July 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 2019 Total Solar Eclipse Event at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, , , , , ESO La Silla   

    From European Southern Observatory: “2019 Total Solar Eclipse Event at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From European Southern Observatory

    Laura Ventura
    ESO education and Outreach Department – Group Leader Chile
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 24633265
    Email: contacto@eso.org

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

    1
    On 2 July 2019 one of nature’s most impressive phenomena will be visible from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile — a total solar eclipse. As these are very rare — the next one visible from La Silla will occur in 212 years — ESO is organising a campaign of observing and outreach activities on site, allowing the general public to experience this spectacular event. Tickets to participate will be available from 13:00 CEST/07:00 CLT on Friday 13 July 2018.

    On 2 July 2019, the Moon will cover the face of the Sun, turning day into night in a total solar eclipse covering a 150 km-wide swathe of northern Chile. Thousands of visitors from around the globe will travel to the region to experience this phenomenon against the beautiful backdrop of the dramatic Chilean landscape.

    The eclipse will be visible from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, in the same year in which the observatory celebrates 50 years of operation. To celebrate this unique conjunction, ESO is organising a 2019 Total Solar Eclipse event at the La Silla Observatory on the day of the eclipse. As the eclipse itself will only occur during the late afternoon, the rest of the day will be devoted to many different activities, including tours of the La Silla telescopes, talks and workshops. Viewing the eclipse will depend on weather conditions, which cannot be guaranteed [1].

    “On that Tuesday in July 2019, the eyes of the world will turn to Chile, as the Moon will pass between the Earth and the Sun, blocking out the light of our Sun,” explains Claudio Melo, ESO Representative in Chile. “Astronomy and the beauty of the pristine Chilean skies will be showcased to the entire world, as the rarity of the total eclipse will attract thousands of people, from both Chile and further afield, to the north of the country”

    ESO and the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, Gemini Observatory, SOAR Observatory, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, and Giant Magellan Telescope Project are working closely with the Regional Governments of Coquimbo and Atacama, as well as with local institutions. Together, they aim to bring science and astronomy closer to the people of Chile and the wider public during the 2019 eclipse, and to welcome the large number of visitors expected.

    CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, CTIO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory,approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters


    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    SART telescope (SOAR) situated on Cerro Pachón, just to the southeast of Cerro Tololo on the AURA site at an altitude of 2,700 meters (8,775 feet) above sea level

    LSST telescope, currently under construction at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory in the southern Atacama Desert of Chile in the Atacama Region approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena,near the southern end and over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Giant Magellan Telescope, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Further information about the ESO event is now available online. 300 tickets will be available from the ESOshop from 13:00 CEST on Friday 13 July. The tickets cost 200 euros and include transport from the foot of the La Silla mountain up to the Observatory, eclipse glasses and access to all on-site events and activities. Ticket sales will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

    The income from the ticket sales will cover the costs of the event and will help to fund other education and outreach activities, including free access to the ESO sites for selected members of the public visiting that day, among them local Chilean schoolchildren. Visitors from local Chilean schools will attend the event through a special contest in Chile, and a public competition for ESO Member State citizens will be organised. A second edition of the social media gathering #MeetESO will also be organised. Media representatives and other outreach groups will also be attending the event. Further details of activities and invitations to participate will be announced soon on the ESO website.

    Together with the scientific community represented by SOCHIAS, CONICYT and the Chilean universities, the Observatories are committed to promoting the 2019 Total Solar Eclipse, bringing science and astronomy closer to the public of Chile and the world, and raising awareness of the importance of protecting dark skies in Chile. A campaign of events will take place during the year leading up to the moment of the eclipse, including public talks, exhibitions, online material and exciting social media and school competitions whose winners will be invited to visit one of the Observatories.

    Total solar eclipses are rare phenomena, occurring on average once every 360 years at any specific location. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for astronomy enthusiasts or for anybody wishing to witness a truly dramatic astronomical event.

