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  • richardmitnick 8:47 am on June 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How the VLT came to pass", , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “How the VLT came to pass” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    26 June 2020
    People@ESO

    Observing infrared light from the Universe reveals objects that are difficult or impossible to see in other types of light. In particular, infrared astronomy is useful for exploring cool, dusty places such as star-forming regions, as well as cold exoplanets, comets and asteroids. ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) [below] is one of humanity’s major telescopes for observing in infrared, but because of the technical challenges linked to this relatively new area of astronomy, it initially faced a lot of unknowns and experimental difficulties. In this blog post, we speak to Pierre Léna, a French astrophysicist who was instrumental in the design of the VLT, ensuring its use as an infrared telescope to observe the Universe in unprecedented detail using adaptive optics and interferometry.

    4
    Pierre Léna

    2009 ESO VLTI Interferometer image, Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level, • ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).

    2
    A tour through the Atacama Desert in 1999. From left to right the photo shows retired ESO Director General Lodewijk Woltjer, incoming (from 1 September 1999) Director General Catherine Cesarsky, Michel Dennefeld, Pierre Léna, and Gustav Tammann. Credit: ESO/P. Lena.

    Q. You started studying astronomy in the late 1950s, when infrared astronomy was hardly conceivable. What first piqued your interest in astronomy, and how did you become a professional astronomer?

    A. My relationship with astronomy is probably similar to that of many of my colleagues. My curiosity began at a very young age, at six or seven. The mystery of the stars and the phases of the Moon attracted me enormously. I had an infinite curiosity for nature, for light, for the colours of butterflies and beetles. All this seemed mysterious, full of attraction, full of questions that I could not even formulate for myself, let alone for an adult.

    My father, a self-taught man, was very curious about science, and the construction of my first telescope, which followed the microscope he had given me, fascinated him. Then in high school, the discovery of physics and mathematics excited me. At the time, to pass the high school exams, the mathematics course taught cosmography, an elementary celestial mechanics, but also the basics of astrophysics. While still in high school, I discovered the Société Astronomique de France. Joining amateur astronomers in its small observatory, I observed the sky every Thursday night. At that time, the Paris night sky had fewer stray lights, but more aerosols than today, and terrible seeing.

    In high school, we created an astronomy club. We built small refractors with achromatic objective lenses recovered from German submarine periscopes and sold in Paris. But most of all, with my small refractor, I loved summer nights at our holiday home in Burgundy, far from the city lights. There, I would travel through the sky and its nebulae. Physics attracted me by its precision, the beauty of its experiments — which I willingly repeated at home — and the mathematical tools that made it so precise, so I devoted my higher education to it.

    I started my first research project at the Haute-Provence Observatory.

    Haute-Provence Observatory 1.93 meter telescope interior

    Haute-Provence Observatory, in the southeast of France, about 90 km east of Avignon and 100 km north of Marseille,Altitude 650 m (2,130 ft),

    There, during a whole summer, I was introduced to the mysteries of Fourier spectroscopy. In 1960, I obtained my Agrégation in physics, which qualified me to become a high school teacher, but also to begin preparing a doctorate. Passionate about teaching, I immediately obtained a position at the Sorbonne, in the new modern campus that was opening south of Paris (Orsay). I hesitated for a while, suffering from serious health problems, before really getting involved in research.

    Q. Then you became fascinated by infrared astronomy. Why did you become interested in this area of astronomy, and how have you seen it advance throughout your career?

    A. In 1958, de Gaulle, Head of the French government and soon to be President of the French Republic, asked two eminent scientists for a report on the future of space research. Regarding astronomy, this report focused on the two spectral domains that seemed accessible as soon as instruments could go into space: ultraviolet and infrared. I was one of the few young researchers who got involved in the second field, which was infinitely more difficult. Hardly any measurements or spectra existed of infrared radiation except from the Sun and Mars and the experimental difficulty was also considerable. The British military use of infrared detection during the war had led to some progress, but the detectors, operating at room temperature, were deplorably unsensitive and, moreover, consisted of only a single pixel. Obtaining an image was therefore a hazardous experimental venture.

    The four decades that followed were punctuated by successive advances on these limitations, which improved detection sensitivity by a factor of more than a billion and multiplied the number of pixels in the cameras by more than a million. These advances required instruments to work at increasingly lower temperatures, first cooled with liquid nitrogen, then with liquid helium, and even with helium-3. The difficulties did not stop there. A lot of near-infrared radiation is absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere. As for the far-infrared, the atmosphere is totally opaque to it. The need to place telescopes on high mountains, then on board aircraft, stratospheric balloon-borne nacelles, rockets and later in space added to the difficulties.

    Q. So how did you personally contribute to developing and implementing instruments that could carry out infrared astronomy?

    A. I have been an actor or user of each of these steps in the discovery of the immense and fertile field of infrared astronomy. Between 1966 and 1969, I began grappling with the determination, by observation, of the variation in brightness between the centre and edge of the solar disc in the near- and mid-infrared, to improve the model of the Sun’s atmosphere. The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak Observatory, Arizona, was the only telescope with sufficient altitude and spatial resolution in the near-infrared.

    McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, USA

    Kitt Peak National Observatory of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    When it appeared necessary to complete these measurements with photometry of the Sun in the far infrared I used NASA’s CV-990 Galileo-I aircraft. A stay of a few months at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, allowed us to install a Fourier spectrometer on the aircraft and obtain the necessary measurements, made in the stratosphere. I then had all the material to defend my Doctorat d’Etat in 1969 when I returned to France.

    What to do next? I was very sceptical about using stratospheric balloons for infrared astronomy, which were unreliable without considerable resources. In the Paris Observatory, I formed a team to install an infrared telescope onboard a Caravelle aircraft — much more reliable indeed — that flew for several years in the northern and southern hemispheres and accumulated observations in the far infrared. We learned the trade, we could establish a fructuous cooperation over Europe, and make ‘infrared friends’ in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, who were building and flying with us. The young European Space Agency had us participate in Space Shuttle simulation missions with our telescope installed on a NASA aircraft. Infrared astronomy was beginning to be tamed.

    Q. This led to you playing a big part in the conception of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). How exactly were you involved?

    A. My relationship with ESO began in 1977 when I was appointed as a member of ESO’s Scientific Technical Committee (STC), and then as its president the following year. Faced with the financial difficulties of maintaining an airborne astronomical programme in the long term, I decided to change my research trajectory towards near-infrared interferometry, since with a large telescope the resolution achieved by beating the seeing would make it possible to resolve dim objects such as forming stars or the energetic active nuclei of galaxies. Using a novel revolutionary technique called “speckle interferometry”, a very simple instrument was installed first on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak, then on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla Observatory. It was quickly productive. Chairing the STC and observing at La Silla, I got to know and enjoy ESO, its then director Lo Woltjer, and its staff in Chile.

    NOAO Mayall 4 m telescope interior


    NOAO/Mayall 4 m telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona, USA, Altitude 2,120 m (6,960 ft)

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

    The prospect of a European telescope with a surface area equivalent to that of an instrument with a diameter of 16 metres, to succeed the La Silla facilities was raised in 1977. In the following years, in addition to equipping the ESO 3.6-metre telescope with instruments and commissioning ESO’s New Technology Telescope [below], the STC naturally became involved in this new project, which eventually became the VLT. The operation of this telescope as an optical interferometer had not been taken very seriously by many astronomers, but Lo Woltjer, always attentive to new developments, accepted my proposal to organise a conference at ESO Headquarters in Germany in 1981 on the scientific importance of high angular resolution in infrared and visible wavelengths. Soon after, ESO set up a working group to explore the feasibility of an interferometric mode for this future telescope. Should this be really feasible and succeed, the scientific harvest we could forecast was already outstanding. Thirty years later, reality has taken it far beyond our most dreamy expectations! These were incredibly exciting years that culminated in December 1987, when the interferometric mode of the VLT, including adaptive optics, was approved as an integral part of the project. I have described the details of this at length in my book Une Histoire de flou.


    The VLT uses a technique called interferometry to combine light from two or more telescopes, allowing them to act as a single unit with a mirror diameter equivalent, as far as image resolution is concerned, to the distance between the telescopes.Credit: ESO.

    Q. You were then Scientific Representative of France to the ESO Council from 1986 to 1993. What exactly does this role involve and how did you continue to advocate for the VLT?

    A. I was appointed by France to the ESO Council shortly before the official approval of the VLT. For each of the eight states that were members of ESO at that time, two representatives sat on the Council, one a scientist and the other a diplomat. Being on the Council swung me over to scientific policy, financial issues and sometimes to politics in general. The dictatorship in Chile, for example, posed all kinds of challenges for the functioning of ESO until the country’s return to democracy in 1990.

    I was convinced that the future of research lay in a European organisation with minimal bureaucracy, and this was offered by the founding treaty of ESO, which I could observe working so well. I appreciated the complementarity of styles, characters and personalities within the Council between different nationalities and I admired the management style of the Director General Lo Woltjer. This period was critical for the approval of the VLT concept and budget. I was obviously identified by my Council colleagues as a stubborn advocate of the VLT interferometric mode. I must say that this required a great deal of trust on their part, because at the time we had very few very demonstrative results: we had to trust physics and engineering! But I should also add that our allies in the astronomical community, few but strong, and especially the team of engineers within ESO who were pursuing the detailed studies, played a big role so that after the approval of the VLT in 1987 and the choice of the Paranal site in 1989, interferometry could develop.

    2
    ESO Astronomical Observatory at Cerro Paranal

    During these years, I had not abandoned my scientific activity, which was focused on the experimental demonstration of adaptive optics, an absolutely essential step if we wanted interferometry to work with the 8-metre VLT Unit Telescopes. The remarkable support of ESO, the partnership with French Aerospace Lab, ONERA, a dedicated team and the understanding of the French authorities to use certain capacities developed for military purposes led to the first worldwide astronomical demonstration of adaptive optics in October 1989 at the Haute-Provence Observatory. A close double star was resolved, the seeing was defeated. Extraordinary prospects for high angular resolution with the new giant telescopes loomed on the horizon, while a generation of young doctoral and postdoctoral students joined us to prepare for the decade that was to follow.

    Q. You were involved in the VLT when it was still just a dream. How does it feel to now see it helping astronomers make incredible discoveries, including finding many exoplanets?

    A. At the end of the 1990s, when the NACO adaptive optics system was built for the VLT, I was not really surprised by the avalanche of observations and results that followed.

    ESO/NACO on Unit Telescope 1 (UT1)

    The first exoplanets had just been discovered and it seemed likely that NACO would be the first to directly image an exoplanet, which it did in 2003.