    Notes

    [1] It is important to note that the La Silla region offers excellent observing skies, but that no guarantees can be made that the weather cooperates. Weather statistics are available here. The event, including talks, tours and workshops, will take place even in the case of adverse weather. If the event needs to be cancelled for safety reasons, tickets will be fully refunded.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Visit ESO in Social Media-

    Facebook

    Twitter

    YouTube

    ESO Bloc Icon

    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre EEuropean Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO La Silla HELIOS (HARPS Experiment for Light Integrated Over the Sun)

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at Cerro LaSilla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO/Cerro LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Platform at Cerro Paranal elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft)

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres

    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, at an altitude 3,046 m (9,993 ft)

    ESO/APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

     
  • richardmitnick 8:31 am on July 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESO La Silla, ,   

    From ESO: “Eyes Wide Open for MASCARA in Chile” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    19 July 2017
    Ignas Snellen
    Leiden Observatory
    Postbus 9513, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
    snellen@strw.leidenuniv.nl

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

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    The Leiden/MASCARA (Multi-site All-Sky CAmeRA) station at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has achieved first light. This new facility will seek out transiting exoplanets as they pass in front of their bright parent stars and create a catalogue of targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    In June 2016, ESO reached an agreement with Leiden University to site a station of MASCARA at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, taking advantage of the excellent observing conditions of the southern hemisphere skies. This station is now made its first successful test observations.

    The MASCARA station in Chile is the second to begin operations; the first station is in the northern hemisphere on the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands.

    Roque de los Muchachos Observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. The observatory site is operated by the Instituto de Astrofís

    Each station contains a battery of cameras in a temperature-controlled enclosure which will monitor almost the entire sky visible from its location [1].

    “Stations are needed in both the northern and southern hemisphere to obtain all-sky coverage,” says Ignas Snellen, of Leiden University and the MASCARA project lead. “With the second station at La Silla now in place, we can monitor almost all the brighter stars over the entire sky.”

    Built by Leiden University in the Netherlands, MASCARA is a planet-hunting instrument. Its very compact and low-cost design appears unassuming, but is innovative, flexible and highly reliable. Consisting of five digital cameras with off-the-shelf components, this small planet-hunter takes repeated measurements of the brightnesses of thousands of stars and uses software to hunt for the slight dimming of a star’s light as a planet crosses the face of the star.

    This exoplanet discovery method is called transit photometry. The planet’s size and orbit can be directly determined through this method, and in very bright systems the planet’s atmosphere can also be characterised by further observations with large telescopes such as ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

    The main purpose of MASCARA is to find exoplanets around the brightest stars in the sky, currently not probed either by space or ground-based surveys. The target population for MASCARA consists mostly of “hot Jupiters” — large worlds that are physically similar to Jupiter but orbit very close to their parent star, resulting in high surface temperatures and orbital periods of only a few hours. Dozens of hot Jupiters have been discovered with the radial velocity exoplanet detection method, as they exert a noticeably gravitational influence on their host stars.

    “Not much can yet be learned from the planets discovered via the radial velocity method, as they require significantly better direct imaging techniques to separate the light of these cool, old planets from that of their host stars,” comments Snellen. “In contrast, planets that transit their host stars can readily be characterised.”

    MASCARA also has the potential to discover super-Earths and Neptune-sized planets. The project is expected to provide a catalogue of the brightest nearby targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations, particularly for detailed planetary atmosphere observations.
    Notes

    [1] MASCARA can monitor stars down to about magnitude 8.4 — roughly ten times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye on a clear dark night. Due to its design, MASCARA is less sensitive to weather condition than other observing instruments, and so observations may be made even when the sky is partially cloudy, thus extending observation times.

    Read more about MASCARA on the ESO website
    MASCARA website at Leiden University
    Agreement to site MASCARA station at La Silla
    Science paper on the design and operation of MASCARA

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m

    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

     
  • richardmitnick 2:27 pm on August 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESO La Silla, ,   

    From Don Lincoln via CNN: “A new planet in our neighborhood — how likely is life?” 

    1
    CNN

    August 24, 2016

    1
    Dr. Don Lincoln is a senior physicist at Fermilab and does research using the Large Hadron Collider. He has written numerous books and produces a series of science education videos. He is the author of Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos. Follow him on Facebook. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

    Space. The final frontier.

    These words inspired many young people to enter science (including me), but I’ll bet that’s especially true for the team who announced Wednesday that they had found evidence of an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, our closest star. This planet is tentatively called Proxima b.

    Pale Red Dot
    Pale Red Dot project at ESO

    Scientists working at the European Southern Observatory (ESO), using the La Silla telescope, claim to have discovered the closest exoplanet to Earth.