    However, the technical wager made on the VLTI interferometric mode was of a completely different nature. It almost collapsed in 1993 and it took several years of joint effort to get it back on track. It is quite extraordinary that as early as 2001, two of the four 8-metre VLT Unit Telescopes could be successfully coupled and that the coupling of the whole four-telescope system was successful in 2011. By then I had retired and reduced my scientific activity. However, in 2005, joining Reinhard Genzel’s vision, I contributed with some colleagues to drawing up a plan for a seemingly utopian new VLT instrument, GRAVITY, which has made incredible observations of the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, SgrA*.

    ESO GRAVITY in the VLTI

    Needless to say, I am delighted to see that the VLTI, which is certainly unique in the world, is now capable of differential astrometric precision of the order of a few micro-arcseconds and has reached such a level of sensitivity that it is open to the ultrafine study of the orbits of exoplanets. I see in these successes the confirmation of my firm beliefs: confidence in young people, teamwork, and the strength of European cooperation, especially between research institutions and industry. The requirements of astronomers can push industry to its limit capabilities, or a bit beyond. Then, the immensity of the Universe becomes an endless source of discoveries.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Visit ESO in Social Media-

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    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 12:42 pm on June 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Twinkle twinkle little star but not on our watch", ESO’s Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) beams out four laser guide stars to create an artificial laser guide star 80 km up in the atmosphere., ESOblog, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system, Johann Kolb is an expert in adaptive optics.   

    From ESOblog: “Twinkle, twinkle little star, but not on our watch” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    12 June 2020
    HighTech ESO

    1
    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

    2
    Johann Kolb

    Johann Kolb is an expert in adaptive optics — the correction of the distortion of light caused by turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere. Involving advanced technologies like deformable mirrors and powerful lasers, adaptive optics can make images obtained by ESO’s telescopes almost as sharp as those taken in space. After spending 14 years at ESO Headquarters developing and testing new adaptive optics systems, Johann Kolb has spent the last four years at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile installing adaptive optics systems on the telescopes and making sure that these systems perform well for twenty years or more.

    3
    Neptune imaged by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) with and without adaptive optics.
    Credit: ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)

    Q. First of all, could you tell us a bit about your role at ESO and what your day to day work looks like?

    A. My role is fundamentally to keep an overview of the adaptive optics systems at ESO’s observatories. Turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere reduces the quality of astronomical images and we use adaptive optics on our telescopes to correct for this. The technology has been around for 30 years and we’re now starting to see it everywhere — for example, we currently use 15 adaptive optics systems at Paranal Observatory; there are some differences between them but they all have similar components.

    This Adaptive Optics Paranal System Engineer role was created seven years ago because of the increasing number of adaptive optics systems at ESO. It’s mostly about knowledge management — gathering information, considering what problems might arise in the future, and making sure that we learn from current problems. I would say that about half my job is fixing problems, and the other half is planning for the future.

    Q. You now work at Paranal Observatory but you spent 14 years developing adaptive optics systems at ESO Headquarters in Germany. How does your current work compare to the work you did at ESO HQ?

    A. Indeed, I used to design, align and test adaptive optics systems that were then shipped off to Paranal. Now on the other side I’m involved once each system arrives at the telescope. The first step is to install it in the telescope and make sure it works. The team from HQ sets it up and reproduces the behaviour that it had when being tested in Europe, whilst the Paranal team watches and learns how to make it work best on the sky here in Chile. At these times, I work partly during the night to see how the instrument is working and partly during the day doing data analysis.

    In HQ I worked on three or four different adaptive optics systems so I think that experience was essential to allow me to do my job in Paranal well. Although lots of adaptive optics instruments have arrived since I came to Paranal four years ago, there were of course many that arrived before I did. I have spent time learning about how these work, including the commonalities and tools that allow us to analyse them in the same way.

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


    ESOcast 119: AOF First Light
    ESO’s Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) beams out four laser guide stars to create an artificial laser guide star 80 km up in the atmosphere.
    Credit: ESO

    Q. So how exactly does adaptive optics work and why is it so important?

    A. The key components are a reference star or a laser that excites sodium atoms around 80 kilometres above Earth’s surface, a wavefront sensor that observes how much the light from the sodium atoms or reference star is being distorted by the motion of air in Earth’s atmosphere, a deformable mirror that changes its shape to correct for the effects of the atmosphere, and a real-time computer that gets information from the wavefront sensor and sends information to the deformable mirror. The ultimate result of adaptive optics is that we better concentrate the photons from whatever scientific target we are observing, so that we can do better science in less observing time.

    4
    This image shows the construction of the deformable secondary mirror (DSM), one of the key systems of the VLT Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) in Paranal, Chile. The thin shell being dismounted and the magnets glued to the back face are visible. To learn more about the mirror’s construction and testing read issue 151 of the Messenger. Credit: ESO

    One of ESO’s most complex adaptive optics systems is the Adaptive Optics Facility (AOF) on the fourth Unit Telescope of the Very Large Telescope (VLT). This is the famous one that people love to photograph, with the four laser guide stars shooting out. The deformable mirror is 112 centimetres in diameter but just two millimetres thick, and over 1100 little magnets change its shape 1000 times per second to correct for the constantly changing atmospheric turbulence.

    Q. You’ve been working at ESO for 18 years. What was adaptive optics technology like when you joined ESO and how have you seen it evolve during that time?

    A. The systems that were being installed 18 years ago are still there and we want to make them last ten more years. To be honest there are no major conceptual differences between those systems and the systems we are developing for the upcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) — all the parts talk to each other in much the same way — but there have been some huge improvements in how the different parts work individually and everything has been scaled up a lot.

    For example, in the past we could only use reference stars to measure turbulence; knowing that these stars should be points of light, and knowing where their position should be, we can see how much the atmosphere distorts their light and correct for this distortion. The first generation of lasers arrived only around 2006, and they are particularly useful when there are no reference stars near the astronomical target that the telescope is pointing at (we want to find something as close as possible because atmospheric turbulence varies a lot across the sky). The second generation of lasers arrived in 2016, and these are the same as the ones we will use in the ELT.

    The computers have also of course become much more powerful in that time, meaning that the whole system can work quicker or handle more lasers and more motors to move the deformable mirror at the same time.

    One big improvement is that the latest systems use magnets — or magnetic actuators — to deform the mirror, rather than motors that physically puh and pull on the mirror. These magnets keep the thin mirror floating in the air — a bit like those desk globes that float due to a magnet above and below. And the same magnets can be used to pull the mirror in case of an earthquake, to ensure that the mirror doesn’t fall and get broken. Furthermore, twenty years ago deformable mirrors had around 60 of these actuators, whereas we now have 1170 on the AOF.

    Q. What will adaptive optics systems for the ELT look like?

    A. These will actually look very similar to the AOF. There will be 4–8 lasers, a wavefront sensor and the telescope’s fourth (of five!) mirror will be deformable. But relative to the size of the telescope, the systems will actually be smaller than the AOF. As I mentioned, we have over 1000 actuators for the 8-metre-wide VLT, but we will have over 5000 for the 39-metre wide ELT, which has a surface area more than 20 times that of the VLT. Some of the big challenges will be keeping the system stable and getting everything to work together.

    Q. Tell us about something interesting that you’ve been working on recently?

    A. To be honest (don’t tell my astronomer colleagues this!), for my professional needs, stars are just points of light; I don’t care what they’re doing, I just use them as a means to an end. But one of the latest adaptive optics systems is so powerful that it has been possible to analyse turbulence looking at not only reference stars but also the cores of galaxies, planets or moons, for example. This can be particularly useful when astronomers want to look at planets, moons, other galaxies or even quasars distorted by gravitational lenses, because there may be no nearby guide stars.

    Another important thing that the adaptive optics development team is working on with ESO’s detector team and European industry is reducing the noise in our detectors. Noise is an unwanted signal — it’s what makes photographs look grainy or blotchy, and we can have the same problem in our adaptive optics systems. So if we reduce the noise we can use fainter and fainter objects to analyse atmospheric turbulence, and we will soon have systems with ten times less noise than their predecessors.

    Q. What would you say is your biggest achievement personally whilst at ESO?

    A. One of my favourite projects was working on the Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) where I was part of a great team working on a very sophisticated prototype that was the first to use several guide stars and several deformable mirrors at the same time. This project actually led to my first ever visit to Paranal when we installed MAD on the VLT in 2007; we spent a couple of months there working on the instrument and it was a fantastic experience.

    I then worked on the AOF for ten years, and I feel very proud that now, when an operator goes to use AOF they just press a button and everything — all the adaptive optics and science collection — happens automatically. In the previous generation of adaptive optics instruments, getting an instrument up and running could be twenty minutes of painstaking work!

    5
    A detailed view of the the Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD). It is a prototype MCAO system which aims to demonstrate in the laboratory and on sky the feasibility of different MCAO reconstruction techniques in the framework of the ELT concept and the 2nd Generation VLT Instruments. This photograph was obtained in May 2005. Credit: ESO

    Q. What route did you take to become an adaptive optics engineer?

    A. I always knew I would work in science, I just didn’t know which field. I’ve always been an amateur astronomer and at some point I converged to particle physics or astrophysics. I started learning a lot about scientific research which led me in the direction of instrumentation and so I studied for a master’s degree specifically in astronomical instrumentation. I was lucky enough to get offered an internship at ESO where I discovered a fascination for adaptive optics. And here I still am today!

    Q. ESO’s observatories have now stopped carrying out observations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Does this pause give you the opportunity to step back and evaluate what you’re doing and what you want to do next?

    A. At the moment I am focusing on completing tasks that don’t require being at the observatory, like developing algorithms, reviewing documents, documenting procedures and making plans for the future. As part of this, some questions are arising that I need to use the telescopes to answer, so I will make the most of them when the observatory re-opens again! At that time I will also focus more on the day-to-day challenges that come up.

    We had planned to install a couple of new instruments on the VLT over the next months, for example CRIRES+ and NIRPS. When we get back to the observatory we will be busy preparing for and installing them as soon as we can.

    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 11:20 am on May 30, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Who’s who on the ELT: part I", , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “Who’s who on the ELT: part I” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    The faces behind the world’s biggest eye on the sky

    29 May 2020
    People@ESO

    1

    Bigger than all existing optical research telescopes combined, ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will drive astronomy into the future, tackling the biggest scientific challenges of our time. But to construct such an innovative and powerful telescope, it takes many different people working in an enormous variety of roles. In this series of blog posts, we hear from some of the people working on the ELT, exploring the work they do to help us reach the stars.

    Suzanne Ramsay (Instrumentation Manager)
    Claudio Cabrera (Civil Engineering Project Manager)
    Jason Spyromilio (Telescope Scientist)
    Miska Le Louarn (Adaptive Optics Physicist)
    Elizabeth George (Detector Engineer)
    Dominik Schneller (Systems Engineer)
    Ulrich Lampater (Control Engineer)
    Dimitris Kalaitzoglou (Retired Power Engineer)

    Suzanne Ramsay (Instrumentation Manager)

    2
    Suzanne Ramsay at the SPIE instrumentation conference in 2018, next to a 1:1 scale print out of the ELT’s METIS instrument without its support structure.
    Credit: ESO/Suzanne Ramsay

    “I am responsible for delivering the first instruments to the ELT. All of these are built outside ESO by large consortia of universities and institutes mostly in the ESO Member States. So maybe you can guess that much of my working day is spent in meetings of varying sizes, from internal discussions with a few ESO colleagues to consortium progress meetings with 100 people.

    My work in astronomical instrumentation started with my PhD at the University of Edinburgh in the UK. A chance remark by one of my undergraduate professors made me think about doing something that combined practical work with astronomical research and I have always been grateful for this comment; there is something satisfyingly tangible about an instrument project — a different satisfaction from producing a research paper. Every astronomical instrument is a one-off; the ELT’s instruments are incredibly challenging thanks to the colossal size of the telescope.

    I have worked on many instruments and every one’s “first light” — the first time you get a star on the detector — is burned into my memory. This moment is the culmination of years of work by the instrument team and is a real cause for celebration. The on-sky commissioning periods that follow are very intense — not always easy but there is a great focus by the team on what needs to be done. In the ideal cases, everyone is working and working together at their best. Many colleagues will probably laugh at this — it’s also a good time for stress and lack of sleep to cause arguments!

    Aside from the instruments, I am fascinated by the breadth of topics that have to be considered for this telescope — from the geological details of the new mountain top to the incredible precision with which the 798 mirror segments have to be controlled to deliver the quality of images that astronomers expect. The most memorable moment on the ELT project for me was the first (and so far only) trip to the new telescope site on Cerro Armazones. Simply breathtaking.”

    Claudio Cabrera (Civil Engineering Project Manager)

    3

    Claudio Cabrera building a small plane, one of his hobbies.
    Credit: ESO/Claudio Cabrera

    “I grew up in a small city named Ovalle, which is close to a city where the first observatories were built in Chile back in the ‘60s. I have always felt some fascination for those places sitting at the summit of a big mountain. So, when I saw ESO was looking for a Civil Engineer back in 2008, I didn’t think twice and I was lucky enough to be selected to lead the ESO ALMA site team. One of the nice moments I’ll always remember at ALMA was the telescope’s inauguration and the good times we had during the construction period when I was head of the site development group.

    My role within the ELT is Civil and Infrastructure Project Manager and is all related to roads, earth works, some logistics aspects, buildings, and more. In construction, there is no fixed schedule; sometimes you start the day with something in mind and, after some hours, you end up doing something completely different — that variety of each day is what I enjoy most about my job.

    One particularly interesting moment was the first blasting made at the Armazones top platform in June 2014. It was the start of the removal of three-quarters of a million tonnes of rock. When I’m not working, I like to be at home with my wife and three adult daughters; I live close to a mountain and go on walks there with my family and friends. And recently, I restarted a hobby I had when I was a kid: building little aeroplanes that fly using electric or combustion engines.”

    Jason Spyromilio (Telescope Scientist)

    4
    Jason Sypromilio presenting.
    Credit: ESO/Jason Spyromilio

    “As the Telescope Scientist my job is to commission the ELT and deliver a working telescope to its users. To prepare for this, I work with some very talented people in ESO to develop the baseline operation and calibration strategy for the telescope while keeping an eye on the evolution of the hardware and software systems as they are being implemented. A typical day involves reading and writing documentation, coding simulations, and having many discussions with colleagues about solutions to real and imaginary problems. I have had the privilege of being involved with the ELT project in various roles from its inception and I enjoy learning about, and understanding, the physics of telescopes.

    I was fortunate, soon after I joined ESO in 1994, to be given the opportunity to head up the New Technology Telescope upgrade project and after that to lead the commissioning effort at the Very Large Telescope (VLT). One of the challenges of enormous telescopes is that you don’t get to test them in the lab before going to the mountain so I guess much will be revealed when we go to Armazones and I look forward to finding out what I got right and what not. Certainly the scientific highlight of my career has been my participation in the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe together with Bruno Leibundgut here at ESO and many colleagues around the world. On the technical side, I have great recollections of the first stars of each of the telescopes and later seeing the happiness of instrument teams after they successfully attach to the telescope.

    When I’m not working, I run and ride my bike and, when I can, I go to where the waters are warm, the winds favourable and, depending on the company one keeps, the dolphins plentiful. I was born in Athens and love the Aegean, but unfortunately Munich is far from it and Chile even farther.”

    Miska Le Louarn (Adaptive Optics Physicist)

    5
    Miska Le Louarn.
    Credit: ESO/Miska Le Louarn

    “I have been doing astronomy since I was a kid. During an internship at NASA, I used one of the first adaptive optics systems with a laser guide star system to observe a comet crash on Jupiter. This event steered me towards adaptive optics — using mirrors to correct for how turbulence in Earth’s atmosphere distorts light from the Universe. Years later, seeing the four laser guide stars of the Adaptive Optics Facility working together on the VLT was the conclusion of many years of studies and simulations that I had started doing during my PhD thesis. This was the proof that almost 20 years of work was not done in vain. Now my work consists of doing adaptive optics simulations for the ELT and its instrumentation. I simulate how light propagates through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere, the telescope and its deformable mirror and finally reaches the scientific instruments. This allows me to model how images taken by the ELT will look, depending on the characteristics of the adaptive optics system that we use.

    One of my favourite things about working on the ELT is being in an international environment, with people from many nationalities coming together to work on common projects. I also like the mixture of high-tech and scientific research that I am able to work on. Since a telescope this large has never been built before, we have to explore many different aspects and that is what makes it so interesting. When I’m not sitting in front of a computer working on simulations, I love to cycle and run. I’ve even done a few ultra-marathons!”

    Elizabeth George (Detector Engineer)

    6
    Elizabeth George leading an ESO social day trip to Alspitz.
    Credit: ESO/Elizabeth George

    “I’ve always been one of those people who asks “why” when presented with a new piece of information. This made me an especially annoying child, but an excellent scientist. I started studying physics because I wanted to understand how the Universe works. But it turns out we don’t understand everything yet, so I got into engineering instruments for astronomy because I wanted to build the equipment we need to find out more about the Universe. My main role in the ELT is that I am the lead engineer and project manager for scientific detector systems for HARMONI, the first-light spectrograph for the ELT. No two days are the same for me! One day, I may spend a lot of time interacting with scientists and engineers from all over Europe to make sure that when we go to put the detectors into HARMONI they work the way they should. On another day you might find me in the lab integrating a detector into a cryostat to keep it at a very low temperature. A few days later, you would find me at a computer operating the detector system and analysing the data we get back.

    The most memorable moments in my career so far have always been “first light” moments: The first time a detector is working in the lab, the first time a detector is working inside of its instrument, and, the best, first light on the telescope when you see the first bit of light from a star or galaxy. I am willing to try my hand at almost anything, both at work and outside of it. I’ve participated in so many different sports from the more obscure like pole vaulting, kayak polo and caving, to the mainstream like biking and running. I have also tried to fix nearly everything around the house from sewing clothes to welding pipes. I figure you can learn something new from every experience in life, so why not try lots of new things?”

    Dominik Schneller (Systems Engineer)

    7
    Dominik Schneller at Cerro Armazones in front of the ELT construction grounds.
    Credit: ESO/Dominik Schneller

    “Early on, I had a strong curiosity for understanding how things work. This started with playing with LEGO and developed into disassembling old household equipment, such as phones and radios. My curiosity ultimately led to an interest in the field of computer technology including my first experience in coding. Today, I am a member of the ELT Systems Engineering group and some of the things I am responsible for include writing technical requirement specifications for the procurement of ELT subsystems and overseeing changes to, and interfaces between, the contracts we have with external partners to develop parts of the ELT. The daily work is technically challenging but extremely interesting, and it is a real pleasure because we have a lot of great colleagues on our team.

    The ELT is a machine at the edge of technology, providing lots of interesting work and insights to the latest high tech in many fields. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people who are interested in astronomy and will contribute significantly to the advancement of humankind. Outside of work, I have several outdoor hobbies like sailing, swimming, paragliding, motorbiking. More recently, my passion for flight simulators has been reactivated. I also like to travel, but in rather unusual ways. I have already done various long distance motorcycle trips including to Istanbul and St. Petersburg, but my most interesting trips were to North Korea and Iran. The visit to Paranal Observatory and the Very Large Telescope was also a mind-blowing experience; its uniqueness and beauty is just breathtaking!”

    Ulrich Lampater (Control Engineer)

    8
    Ulrich Lampater characterising a cryocooler that cools parts of a telescope and its instruments to extremely low temperatures.
    Credit: ESO/Babak Sedghi

    “I have always been fascinated by aeroplanes and space exploration, so I studied aerospace engineering and got especially hooked on control engineering. To me, it is a bit like magic powder that makes all the individual parts of a system work together. You push a button and it moves! At the end of my studies, I got the offer to work on a telescope called SOFIA that is installed on an aeroplane. This is how I got into astronomy, and now I find telescopes even cooler than aeroplanes. As a Control Engineer for the ELT, I help make sure that active devices of the telescope are designed and implemented such that they fulfil their — usually quite challenging — performance requirements. Control engineering requires close interaction with various disciplines, so our work depends on input from many experts. Fortunately ESO has highly skilled and very motivated staff, making it easy to find experts for in-depth discussions, who will challenge my conclusions.

    To me, a good day at work is one where I learn something new or get a new perspective. One of the most memorable moments of my career was being part of the team that acquired the first guide star on the SOFIA telescope while being airborne, and then the first airborne light on a science detector only a few nights later. This is the moment when all the hard work of so many people paid off. For the ELT this moment is of course still far away. But in the end it is probably not about the moment itself, but the common journey of all those involved that leads up to it. I am happy to contribute my small part to this journey.

    Dimitris Kalaitzoglou (Retired Power Engineer)

    8
    Dimitris Kalaitzoglou in front of a transformer.
    Credit: ESO/Dimitris Kalaitzoglou

    “Before retiring, my role was to help the ELT Programme Manager realise the Chilean President’s commitments to provide electricity to the ELT from the Chilean grid, and cooperating with both partners was what I enjoyed most about my work for the ELT. One of the most memorable moments of my career was the December 2013 visit of SAESA (a Chilean electricity company) Directors to Paranal Observatory, when it was initially confirmed that SAESA would work in cooperation with ESO for an ELT grid connection. The inauguration of Cerro Armazones in July 2017 was also an amazing moment and reminded me of my past experiences in Greece visiting high voltage substations. Now that I am retiring, I am happy to return permanently to the sun in Greece.”

    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 1:28 pm on May 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Carole Haswell, , , ESOblog,   

    From ESOblog: “Hunting hot exoplanets” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    15 May 2020
    Science Snapshots

    1
    Carole Haswell

    In December 2019, astronomers announced that they had efficiently discovered and characterised planets outside the Solar System using an innovative technique. So far, the researchers have used the technique with ESO’s HARPS instrument to find six exoplanets, some of which hold the key to unlocking the geology of rocky planets. We spoke to lead researcher Carole Haswell from the Open University in the UK to find out more about the project and the implications of these discoveries.