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at LaSilla
    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at LaSilla, Chile

    Exoplanet, of course, means planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. Over 3,000 exoplanets have been discovered by facilities like the ESO and the Kepler orbiting observatory. Most of them are huge planets orbiting very near their star — Jupiter-like planets heated to temperatures guaranteed to sterilize them of life as we know it.

    In recent years, instrumentation has improved to the point that not only can individual planets be found, but even complete solar systems, consisting of many planets. This has been a heady time for planet hunters.

    The goal of those inspired by Star Trek’s opening words has not been to find planets, but to find planets that are like Earth — meaning at a temperature on which liquid water could be present and which could theoretically support some form of life. This is what astronomers call “the habitable zone.” In addition, we’d like to find a planet that is nearby.

    After all, space is huge and human spacecraft using current technology would take tens of thousands of years to get to even this, our closest celestial neighbor. To give a sense of scale, that’s longer than human civilization has existed. There are plans under discussion that might reduce travel time to a more manageable duration, even less than a single human lifespan.

    3
    Related article: Proxima b: Closest rocky planet to our solar system found

    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima 27, February 2012. Skatebiker
    Centauris Alpha Beta Proxima 27, February 2012. Skatebiker

    So what might this newly discovered planet look like? Well, even though its temperature is thought to be such that liquid water could exist, you shouldn’t imagine a lush and verdant world, with lovely blue waters, sandy beaches, lush and green plants, with an excited alien fish occasionally breaching the waters. There are lots of reasons why these are unreasonable expectations.

    Setting aside the possibility of life for a moment, Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, which is the most common type of star in the galaxy. Red dwarfs are much smaller than our Sun. For instance, Proxima Centauri is only about 1.5 times larger than Jupiter. Red dwarfs are very dim. For instance, in the visible spectrum that we use to see, Proxima Centauri gives off 0.0056% as much as light as the Sun.

    Most of the light given off by Proxima Centauri is in the infrared region, but even if you compare all of the light emitted by Proxima Centauri in all wavelengths to the amount emitted by the Sun, Proxima Centauri still emits only 0.17% as much light as our own life-giving stellar companion. The star also emits as much x-rays as our own Sun, but Proxima b is much closer to its stellar parent, so the surface receives far more x-rays than Earth.

    In addition to being a very dim star, Proxima Centauri is known to be a “flare star,” which means the star periodically gives off far more light than usual. During these flares, the x-ray emission can go up tenfold.

    Because of the star’s small size, a planet in the habitable zone will have to be in a very small orbit, taking under two weeks to complete a single orbit. Any planet that close to a star will be “tidally locked,” which means that one face of the planet will constantly face the star. This is just like the Earth and Moon, where we see only one side of the Moon throughout the course of the Month. Proxima Centauri’s planetary companion will likely have one side in perpetual daylight, while the other is in perpetual night.

    So what about life? Are there any chances that an alien lizard might bask in Proxima Centauri’s light or try to find shade under an alien tree? Well, given the instability of the light emitted by the parent star, the answer is likely no, although the real answer to that question is obviously something for observations to answer.

    Given the very dim light output of the star, it is likely that any hypothetical plants would have to be black, as black is the most light-absorbent color. “Sunlight” would be precious and evolution would drive alien plants to find ways to collect every bit of energy that falls on them.

    Realistically, the prospect of life is improbable. This planet is unlikely to be a haven for people trying to escape the ecological issues of Earth, so we should not view this discovery as a way to ignore our own ecosystem.

    Still, the question of extraterrestrial life is a fascinating one, so astronomers are devising techniques to look at the planet’s atmosphere. Certain chemicals, like oxygen or methane, cannot exist long in a planet’s atmosphere without being constantly replenished by living organisms. Observing them would be strong evidence for life.

    So, what’s the bottom line? First, the discovery, if confirmed is extremely exciting. The existence of a nearby planet in the habitable zone will perhaps increase the interest in efforts like Project Starshot, which aims to send microprobes to Proxima Centauri with a transit time of about twenty years. It may well be that this discovery will excite an entirely new generation of the prospect “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:56 am on June 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ESO La Silla, MASCARA,   

    From ESO: “New Exoplanet Hunter to be Sited at ESO’s La Silla Observatory” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    29 June 2016
    Ignas Snellen
    Leiden Observatory
    Postbus 9513
    2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
    Email: snellen@strw.leidenuniv.nl

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

    1

    ESO has reached agreement with Leiden University in the Netherlands to site a station of MASCARA (the Multi-site All-Sky CAmerRA) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The contract was signed by ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw and Geert de Snoo, Dean of the Faculty of Science at Leiden University.