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

    2
    Artist’s impression of the mass-losing giant planet DMPP-2b, which orbits the pulsating star DMPP-2 every five days. The star is viewed through a cloud of gas lost from the hot planet.
    Credit: Mark A. Garlick / markgarlick.com. Science credit: Haswell / Barnes / Staab

    Q. The Dispersed Matter Planet Project (DMPP) aims to find lots of new exoplanets. What motivated you to start this project?

    A. The project actually grew out of some research we did a decade ago using the Hubble Space Telescope. We were looking at giant exoplanets, and found that the chromosphere of one of the host stars was missing. It seemed extremely unlikely that this star would be structured differently to every other star we know of, so we had another idea: when planets orbit close to their host star, they are heated very vigorously which makes them lose mass. We figured that some of this mass could form a gas shroud that envelops the entire planetary system and absorbs the light from the star’s chromosphere, preventing us from seeing it.

    So, we had the idea that if we see a star with missing chromospheric emission, we know that there is a hot mass-losing planet present, and could actually deduce a lot of information about such a planet. In this way, we came up with a new and efficient technique to discover new low-mass planets orbiting close to their parent star.

    What makes the project really special is our target star selection. Astronomers are beginning to suspect that most stars have planets orbiting them, but when we know what kind of planet a star might host, we can tailor the observations to find out about the planet much more quickly. And this is exactly what we’ve been doing here.

    Q. Could you tell us a bit about how this new planet-searching technique works?

    A. We searched through existing data on 6000 stars to find any that were structured like the Sun but with missing emission from their chromospheres. Of these 6000, we found about 40 that we thought could host very hot mass-losing planets. As these were all nearby stars, we guessed that these planets would have been found already if they were large and massive, so we thought they must be small, light planets. Therefore we designed observations to find them using the very sensitive HARPS instrument on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope [below and above].

    Because we were expecting low-mass planets orbiting close to their host stars — and therefore orbiting very quickly — we needed to get frequent measurements of the same star to see the differences during the planet’s orbit. So we looked at each star several times a night, which is much more often than observations are usually designed.

    Visiting La Silla Observatory to use the ESO 3.6-metre telescope was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’d used the New Technology Telescope [below] some years ago, but because I believe that this research is the best idea I’ve had in my whole career, it was especially exciting to go this time round.

    Q. What makes HARPS so good at finding new planetary systems?

    A. For this project, we are using the radial velocity method to detect planets, which means we measure how quickly the star moves towards and away from us. When a planet orbits a star, it pulls the star towards itself slightly. This means that when the planet orbits the star, the star is also executing a much smaller orbit in response. The star moves towards us while the planet moves away from us and vice versa. We can detect these changes in the star’s velocity from Earth.


    The radial velocity method for finding exoplanets. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada.

    We chose to use HARPS because it is by far the best general user radial velocity instrument that we were allowed to propose for — it can measure the velocity of a star with a precision of less than one metre per second! It’s fantastic to be in an ESO Member State with the opportunity to use such an instrument.

    Q. So why do you think it is important for us to search for new exoplanets?

    A. One of the biggest human questions is about our place in the Universe; how special the Solar System is and how special Earth is. And one of the big pushes in exoplanet science is to extend discovery methods to be able to see planets like Earth orbiting their host stars at the same distance that Earth orbits the Sun. The idea is that these Earth-like planets could be good candidates for hosting life.

    But it’s also important to find a whole range of planetary systems to see how planets form and evolve and to determine how typical the Solar System is. The planets we are studying through this project aren’t similar to our neighbours in the Solar System, but it is nonetheless important to study them because it gives us the opportunity to better understand a different type of planet, which is important to generally understand the geology and geochemistry of planetary systems.

    With further study of the systems we’ve found to host exoplanets, we could work out the chemical composition of the gas shroud, which would reveal what type of rock the surfaces of these planets are made of. This will help us pin down how planets are built, and whether the Earth is normal.

    Q. How has the DMPP been going so far? Have you had any surprising discoveries?

    A. We started making observations in 2015, and we’ve already discovered six exoplanets using relatively little telescope time compared to more traditional methods. One of the most interesting stars we looked at so far actually turned out to be two stars! The tiny second star in the binary system is right at the lower limit of hydrogen burning, meaning it is just massive enough to be a proper star like the Sun. If it had slightly less material, it would be a brown dwarf. This star is faint and had therefore never been detected before. Finding this extremely low mass star was interesting in its own right, but we also found a planet in this system that is 2–3 times the mass of Earth and orbits the larger star in just seven days, which is unusually quick. The planet doesn’t fit with our theories of planet formation because the smaller star’s presence means there wouldn’t have been enough rocky material to form the planet where we see it. The second star must have affected the planet’s orbit, somehow pushing it closer to the larger star.

    We would really like to study this system in more detail; if we can get more radial velocity data, we could see if there are any other planets, pin down the properties of the planet we’ve already discovered, and look at the atmosphere of the smaller star to see how it changes as it gets close to the larger star.

    Q. Are there any challenges that you’ve had to overcome?

    A. For many of our target stars we have detected more than one orbiting planet, so it took us a while to disentangle the signals from each other to figure out the exact number of planets and their orbital periods. This meant it was longer than expected before we could publish our results, so the committee that allocates telescope time started becoming sceptical and we had to persuade them that our research really is worthwhile. We’ve now published several papers on our discoveries, and we were allocated more time to continue the project — both to look at more systems and to investigate the most interesting ones in more detail. Unfortunately these observations couldn’t take place because of the closure of the observatory due to COVID-19, but we are really keen to continue as soon as it is safe to do so!

    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 10:45 am on April 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A spotlight on Claudia Cid", , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “A spotlight on Claudia Cid” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    10 April 2020
    People@ESO

    1
    Interview with Claudia Cid

    A telescope operator on fixing banana stars, searching for lasers and enjoying Paranal sunrises.

    2

    ESO’s telescopes collect lots of incredible information about the Universe, but who tells them where to point and what data to collect? Claudia Cid is a Telescope Instrument Operator and Operations Specialist at ESO’s Paranal Observatory. Her job is to make sure the telescopes and instruments collect the best data that they can to help astronomers find out more about the Universe.

    Q. What does your day to day work look like?

    A. Well, it’s night to night work actually! On any given night, I operate one of the telescopes at Paranal Observatory to make sure that we get the best possible scientific data given the meteorological conditions at that time, whilst ensuring that people and telescopes remain safe. Recently, for example, I’ve been working with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) UT4, Yepun, which means I’ve been handling the lasers!

    What my role actually involves is typically working with an astronomer for the first half of the night and alone for the second half of the night. Everything is computerised, so we sit down in front of lots of screens in the control room and start up the telescope remotely. We have a bank of observing programmes submitted by astronomers around the world, and we use a tool to select which programme we should observe depending on the current conditions — we account for wind, turbulence in the air, cloud cover, humidity, etc. When astronomers submit a programme they provide information about what conditions their observations require.

    3
    Operators and astronomers at work in the VLT control room. Credit: ESO/L. Honnorat

    Once a programme has been selected, the telescope moves to point at the right coordinates on the sky. When a telescope has pointed to a new object, the object tends to look out of focus like a banana or a donut, so I adjust the telescope’s mirror until the object is in focus. Then the telescope starts tracking the sky and I constantly monitor all the systems; this includes the enclosure, the hydraulics, the electronics and the light that’s coming in.

    4
    Data coming in from the HELIOS instrument on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope.Credit: ESO/X. Dumusque

    At this point, if the astronomer is present they take care of operating the instrument that detects the light collected by the telescope. We keep an eye on the data to check its quality; if it’s not good enough, the observations have to be repeated with better conditions. I work on different programmes like this, moving from one target to another, until the Sun begins to rise, at which point I put the telescope in a parking position, with the mirror looking up, close the dome and make sure everything is left in a safe state.

    Q You were on the team in charge of collecting the last photons from the VLT before science operations were paused for the first time in Paranal’s history. How did this feel?

    A. Being on the mountain for the last shift before the observatory was closed down due to the coronavirus outbreak was scary and exciting. Before leaving home, we didn’t know what would happen and then on the mountain we were witnessing the number of people reducing everyday. But being responsible for operating UT4 during that last shift was a real life challenge — operating under reduced conditions and having no backup on the mountain in case things went wrong made for a very satisfying shift. The control room was so empty but the group pulled it off; I have to thank my remote astronomer for his help, as well as the rest of the “last photons” team.

    Q. What do you enjoy most about your job when the telescopes are operating as normal?

    A. The mornings! After I close up the telescope system, the Sun is starting to come up over the horizon, the air is cold, the mountains look beautiful, I feel satisfaction about having got my job done, and I know it’s time to go to bed.

    I also like that every night is different. Although we use the same telescopes and instruments, we could be looking at comets, star clusters, distant galaxies, or something else entirely.

    Q. Do you find night shifts tough?

    A. I did exclusively night shifts for 15 years! I’m definitely not a morning person. As an operator I always work one week of long shifts — sleeping at the Residencia during the on-shift week — then one week off the mountain at home, and I don’t get up early when I’m off to maintain the shifted schedule. I don’t feel ashamed about this at all!

    Q. You’ve worked at ESO for 17 years; how have you seen operations at Paranal change during that time?

    A. I’ve seen many changes, many instruments have been commissioned, and many have been decommissioned. My work is of course “easier” now than it was 17 years ago because we have many more tools to help us operate the telescopes and instruments. These allow us to better understand what we’re observing, the problems we’re facing, and whether the science we’re collecting is good or bad. I didn’t study astronomy, so that was actually something tricky for me when I first joined ESO.

    I’ve always worked in the control room, but in the beginning operators were just telescope operators. Now we have tools to better understand the science as it comes in, so we also operate instruments without an astronomer present.

    Q. And having worked at ESO for so long, what inspires you to continue going to work every day?

    A. To put it simply, I like the job! I always go to work happy because I find it fun and I feel like I can make a difference. This year I’m spending a lot of time training new operators, as well as training astronomers to do operations. It feels great when they trust my knowledge and experience. Besides, I think you have to be kind of special to do this job. It involves working alone a lot, so you have to be comfortable with your own company.

    Q. What are the biggest challenges that you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them?

    A. Oh, we often face minor technical problems but rarely anything out of the ordinary. For example, UT4 (Yepun) uses Laser Guide Stars. These help us reduce the turbulent effect of Earth’s atmosphere on the light we receive. It takes a lot of experience to perform observations with the aid of lasers, so it takes longer than usual to propagate their light, ensure they are correctly aligned and centred in our laser cameras and then operate them when observing a science target. But some things happen automatically, for example if an aircraft is detected nearby the lasers turn off immediately for safety reasons. A dedicated tool also allows us to see where other telescopes are pointing to make sure the lasers don’t interfere with our observations.