    MASCARA is a planet-hunting instrument that will eventually consist of a number of individual stations operating at sites across the globe. Each station contains a battery of cameras which will monitor almost the entire sky visible from its location. Once all the stations have been installed, MASCARA will be able to provide almost all-sky coverage down to magnitude 8. Its main purpose is to find the brightest transiting exoplanets, but there are also a wealth of secondary science goals. MASCARA is expected to provide a catalogue of the brightest targets for future exoplanet characterisation missions.

    MASCARA is a standalone facility of small cameras, not mounted on a telescope.

    The first MASCARA station is already operating on the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands.

    Gran Telescopio  Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain
    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain

    The second station, due to begin operation before the end of 2016, will take advantage of the excellent observing conditions at the La Silla site.

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    LaSilla

    ESO VLT
    VLT

    ESO Vista Telescope
    VISTA

    ESO NTT
    NTT

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    ESO E-ELT
    E-ELT

    ESO APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

     
  • richardmitnick 10:09 am on June 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO La Silla, Messier 54 (also known as NGC 6715),   

    From phys.org: “Dozens of new variable stars found in a dense globular cluster” 

    physdotorg
    phys.org

    June 1, 2016
    Tomasz Nowakowski

    1
    Messier 54 as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

    Located some 87,000 light years away, a dense globular cluster named Messier 54 (also known as NGC 6715) is a real gold mine for astronomers. Recently, an international team has discovered dozens of new variable stars in this cluster, improving the stellar census of Messier 54. The findings were presented in a paper* published online on May 23 on the arXiv pre-print server.

    The team, led by Roberto Figuera Jaimes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), made use of the Danish 1.54 meter Telescope at ESO’s La Silla observatory in Chile in order to obtain high-precision photometry of the very crowded central region of Messier 54.

    ESO Danish 1.54 meter telescope at La Silla
    ESO Danish 1.54 meter telescope at La Silla

    They have analyzed the light curves of 1,405 stars in this stellar system. Their observations were highly successful, resulting in the discovery 67 new variable stars.

    “A total of 1,405 stars in the field covered by the reference image were statistically studied for variable star detection. (…) We discovered 67 new variable stars, which consist of 30 RR Lyrae, 21 long-period irregular, three semi-regular, one W Virginis, one eclipsing binary, and 11 unclassified stars,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

    RR Lyrae variables are pulsating horizontal branch stars of spectral class A or F, with a mass of around 0.5 solar masses. They are used as standard candles to measure extragalactic distances. Among the group of 30 newly detected stars of this class, the team was able to discern that 17 of them are pulsating in the fundamental mode, eight are pulsating in the first overtone, one is a double-mode pulsator and four remain with an uncertain subtype. The periods of the newly found stars in the RR Lyrae group range from 0.28 to 0.76 days with amplitudes between 0.06 and 1.69 mag.

    However, according to Jaimes and his colleagues, the most intriguing addition to the stellar catalog of Messier 54 is the W Virginis variable. The scientists noted that this star’s variation does not follow the pattern found for the other variable stars studied and classified in their work. They found a very well phased light curve with a period of about 14.8 days and an amplitude of 0.71 mag.

    “This is the only bright variable star on the blue side of the color-magnitude diagram far away from the red giant branch,” the paper reads.

    The scientists revealed that the amplitudes of 21 long-period irregular variables range from 0.05 to 0.46 mag, however they found no clear periods for these stars. According to the research, the amplitudes of the three semi-regular stars range from 0.04 to 0.45 mag and their periods span between 20 and 150 days. The eclipsing binary’s period was found to be approximately 0.2 days, while the amplitude of the deeper eclipse is of the order of 0.8 mag and the amplitude of the secondary eclipse equals 0.5 mag.

    The researchers concluded that their findings, especially regarding detecting new RR Lyrae variables, confirm that Messier 54 is of intermediate Oosterhoff type. The so-called ‘Oosterhoff groups’ are two populations of globular clusters, nearly as old as the universe itself, that have weak lines of metallic elements, though they differ in their metal abundances.

    *Science paper:
    Many new variable stars discovered in the core of the globular cluster NGC 6715 (M54) with EMCCD observations

    See the full article here .