    Challenges are always overcome by just paying attention and not getting distracted so that we don’t make mistakes. If mistakes are carried into the science, this could lead to poor quality scientific data, meaning we’d have to retake the data and therefore lose precious and expensive telescope time.

    The number one rule is to always know where the telescope is pointing. If I get up to grab a coffee or stretch my legs, I always check what the telescope is doing and how much remaining time there is on the current target. You always have to be aware of what’s going on.

    4
    VLT Control Room. On the left is Claudia Cid (TIO; Telescope Instrument Operator), and on the right is Celia Cerón (DHA; Data Handling Administrator). Credit: ESO/Max Alexander

    Q. How did you get to where you are today? What inspired you to become an operator?

    A. We joke about the Telescope Instrument Operators wanting to be operators, because (although I love the job) nobody really grows up dreaming of being an operator! I actually stumbled across an advertisement for the job in a newspaper around the time I was graduating from university. I felt like they were talking to me with the list of experience and skills that the job required. I have a degree in engineering and feel that my personality is very well-suited to this job.

    So I applied but I actually didn’t make it! I was the second choice candidate and I was told that a new operator position might open in the next few months, and if so, I’d get a call. Well, no call came so I became an electronics teacher. A year later, the call came! Now that I am training others to operate telescopes I feel like I am combining my two loves — operations and teaching others.

    Q. And finally, what do you do when you’re not operating telescopes?

    A. I let myself be pampered! I’m a family person, so during my weeks at home, I often visit my sister and generally enjoy spending relaxed time with my family without worrying that I’ll be back at work the next day. I’m also currently working on digitalising some old films from my childhood, which is a really cool project.

    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-

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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 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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 11:51 am on March 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "From the ground to the sky", , , , , , ESOblog, María Díaz Trigo, X-ray binary systems, XRISM is a JAXA/NASA collaborative mission with participation from the European Space Agency (ESA).   

    From ESOblog: “From the ground to the sky” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    27 March 2020. People@ESO.

    As well as being an Operations Astronomer at the ESO ALMA Regional Centre, María Díaz Trigo is a world-renowned expert in high-energy astrophysics and lends her expertise to X-ray space missions. In this week’s blog post, we find out what Maria does on a daily basis, how she fits everything in, and why she thinks it’s important that ground- and space-based astronomy evolve in parallel.

    2
    María Díaz Trigo

    3
    Artist”s impression of the black holes studied by the astronomers, using ULTRACAM attached to ESO’s Very Large Telescope [below]. The systems — designated Swift J1753.5-0127 and GX 339-4 — each contain a black hole and a normal star separated by a few million kilometres. That’s less than 10 percent of the distance between Mercury and our Sun. Because the two objects are so close to each other, a stream of matter spills from the normal star toward the black hole and forms a disc of hot gas around it. As matter collides in this so-called accretion disc, it heats up to millions of degrees. Near the black hole, intense magnetic fields in the disc accelerate some of this hot gas into tight jets that flow in opposite directions away from the black hole. The orbital period of Swift J1753.5-0127 — just 3.2 hours — is the fastest found for a black hole. The orbital period of GX 339-4, by contrast, is about 1.7 days. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada.

    Q. Firstly, could you tell us a bit about your role at ESO? What do you do on a daily basis?

    A. I’m an ALMA astronomer, meaning half of my time is dedicated to ALMA Observatory duties.

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

    This spans a range of activities, including scheduling different projects to happen at the right time, under the right conditions.

    The other half of my time is spent on my own research, where I am really free to work on whatever I want. So I focus on X-ray binary systems, which consist of either a small black hole (by which I mean around ten times the mass of the Sun!) or a neutron star, as well as a normal star. The black hole or neutron star pulls matter from the normal star. This process, called accretion, powers the most energetic phenomena in the Universe and releases a lot of X-rays. These X-rays can be observed using dedicated space telescopes, and I look at these X-ray observations together with observations of the same systems in other wavelengths of light made by telescopes on the ground. This gives me a lot of information about what’s going on in different parts of the system.

    Q. What first got you interested in astronomy?

    A. At university I specialised in particle physics, but after my master’s degree, particle physics seemed to be at the stage where the most exciting science had already been done. It is also difficult to work on your own research in particle physics; everything needs big expensive particle accelerators and extensive collaborations. So I switched to astronomy because of the amazing number of things that can be done with telescopes — both by collecting new data and by analysing data that already exist.

    4
    This artist’s impression shows the surroundings of a supermassive black hole, typical of that found at the heart of many galaxies. The black hole itself is surrounded by a brilliant accretion disc of very hot, infalling material and, further out, a dusty torus. There are also often high-speed jets of material ejected at the black hole’s poles that can extend huge distances into space. Observations with ALMA have detected a very strong magnetic field close to the black hole at the base of the jets and this is probably involved in jet production and collimation. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada.

    Q. And you are now an expert in high-energy astrophysics. Could you tell us a bit more about your research and why it inspires you?

    A. When a black hole or neutron star in a binary system pulls matter from a companion star, a disc forms around the black hole or neutron star, consisting of matter dragged off of the companion star, and this is what feeds the heavier object. At some point this disc is heated so much that the upper layers evaporate and matter flies away from the system in the form of winds. These winds have speeds of the order of 1000 km/s and are detected predominantly in X-rays and sometimes with telescopes that observe optical light. However, these winds are “slow” compared to the very narrow, collimated, extremely high-speed jets that are also expelled from the system and detected from radio to infrared wavelengths.

    I study these winds and jets and try to figure out how they fit in with the rest of the system. One of the biggest mysteries is how to feed black holes so that they get as big as those found at the centres of galaxies, which weigh as much as millions of Suns. Even if black holes are attracting matter from gas and stars, it seems as if a significant part of that matter is ejected in winds and possibly jets before it even gets to the black hole, so we’re still wondering how matter actually reaches the black hole so it can grow.

    Q. How does this research fit in with being a European Participating Scientist for JAXA’s X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM)? Why did you choose to take on this role?

    3
    Artist’s impression of the JAXA/NASA X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM).
    Credit: JAXA

    A. Well, I wanted to contribute to making the mission a success in getting us to the next stage of X-ray instrumentation! XRISM is a JAXA/NASA collaborative mission, with participation from the European Space Agency (ESA). It will carry a revolutionary micro-calorimeter providing a spectral resolution higher than conventional X-ray imaging spectrometers by a factor of 30. A micro-calorimeter will also be flown on ESA’s next large X-ray space mission Athena and we hope to learn lots of lessons from XRISM!

    I was selected by ESA around two years ago to represent the European scientific community on XRISM, and I mostly contribute scientific expertise in the area of X-ray binaries. I meet with a whole group of participating scientists every six months in person and monthly remotely, and we form part of the mission’s science team. We are currently considering which X-ray-emitting objects we should observe during the first six months after XRISM is launched in 2022, which will be the performance verification phase. During this period we will use the telescope to observe lots of different sources to check how the instrument fares — where it works well and where it works less well — so that the science community can prepare their own observations for the operational phase.

    Q. Do you think it’s important that ground-based astronomy and space-based astronomy evolve in parallel, with astronomers from both areas working together? If so, why?

    A. Absolutely! Astronomy is a complex science and one telescope observing one wavelength of light is not enough to have a full picture of what’s going on out there in the Universe. For example, one mystery surrounding black holes is that the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies emit X-rays, and so do the little black holes that I observe in binary systems, but medium-sized black holes don’t emit any X-rays! We didn’t even know whether these medium-sized black holes existed until gravitational waves allowed us to detect them for the first time. Now we can find out more about them and figure out why we don’t see any X-rays from them.

    Q. And what about collaboration between different scientific organisations? Why is this important?

    A. Knowledge sharing is always important. ESO and ESA have an ongoing collaboration to share knowledge and experience in the areas of science, technology and operations. This is mostly done through a working group for each of the three areas. I am part of the science working group in which we try to see where we can collaborate to advance scientific projects. For example, for some ESA space missions to achieve their full science goals, their observations are followed up by ESO’s ground-based telescopes.

    ALMA itself is a partnership between ESO, the US National Science Foundation, and Japan’s National Institute of Natural Sciences in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. So representatives from most continents are involved and the telescope is showing what can be achieved through a global collaboration. It’s hard work but very, very rewarding.

    Space missions are also becoming more complex and expensive, making it difficult for one agency alone to build and fund them. Costs and expertise have to be shared; this is demonstrated in XRISM where expertise comes from scientists around the world.

    Q. It sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate! How do you fit everything in?

    A. (María laughs) I do what I can! It is a lot, but it’s one of the challenges that comes with working in science. The 50% of time many scientists have available to spend on “‘science” is not really all “own research time” in the end. We have to do a lot of work for the community otherwise the community can’t move forward. Being involved in advisory committees or selecting proposals from other scientists for observations with a given telescope indeed leaves less time for research, but it means that we extend and share our expertise.

    For example, for XRISM I contribute my knowledge about X-ray binaries, but there are so many other objects out there that emit X-rays. I’ve recently been learning from cosmological experts who work on very, very distant X-ray-emitting clusters of galaxies.

    Q. Finally, you’ve also got a degree in philosophy. How does that fit in with your interests in physics and understanding the Universe?

    A. Aside from being influenced by a fantastic teacher, I was always very attracted by philosophy because it’s at the core of thinking. Centuries ago, philosophers were the physicists of their times – their aim was to understand the Universe. Nowadays unfortunately we’re locked into small areas of expertise making it difficult to see the bigger picture. I found this very unsatisfactory; I can do many things to better understand my little black holes but in the end our aim is to discover why we are here and where we go now. I can’t answer these questions with my data alone.

    Seeing the bigger picture gives us a direction, something to aim for. Fortunately, we are now moving in the direction of multidisciplinary work; people from different areas are working together and combining their knowledge to solve bigger problems.

    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

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    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 3:47 pm on March 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Instrument Scientists Pedro Figueira and Gaspare Lo Curto tell us how it feels to finally see the fruits of their labours., The ESPRESSO instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has used the combined light of all four of the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes for the first time.   

    From ESOblog: “A taste of ESPRESSO” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    At the bleeding edge of exoplanet pursuit.

    ESO/ESPRESSO on the VLT, installed at the incoherent combined Coudé facility of the VLT. It is an ultra-stable fibre-fed échelle high-resolution spectrograph (R~140,000, 190,000, or 70,000) which collects the light from either a single UT or the four UTs simultaneously via the so-called UT Coudé trains.

    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,

    13 March 2020
    HighTech ESO

    Following this week’s big news that a team of scientists have used ESO’s ESPRESSO instrument to explore the atmosphere of an ultra-hot gas giant exoplanet and discover iron rain, we go behind the scenes at Paranal Observatory to find out more about what it’s like to be part of team ESPRESSO.