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    About Phys.org in 100 Words

    Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:52 pm on February 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ESO La Silla, , Reflection nebula   

    From ESO: “A Star’s Moment in the Spotlight” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    10 February 2016
    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    ESO Reflection nebula IC2631

    A newly formed star lights up the surrounding cosmic clouds in this new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Dust particles in the vast clouds that surround the star HD 97300 diffuse its light, like a car headlight in enveloping fog, and create the reflection nebula IC 2631. Although HD 97300 is in the spotlight for now, the very dust that makes it so hard to miss heralds the birth of additional, potentially scene-stealing, future stars.

    The glowing region in this new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope is a reflection nebula known as IC 2631.

    ESO 2.2 meter telescope with dome open
    MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope with dome open.

    These objects are clouds of cosmic dust that reflect light from a nearby star into space, creating a stunning light show like the one captured here. IC 2631 is the brightest nebula in the Chamaeleon Complex, a large region of gas and dust clouds that harbours numerous newborn and still-forming stars. The complex lies about 500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Chamaeleon.

    IC 2631 is illuminated by the star HD 97300, one of the youngest — as well as most massive and brightest — stars in its neighbourhood. This region is full of star-making material, which is made evident by the presence of dark nebulae noticeable above and below IC 2631 in this picture. Dark nebulae are so dense with gas and dust that they prevent the passage of background starlight.

    Despite its dominating presence, the heft of HD 97300 should be kept in perspective. It is a T Tauri star, the youngest visible stage for relatively small stars. As these stars mature and reach adulthood they will lose mass and shrink. But during the T Tauri phase these stars have not yet contracted to the more modest size that they will maintain for billions of years as main sequence stars.

    These fledging stars already have surface temperatures similar to their main sequence phase and accordingly, because T Tauri-phase objects are essentially jumbo versions of their later selves, they look brighter in their oversized youth than in maturity. They have not yet started to fuse hydrogen into helium in their cores, like normal main sequence stars, but are just starting to flex their thermal muscles by generating heat from contraction.

    Reflection nebula, like the one spawned by HD 97300, merely scatter starlight back out into space. Starlight that is more energetic, such as the ultraviolet radiation pouring forth from very hot new stars, can ionise nearby gas, making it emit light of its own. These emission nebulae indicate the presence of hotter and more powerful stars, which in their maturity can be observed across thousands of light-years. HD 97300 is not so powerful, and its moment in the spotlight is destined not to last.

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    LaSilla

    ESO VLT
    VLT

    ESO Vista Telescope
    VISTA

    ESO NTT
    NTT

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    ESO E-ELT
    E-ELT

    ESO APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

     
  • richardmitnick 2:12 pm on December 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESO La Silla, Rocky Planet Found Around Star with Least Metal Yet,   

    From SPACE.com: “Rocky Planet Found Around Star with Least Metal Yet” 

    space-dot-com logo

    SPACE.com

    December 25, 2015
    Jesse Emspak

    Temp 1
    Neptune-size planets like this one, drawn orbiting the star Gliese 436, may be able to form around stars that contain far less metal than previously thought. Credit: NASA

    How low can you go? Astronomers have found a star with an incredibly low concentration of heavy elements that still has a sizable planet around it — the most metal-poor star ever discovered with an orbiting, rocky planet.

    The planet found circling the unlikely star suggests that other Earths could be more common than once thought.

    A team led by Annelies Mortier, an exoplanet researcher at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom, found the star, called HD175607, and its Neptune-size planet about 147 light-years from Earth, using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph in Chile.

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at LaSilla
    ESO HARPS
    ESO HARPS at La Silla

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/La Silla

    The star is a yellowish dwarf, with about 0.74 times the mass of the sun, and it contains fewer heavy elements than any other star of its kind that has rocky planets. The ratio of iron to hydrogen, for example, is only 23 percent that of the sun’s.

    To make planets, you need elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. In astronomical parlance, these elements are known as metals, even though they include substances like oxygen, silicon and carbon. Astronomers can measure a star’s metallicity, or the ratio of heavy elements to hydrogen, by looking at the wavelengths of light coming from the star and comparing its metal content to the surrounding regions of the galaxy. The metallicity of a star also tells you what was likely in the cloud of gas and dust that formed it in the first place.

    Researchers generally expect stars with high metallicity to be more likely to have giant planets like Jupiter — in fact, astronomers target such stars in order to boost the odds of seeing a planet, Mortier told Space.com in an email. But for rocky, Neptune-size planets and those that are smaller, that correlation doesn’t appear to hold. That’s why the HARPS is looking at low-metallicity stars to see how low that ratio can go before the star no longer has planets at all.

    “For Neptunes and Earthlike planets, it is not as clear yet what the role of metallicity is,” Mortier said.

    In this case, the star HD175607 appears to have a planet orbiting it at a distance that’s about a third of Mercury’s to the sun. It completes a “year” of orbit in 29 days and weighs between 7.88 and 10.08 times as much as Earth, putting it at about two-thirds the mass of Neptune — which has a mass that’s about 17 times that of Earth’s.

    Planets are hard to see to begin with; finding the one around HD 175607 took months of observations spread out over nine years. The researchers had a much easier time measuring the star’s metallicity.

    Knowing what kinds of stars to target would go far toward helping observers discover other Earths — and a big question that remains is what kinds of planets are around what kinds of stars, Mortier said.

    Jarrett Johnson, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who has studied exoplanets and their relation to metallicity, told Space.com that this discovery of a rocky planet around a metal-poor star bodes well for finding more of them.

    “This is good news as it is evidence that lower and lower mass planets are being found around metal-poor stars, as more data is gathered with more powerful techniques [like HARPS],” he said.

    The discovery will also help refine models of planet formation. Currently, many scientists think that planets form when smaller objects group into bigger ones, which is called the core accretion model. In a 2012 study, Johnson worked out estimates of how much iron and other heavy elements had to be present to accrete planets, and new discoveries like this one could show whether those estimates are correct.

    The study was accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics in November.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:27 am on October 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO La Silla   

    From ESO: “A Cosmic Sackful of Black Coal” 


    European Southern Observatory

    14 October 2015

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

    Part of the Coalsack Nebula in close-up

    1

    Dark smudges almost block out a rich star field in this new image captured by the Wide Field Imager [WFI] camera, installed on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

    ESO WFI LaSilla
    WFI

    ESO 2.2 meter telescope
    ESO 2.2 meter telescope interior
    MPG/ESO 2.2 millimeter telescope at LaSilla

    The inky areas are small parts of a huge dark nebula known as the Coalsack, one of the most prominent objects of its kind visible to the unaided eye. Millions of years from now, chunks of the Coalsack will ignite, rather like its fossil fuel namesake, with the glow of many young stars.

    The Coalsack Nebula is located about 600 light-years away in the constellation of Crux (The Southern Cross). This huge, dusky object forms a conspicuous silhouette against the bright, starry band of the Milky Way and for this reason the nebula has been known to people in the southern hemisphere for as long as our species has existed.

    The Spanish explorer Vicente Yáñez Pinzón first reported the existence of the Coalsack Nebula to Europe in 1499. The Coalsack later garnered the nickname of the Black Magellanic Cloud, a play on its dark appearance compared to the bright glow of the two Magellanic Clouds, which are in fact satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. These two bright galaxies are clearly visible in the southern sky and came to the attention of Europeans during Ferdinand Magellan’s explorations in the 16th century. However, the Coalsack is not a galaxy. Like other dark nebulae, it is actually an interstellar cloud of dust so thick that it prevents most of the background starlight from reaching observers.

    A significant number of the dust particles in dark nebulae have coats of frozen water, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and other simple organic molecules. The resulting grains largely prevent visible light from passing through the cosmic cloud. To get a sense of how truly dark the Coalsack is, back in 1970, the Finnish astronomer Kalevi Mattila published a study estimating that the Coalsack has only about 10 percent of the brightness of the encompassing Milky Way. A little bit of background starlight, however, still manages to get through the Coalsack, as is evident in the new ESO image and in other observations made by modern telescopes.

    The little light that does make it through the nebula does not come out the other side unchanged. The light we see in this image looks redder than it ordinarily would. This is because the dust in dark nebulae absorbs and scatters blue light from stars more than red light, tinting the stars several shades more crimson than they would otherwise be.

    Millions of years in the future the Coalsack’s dark days will come to an end. Thick interstellar clouds like the Coalsack contain lots of dust and gas — the fuel for new stars. As the stray material in the Coalsack coalesces under the mutual attraction of gravity, stars will eventually light up, and the coal “nuggets” in the Coalsack will “combust”, almost as if touched by a flame.

    See the full article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    LaSilla

    ESO VLT Interferometer
    VLT

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    VISTA

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    VLT Survey Telescope

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    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

     
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