    3
    Researchers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) [below] have observed an extreme planet where they suspect it rains iron. The ultra-hot giant exoplanet has a day side where temperatures climb above 2400 degrees Celsius, high enough to vaporise metals. Strong winds carry iron vapour to the cooler night side where it condenses into iron droplets.

    Instrument Scientists Pedro Figueira and Gaspare Lo Curto tell us how it feels to finally see the fruits of their labours.

    Q. This discovery was based on ESPRESSO’s first observations made in November 2018. How does it feel to see results like this after you’ve worked so hard on the instrument for so long?

    Pedro Figueira (PF): ESPRESSO is a complex instrument and its development — from the first concept to the first light — took roughly ten years. As Instrument Scientists we participated in that process, so it’s a real pleasure to see the first series of papers coming out.

    Gaspare Lo Curto (GLC): It makes us feel that all our efforts were really worthwhile; all the sweat and pain are starting to pay back now!

    Q. The scientists who carried out this study believe that it “rains iron” on this exoplanet. Why do you think it is important to have instruments that help us discover and remotely explore such strange new worlds?

    GLC: We are well within the era of characterisation of exoplanets. We know there are many of them, and we are also learning that there are huge differences between them, even compared to all the planets in the Solar System. The characterisation of these “strange new worlds” is crucial to understanding how planets form and evolve. There are still many open questions on these important topics.

    PF: ESPRESSO was built with the declared goal of detecting exoplanets with the same mass and orbital periods as Earth that orbit around Sun-like stars. However, it was soon realised that the remarkable collecting power of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the extreme stability of ESPRESSO made it a prime machine to study the atmospheres of all sorts of exoplanets. It is arguably the best instrument in the world for these types of studies.

    3
    The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) successfully made its first observations in November 2017. Installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESPRESSO will search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the properties of light coming from their host stars. For the first time ever, an instrument will be able to sum up the light from all four VLT telescopes and achieve the light collecting power of a 16-metre telescope. This picture shows the first raw spectrum obtained by ESPRESSO: the star Tau Ceti.
    Credit: ESO

    Q. As Instrument Scientists for ESPRESSO, what does your day-to-day work look like?

    PF: We are the stewards of the instrument, in the words of our Director of Operations, Andreas Kaufer. When an instrument is assembled by a consortium and delivered formally to ESO, an interdisciplinary team of experts (including instrumentation hardware experts, software support, engineers, technicians, operators, astronomers, etc.) takes over the instrument, taking responsibility for its operations and making sure the astronomical community has access to the full potential of the instrument. This team is called the Instrument Operations Team (IOT) and is steered by the Instrument Scientists. One of the Instrument Scientists, the IS1, is formally the coordinator of the team and responsible for the instrument’s operations; this is my role. We joke — with way too much truth behind it — that things are always the IS1’s fault!

    Over the course of each day we monitor the operations of the instrument(s). We spend a significant fraction of our time on tasks associated with our instrument, like training our colleagues to operate it, checking data quality, and addressing the most pressing technical issues.

    GLC: The bottom line is that we have to make sure the instrument is in good health and ready to operate. When we arrive in the morning we check whether there have been reports of problems during the previous night, in which case we try to understand the origins of the problems and follow up the investigation with the engineers. Moreover, we continuously try to improve the instruments’ operations to make them more effective and efficient. In the case of ESPRESSO special care is taken concerning its thermomechanical stability: to measure the velocity of a star with a precision of 10 cm/s (almost as slow as a sloth!), the instrument must be kept extremely stable, with thermal variations well controlled. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is, but it shouldn’t change by more than a few thousandths of a degree Celsius.

    Q. How have you been involved with ESPRESSO so far?

    PF: On top of our Instrument Scientist duties, we were also developers and are now users of ESPRESSO. I was part of the ESPRESSO Consortium that built the instrument and am now part of the ESPRESSO Science Team that performs the observations and data analyses that aim to answer the scientific questions that form the basis of the scientific justification of ESPRESSO. The Science Team manages the Guaranteed Time Observations that the Consortium gets in return for building the instrument.

    I was the Portuguese member of the Science Advisory Team during the instrument’s design phase, and I am now a member of the Consortium and manager of the working group for the detection of exoplanets around stars like our own.

    GLC: I was the ESPRESSO Project Scientist from 2009 to 2014, defining the top level requirements for the instrument to reflect the needs of the astronomical community and following the progress of the instrument with the Consortium. I then took on Project Manager responsibilities from 2014 to 2018. Finally, now that the project has become a reality I have been back at Paranal Observatory as an Instrument Scientist since 2018. The start of ESPRESSO’s scientific operations in 2018 was the milestone when full power passed from the Project Scientist to the main Instrument Scientist (Pedro). But then I became the second Instrument Scientist so I share some of Pedro’s tasks and support him in his activities.

    6
    The ESPRESSO instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile has used the combined light of all four of the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes for the first time. Combining light from the Unit Telescopes in this way makes the VLT the largest optical telescope in existence in terms of collecting area. This picture shows the team on the VLT platform after the first light observations. The ESO Director General, Xavier Barcons, appears in the centre, wearing the blue shirt. Credit: ESO/D. Mégevand.

    Q. What do you find most exciting about your job?

    PF: Whether we like it or not, we are the bleeding edge, in the middle of all the action. Trying to put into operation a unique instrument like ESPRESSO is very challenging, and in the beginning we are confronted with new problems and issues almost every day. In the first few years of operations there is a lot to do while we try to get the best out a machine that is, in essence, the only prototype ever built. We do not lack excitement, we lack sleep.

    Q. It’s good that you have an “ESPRESSO” to wake you up every morning then! Were there any unexpected problems in the first few months after the instrument saw first light? If so, how did you resolve them?

    GLC: Well… there weren’t really any unexpected problems because we always expect all kinds of problems when we first start a new instrument. It’s normal! But we indeed identified various problems, and one by one these are being solved. We typically get the first indication of a potential problem from our test datasets, or even during real science observations. At that point, the next step is to perform dedicated measurements to identify and isolate the problem.

    The solution depends on the nature of the problem; at times it might involve a large simulation effort, to be sure of what we can expect if we invest time and effort into putting in place a particular solution. Or it might require the construction of an entirely new part or direct work on the instrument.

    In any case, a problem implies that for some days or weeks the instrument will be removed from normal scientific observations to perform the recovery actions. Some of the problems we have already solved are: the distribution of liquid nitrogen, the fibre-link transmission, the thermal stability of one of the main calibration light sources, the image quality, and the spectrograph shutters.

    Solving these kinds of problems involves truly multi-disciplinary teams of astronomers, physicists, and many different types of engineers including electronic, mechanical, software and cryogenics experts.

    Q. What makes ESPRESSO such a great detector and characteriser of exoplanets? How is it different to other instruments, in particular its predecessor — HARPS?

    ESO/HARPS at La Silla

    PF: There are two aspects that make ESPRESSO very different from HARPS, and from any other spectrograph built before.

    The first is that ESPRESSO can receive light from any one of the 8.2-metre wide Unit Telescopes of the VLT instead of the ESO 3.6-metre telescope as HARPS does.

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

    This means that ESPRESSO receives about four times more light, allowing us to observe fainter stars or to reach the same level of precision on the stellar spectra much faster. ESPRESSO can also combine the light from up to all four VLT Unit Telescopes simultaneously, which makes it even more sensitive.

    The second aspect is that ESPRESSO was built to be more stable and with more precise calibration mechanisms than its predecessors. This means that the instrument is a much more precise planet-hunting machine than we’ve ever seen before, allowing us to reap the advantage of a larger telescope and more precise stellar spectra.

    GLC: At the spectrographic level, the strength of ESPRESSO is its “spectral fidelity” combined with its high spectral resolution. In other words, ESPRESSO is capable of resolving tiny details in the spectra of stars with the highest precision in the world. With HARPS we learned all the lessons that we could use to develop ESPRESSO.

    Q. This latest discovery was made mostly with data from ESPRESSO but also a little bit from HARPS. Why is it useful to combine data from different instruments?

    GLC: In this specific case the usefulness lies in the fact that when the data from two different instruments are consistent, we can be more confident about them being correct. We can confidently assume that the measurements are not due to instrument effects, at least down to the precision of the less precise instrument — HARPS, in this case.


    An explanation of how ESPRESSO works. This video was released when ESPRESSO saw first light in late 2017. Credit: ESO.

    Q. What does the future look like for ESPRESSO? What other exciting discoveries do you think we will see?

    PF: Bright and frantic. ESPRESSO is a great tool that has pushed technical development to the limit. The rest is for the community to figure out. If you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail. The ESO community will find unique ways to use ESPRESSO and the ESPRESSO Science Team will use their observing time to find a planet like our own.

    GLC: I look forward to the detection of the first super-Earth orbiting the habitable zone of a truly Sun-like star. If such a planet is also visible with the transit technique it would be excellent because we could optimise the time investment on ESPRESSO, and we could use ESPRESSO to characterise its atmosphere. However, ESPRESSO is offered to the whole astronomical community, which is very rich in ideas. For sure there will be discoveries that will be exciting and unexpected at the same time.

    Note: The ESPRESSO Instrument Operations Team consists of Pedro Figueira, Gaspare Lo Curto, Andrea Mehner, Elyar Sedaghati, Trystyn Berg, Francisco Caceres, Rodrigo Romero, Nicolas Haddad, Rodrigo Badinez, Claudio Reinero, Andres Anania, Alexander Meiste, Ivan Muñoz, Antonio Manescau, Markus Wittkowski, John Pritchard, Burkhard Wolff, Andrea Modigliani and Jakob Vinther.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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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 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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 5:16 pm on March 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Interview with Michele Cirasuolo - ELT Programme Scientist, The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT)   

    From ESOblog- “Future science: What will the Extremely Large Telescope reveal about the Universe?” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    E-ELT

    6 March 2020
    Science Snapshots

    The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will massively advance ground-based astronomy by tackling the biggest scientific challenges of our time. With such a powerful telescope, astronomers will be able to examine the Universe in unprecedented detail. This week, we caught up with ELT Programme Scientist Michele Cirasuolo to learn exactly what this new telescope will be able to tell us about the Universe.

    2
    Interview with Michele Cirasuolo

    Q. Michele, could you first tell us what led you to join ESO and become Programme Scientist for the ELT? How did you end up helping to coordinate the ‘world’s biggest eye on the sky’?

    A. A few years ago, I was working on instrumentation for the Very Large Telescope (VLT), so when the opportunity arose to become Programme Scientist for the ELT, it kind of felt like moving to new heights. The ELT is a gigantic step forward compared to the VLT. The instruments on the VLT are already state of the art, but the ELT is just at another level; it will open up so many more frontiers in astronomy and I wanted to be able to help ESO and the scientific community steer the direction of this amazing machine.

    I first trained as an astrophysicist. But during my postdoc at Edinburgh University there was an opportunity to take on more of an instrument scientist role where I could learn more about instrumentation. Working on the ELT allows me to combine these two interests of science and technology; we are building an ambitious telescope that will solve many astrophysical problems, and in doing so, we need to combine our knowledge of theory, observations and engineering to really push forward the boundaries of technology.

    Q. ELT Programme Scientist sounds you have a lot on your plate — could you tell us a little about what you do on a day-to-day basis?

    A. The short answer: I jump from meeting to meeting!

    I act as the hub between all of the main stakeholders to ensure that we get the best science from the ELT. Each ELT instrument has its own Project Scientist and I coordinate the work between all of them. I listen to what the science community wants and explain to them what the ELT will be able to do. I report to funding bodies to keep them updated on our progress. And I present to ESO management to keep them in the loop of our progress and our set-backs. So all-in-all I have a broad view of what’s happening across the entire programme, allowing me to transfer information from one party to another, and solve problems by looking at the big picture.

    3
    The ELT primary mirror, consisting of 798 individual mirrors that can each move independently to give us the best possible view of the Universe. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/ACe Consortium.

    Q. The ELT is a massive leap forward in telescope technology, size and observing power. Exactly how will it compare to current telescopes?

    A. It is an understatement to say that the ELT is a massive leap forward. In the past, we have typically progressed telescopes by doubling the size of the main mirror. From one metre, to two to four and now we’re up to eight metres with the VLT. But the ELT primary mirror, M1, will be almost forty metres wide – a truly astonishing jump in terms of both science and technology.

    Controlling such a huge mirror that is made up of almost 800 individual smaller mirror segments, is such a technological challenge. The telescope itself will be a massive structure weighing more than 3500 tonnes, with five giant mirrors in its optical train, known as M1 to M5. But the accuracy with which we look at astronomical objects will be on the order of a few nanometres, or 0.000000001 metres. Achieving this accuracy is extremely challenging because while observing the telescope will move to point and track different astronomical objects, and we will have to contend with gravity, temperature changes, vibrations due to wind, and the turbulence of Earth’s atmosphere. In order to compensate for all these effects and obtain sharp images each individual mirror segment will be controlled and moved with motors at a very fast rate. For example, more than 5300 motors control the shape of M4, which can receive up to 1000 commands per second. This will ensure that the mirrors are constantly in precisely the right position to deliver the best science.

    From a more scientific perspective, the VLT is an incredible machine, but it is not powerful enough to see very faint objects, so we need the ELT. Right now we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg, and the deeper we go, the more we will discover.

    Q. ESO has been at the forefront of ground-based astronomical innovation for a long time — could you tell us what existing ESO telescope technology has made the ELT possible?

    A. The ELT builds on the shoulders of the VLT, and is really only possible thanks to the expertise we gained from developing and operating it. The VLT taught us how to align mirrors, how to do adaptive optics, how to build huge structures, how to deal with extensive manufacturing processes and specifications, how to operate such a state-of-the-art facility, how to deliver the best science, and much more.

    So we already had a lot of expertise in terms of instruments, serving the science community and providing data. But at the same time almost every part of the ELT is nothing like anything that’s been done before. A lot of new technology has had to be developed and it has resulted in some enormous Research and Development projects for both the telescope and the instruments, which are also huge compared to the VLT’s.

    Q. So what instruments will the ELT have, and are you already making plans for the first observations? If not, when does that process begin?

    A. We considered all the possible science topics that the ELT could address, and then planned instruments to tackle specific problems, but also instruments that could complement each other.

    4
    The first instruments, HARMONI and MICADO, will later be joined by METIS and MAORY.
    Credit: ESO

    When the ELT is first ‘switched on’, it will be using two instruments both using adaptive optics — MICADO with its adaptive optics module MAORY and HARMONI with its Laser Tomography Adaptive Optics module. HARMONI is a spectrograph and MICADO is an imager. Next in line is METIS, a mid-infrared imager and spectrograph combined. A second wave of instruments will follow, based on our “instrument roadmap”, for which we have already identified a high-resolution spectrograph (HIRES) and a multi-object spectrograph (MOSAIC).

    Each instrument is built by a consortium that gets guaranteed observing time to tackle specific science questions. So the consortia are already planning how best to make these observations. The rest of the observing time is offered to the astronomical community to make their own discoveries, and yes, we are already planning for these.

    We are exploring how best to use the instruments, what their performance will be, and how the data will be used, extracted and archived to be used by others. Once the instruments are built and the ELT is up-and-running we will test their performance and make sure that we have this kind of infrastructure ready for the whole community to make the best use of the ELT. We will organise workshops and hands-on demonstration to help people with this.

    Q. The ELT will give us an unprecedented view of the Universe. One frontier that it will allow us to explore is the very early history days of the Universe — the so-called “Dark Ages”. What might we learn?

    A. Whatever the ELT observes will be a new discovery. The jump from previous telescopes is so big that wherever we look we will find something new.

    The first objects in the cosmic Dark Ages are very faint and distant; the light that we see from them left them 13 billion years ago so we see the universe as it was at a very early age. The ELT will be able to collect this light much better than the VLT, so that we can start to resolve these objects to find out what they’re made of and how they work.

    Q. One of the hottest topics in astronomy is exoplanetary science. How will the ELT change our understanding of other worlds?

    A. Pretty much all space telescopes and existing ground-based telescopes are now being used to search for stars with planetary companions that could possibly host life. We have already found thousands of exoplanets orbiting all sorts of different stars. But we need to go a step beyond finding out the number of exoplanets and their respective sizes, and start really characterising their atmospheres to see whether they may be suitable for life. We need the enormous power of the ELT in order to do this. So maybe the ELT will help us find new Earths!

    Q. The VLT notably produced the most detailed view ever of the surroundings of the supermassive black hole lurking at the heart of our galaxy. Will the ELT be able to go further?

    A. The VLT has enabled some incredible research on the centre of the Milky Way, especially using a star called S2 that lies close to the black hole.

    Star S0-2 Andrea Ghez Keck/UCLA Galactic Center Group at SGR A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the milky way

    But there are still many open questions – for example whether the black hole is spinning.

    5
    The E-ELT will make extensive use of adaptive optics to achieve images of remarkable sharpness. In this artist’s view the future 39-metre telescope is shown using lasers to create artificial stars high in the atmosphere. These are used as part of the telescope’s sophisticated adaptive optics system to remove much of the blurring effect of the Earth’s atmosphere. The design for the E-ELT shown here is preliminary. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/N. Risinger. (skysurvey.org)

    The ELT will have a much higher angular resolution, meaning that it may be able to pick out stars even closer to the black hole and accurately measure their positions and radial velocities. This would allow us to test even better the surroundings of a black hole, to understand the physics of general relativity. The ELT will also be powerful enough to study supermassive black holes in other galaxies, for example by looking at the gas swirling around them. In this way, we will find out whether the black hole in the Milky Way is special in any way.

    Q. The discoveries made using the ELT will probably lead astronomers to ask new questions they haven’t even thought of yet — can you make a guess at what areas these might be in?

    A. My expectation is that people will start asking a lot more about the distant Universe. So far our study of the distant — and therefore early — Universe is limited by our inability to resolve the individual building blocks. At the moment, many distant galaxies look like blobs and we don’t really understand much of their physics. The ELT will allow us to resolve the individual components of these objects and make studies similar to those we can already make in the nearby Universe.

    What this means is that we will understand how physics evolves over time. For example, there is a set of fundamental physical constants that describe a lot of what we know about the Universe, and according to the laws of physics they are constant, not changing with time. With the ELT we will be able to directly test this and see whether these were the same in the past or whether they have changed over time. This will open up a new era in fundamental physics and maybe rewrite the physics textbooks. Also in cosmology, we will better understand dark matter, dark energy and the expansion of the Universe, and actually I think it will open up entirely new fields of research.

    Q. Lastly, what ELT future science are you most excited about?

    A. What excites me the most are the moments when we open that eye and discover something completely unexpected. Discovering unknown bits of the Universe and finding things we’ve never even thought about. This will trigger theoreticians to find explanations, observers to verify and find new targets, and engineers to continue pushing the boundaries of technology.

    This fantastic project has been made possible through the collaboration, coming together and ingenuity of all of ESO, including management, engineers and scientists, as well as industry and the scientific community. It’s truly a pan-European effort and is a good example of how Europe should work; no country could have taken on this project alone, and ESO is showing that when we collaborate, we can make great things happen. It is extremely exciting to be part of this.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    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 6:59 am on January 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Five minutes with Andreas Kaufer", , , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “Five minutes with Andreas Kaufer” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    17 January 2020
    People@ESO

    1
    Andreas Kaufer

    ESO’s Director of Operations talks maps, mops and modern technology

    From late nights studying sky maps with his grandfather to late nights leaving parties to make observations. From building small instruments for telescopes himself to being part of the construction of the biggest eye on the sky. Andreas Kaufer talks about how astronomy has changed during his career, along with the challenges ahead as the field continues to advance.

    Q. What about astronomy first piqued your interest?

    A. My grandfather was a big fan of world maps and the last page of world atlases at that time always had a map of the stars. So, one evening, when I was a kid we were looking at the sky and he had one of his big atlases out and we were trying to understand what this white light in the sky was. We couldn’t figure it out because it wasn’t on the map. Eventually, we found out it was a planet which doesn’t appear on a paper map because its position is always changing. We were curious and got some books to read about it and that’s how I first became interested in astronomy. Shortly after I joined a nearby amateur observatory.

    But I saw astronomy as a hobby at first, and it was not actually my goal to be a professional astronomer. I only returned to astronomy at the end of my physics studies.

    Q. So how did you come back to astronomy?

    A. I studied Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, where there was a heavy focus on particle physics. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN was really taking off at the time and many of us were getting into particle physics and working on the big experiments there. But there was the option to do an astronomy practicum at the observatory in Heidelberg — so I got back into astronomy.

    2
    Cutting through the turbulence
    The biggest obstacle in ground based astronomy is the same thing that causes the stars to twinkle — the atmosphere. This romantic effect is due to the distortion of light as it travels through turbulent gases to reach the Earth’s surface. This stunning image shows the scientific solution — the 4 Laser Guide Star Facility on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) [see also below] — here appearing to pierce the side of the Milky Way. The lasers form an integral part of the adaptive optics system on the VLT, by beaming artificial stars into the sky. Astronomers can then use these guide laser stars as reference points, allowing them to correct their observations of true celestial bodies. Credit: F. Kamphues/ESO

    I did some stellar atmosphere modelling work on the university’s mainframe computers at a time when this was quite a new thing. At the same time I got into observations because we had some monitoring programmes there at night at the observatory on the Königstuhl. It’s not the best site but when the weather was clear and the city below was under clouds we could observe. But the downside was that when I was on-shift and the weather was clear, I would have to leave parties and movies to go to the observatory in the middle of the night!

    Building instruments was my favourite thing. At the amateur observatory, we had to build instruments ourselves because we couldn’t afford to buy such equipment. I was lucky to be able to do it later on a big scale. First at the observatory in Heidelberg, and then later here at ESO where we build instruments on a very big scale, so it’s a dream come true to be here!

    Q. How does the Directorate of Operations contribute to ESO’s overall mission?

    A. In the Directorate of Operations we take care of the scientific operation of all of ESO’s facilities; this includes all the telescopes and instruments which are built by the organisation and in collaboration with institutes and the industry in our Member States. We maintain the telescopes and instruments at their best possible performance and run the whole system from preparing and executing the observations with our telescopes to delivering the processed data to the scientists. For many observations the scientist do not go to observe onsite anymore but we take their observation at the best possible time for them.

    Q. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of the job?

    A. For me, the big eye-opener coming to ESO was seeing what all the other scientists are doing. Academia and institutes are usually focused on small areas of science, so people (like me) coming from there are often only exposed to a specific part of astronomy. Then arriving at the observatories, one sees all these ideas; we review about a thousand research proposals to use the telescopes every six months and whilst not all of them are accepted, we see ideas from all areas of ground-based astronomy. Due to my current role, I don’t participate in huge projects anymore, but for me, the reward is to see other people pushing forward diverse and innovative research using ESO facilities.

    The satisfaction somehow (which I think is true for many people at ESO) is to enable research. You feel part of these discoveries even if you did not do the science or the analysis yourself. But the telescope and instrument worked in the right way at the right time to get the best possible observations. That for me is still and always will be the motivation: to enable.

    4
    Andreas Kaufer mops up a leak from the VLT’s SINFONI instrument. Credit: ESO

    Q. And some of the strangest?

    A. There is a picture of me with a mop under one of the big telescopes, mopping up some water dripping out of the instrument.

    We had a huge leak in a cooling line inside the VLT’s SINFONI instrument. Everybody had to rush, me included, to clean up otherwise the cooling liquid would destroy the oil film on which the telescope rotates. For me this was a natural thing to do, so I was surprised when people were later showing this picture around saying “look the Director has been mopping the telescope!”

    Q. What are the challenges you see for the next generation of scientists and engineers in astronomy?

    A. As for scientists, we already see that they are becoming more and more disconnected from the data collection by the telescopes, as they often stay at home whilst observatory staff collect the data. Modern scientists are very good at using data from whichever telescopes help them answer their questions, be they space- or ground-based. Given this, we need to ensure that we keep understanding the scientists’ needs, and that we keep adjusting to meet them.

    For the engineers, the world of technology is changing very rapidly. At ESO we are already quite advanced in many areas but not in others, so we need to keep an eye open to the advancements happening around us. At Paranal Observatory, we’re working with technologies from when the VLT [below] was built, from the 80s and 90s. The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) [below] — currently under construction — will use much more modern technology. The challenge for our engineers at the observatory is to make this bridge between the different generations of technology and master them all. Those are what I would see as the two big challenges for ESO: Trying to keep our scientific community engaged and staying at the forefront of technology so that we can achieve the best quality science.

    Q. What are you looking forward to in astronomy over the next ten years?

    A. We are all fascinated by the idea of making progress in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe! But a more realistic goal is continuing our search for exoplanets and to advance on the analysis of their atmospheres.

    [Didier Patrick] Queloz and [Michel] Mayor recently together received the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the first extrasolar planet orbiting a solar-type star, which they found just when I first got into professional astronomy. This was really an eye-opener. We knew that there must be planets around other stars but when they observed the first one, it was like science fiction becoming reality! That kicked off a whole new field of astronomy and, one generation later, we’ve discovered several hundred planets with our instruments at La Silla Observatory [below]. Furthermore, the VLT has taken many images of planets around stars other than our Sun, and in the next ten years we will be able to use the ELT to look for traces of life in their atmospheres.

    A few years ago now, APEX [below] opened up the submillimetre window for the ESO community; at the time we were not sure where submillimetre astronomy would go but now the ALMA [below] partnership is an integral part of ESO. Today, ALMA is the most powerful submillimetre observatory and perfectly complements the most powerful optical observatory on the ground — the VLT.

    I’m also looking forward to ESO’s partnership with the Čerenkov Telescope Array (CTA) Observatory. CTA will be an observatory made up of an array of many telescopes that allow us to observe the sky at very high energies by capturing gamma-rays. And ESO will host the southern part of this observatory again opening up a new window to the ESO community!

    A novel gamma ray telescope under construction on Mount Hopkins, Arizona. a large project known as the Čerenkov 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

    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 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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

    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 APEXESO/MPIfR APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    A novel gamma ray telescope under construction on Mount Hopkins, Arizona. a large project known as the Čerenkov 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 4:44 pm on December 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESOblog, Katja Fahrion,   

    From ESOblog: “Astronomer on tour” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    The story of a trip to Chile to observe with the APEX telescope [below]

    6
    Katja Fahrion

    6 December 2019
    People@ESO

    Measuring a whopping twelve metres across, APEX is a submillimetre-wavelength telescope operating in the southern hemisphere and has a suite of instruments to find out more about the “cold”, “dusty” and “distant” Universe. APEX is operated by ESO on behalf of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, the Onsala Space Observatory and ESO itself, meaning that many ESO astronomers get to spend time at the telescope each year. ESO Student Katja Fahrion tells us about her recent experience observing with this special machine.

    DAY ONE: MOVING IN

    The first day of my two-week observing trip to the Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX) began at 4 am on 22 August 2019 in the ESO Guesthouse in Santiago, Chile. After a quick breakfast, a taxi took me to the airport and at 9 am I was in Calama, in the Atacama Desert. A driver picked me up and after about an hour of driving through the desert, I arrived at the APEX basecamp, close to San Pedro de Atacama.

    APEX is a submillimetre telescope, observing at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves, from a variety of astrophysical sources. It consists of a single dish with a diameter of twelve metres, located on the Chajnantor Plateau (the same plateau where ALMA resides!) 5100 metres above sea level. Unlike optical telescopes that only operate at night, submillimetre telescopes can also observe when the Sun is up.

    So when I arrived at the basecamp at around 11 am, the morning observing shift was still ongoing. For the first time, I entered the control room — the heart of the basecamp. One wall is covered with screens showing the status of the telescope, the output of the live webcam and the weather conditions, and the other walls are lined with desks and even more screens.

    Observers at APEX and other ESO telescopes don’t observe their own science targets, but instead carry out the observing programmes that are proposed by scientists from all around the world. At all times, at least one operator and one observer are present in the control room. While the operator is responsible for operating and controlling the telescope, the observer decides what to observe. The latter is my job as an astronomer and in the beginning, it seemed overwhelmingly complex.

    1
    Centre of the Milky Way with Jupiter and Saturn, taken by Katja during her APEX observing trip.
    Credit: ESO/Katja Fahrion

    I moved into my hut that contained a small desk, a bed and a bathroom. Since it gets very cold in the desert at night, each room also has several radiators and the beds are covered with blankets.

    Besides the huts and the control room, there are office spaces, a kitchen where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, a recreational room including a table tennis table and a rowing machine, and a swimming pool. The swimming pool, that I used almost every day, has a beautiful view of the Sairecabur volcano. During the night, this volcano is not visible, but the view is replaced by the beautiful southern night sky.

    DAY TWO: IN THE CONTROL ROOM

    Although I got a brief introduction on the first day, I spent most of my second day at APEX in the control room learning how to observe with the telescope.

    One specific parameter the observers have to keep in mind is the precipitable water vapour (PWV) describing the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere above the telescope. Because water absorbs electromagnetic radiation at the wavelengths we want to observe, it is critical to have low values of PWV, just like you would not want clouds over your optical telescope. A PWV of 0.4 mm is absolutely great, 0.7 mm is still very good, there are some programmes that can work with 1.5-3 mm, but basically above 4, there is not much to be done and above 6 the telescope is shut down.

    Besides PWV, the wind speed is also shown in the control room because if it is too windy, the telescope has to be shut down and parked in a safe position. And then there is the Sun. Although APEX can observe during day, it cannot be pointed at or near the Sun because the antenna would focus the light and all the cables and instruments would melt. This is clearly something that we wouldn’t want to happen!

    ___________________________________
    I felt the lack of oxygen as soon as I arrived; getting my backpack from the boot of the car was already exhausting.
    ___________________________________

    I learned that it is essential to keep a record of everything that happens during an observation. We use a webpage where the records for every observing programme can be accessed and updated. This is important for the person that proposed the programme in the first place, but also for the APEX observers working different shifts.

    DAY THREE: I CAN GO UP!

    On my third day at APEX, I got the opportunity to go to the telescope site in the morning with another student and two engineers. This meant driving up the hill from 2300 metres to 5100 metres above sea level. Although the drive is through the desert, on the side of the road, I saw cacti, bushes, donkeys, birds and vicunas.

    Up at the telescope, the air is thin and has only half the pressure it has at sea level. I felt the lack of oxygen as soon as I arrived; getting my backpack from the boot of the car was already exhausting. I felt a bit weak and dizzy in the first few minutes, so I was happy to enter the control room that is supplied with extra oxygen.

    While the two engineers worked on the telescope generators, the other student and I spent some time in the control room to acclimatise. But soon the excitement won, and we went out to take pictures of extraordinary sight up on the Chajnantor Plateau. In the distance, I could see the 66 ALMA antennas under a clear blue sky, surrounded by volcanoes.

    Going up to the telescope was not the only exciting event on this day. Every Saturday, the Asado takes place. Everyone gathers at the kitchen and even the observers and operators bring their laptops to observe remotely. There are drinks and many different foods such as deep-fried cheese empanadas, ceviche and small sandwiches. There is also a barbeque with lots of beef and sausages. Music plays and after dinner the party carries on in the kitchen or around the fireplace.

    DAY FOUR: I GET TO OBSERVE

    On the fourth day of my stay at APEX, I carried out observations during the evening shift for the first time on my own. During the previous days, I had become accustomed to the different observing programmes and roughly knew the weather constraints and priority of observing targets on the sky. Due to Earth’s rotation, the targets move in the sky and can only be observed when they are high enough above the horizon. So it is important to know which programme can be observed at any time of the day. This has to be balanced against the weather conditions and the priority of the programme, but after a few days of watching other observers making decisions, I was able to continue with ongoing projects.

    DAY FIVE: VISITING A LAGUNA

    At the beginning of my stay, there were at least four observers at any time, so shifts lasted six hours instead of the typical eight hours. This meant that we had a lot of free time, especially as I was not yet on the official schedule. So on 26 August, another student and I drove to the nearby Laguna Chaxa. An hour’s drive from the basecamp, this Laguna is known for its beauty and an impressive flock of flamingos.

    3
    Two flamingos having a drink at Laguna Chaxa. Credit: ESO/Katja Fahrion

    DAYS SIX AND SEVEN: FIRST OFFICIAL SHIFTS

    On 27 August, I began my (almost) regular shift schedule of 5 pm to 11 pm. On this day and the next, I had quiet shifts because the weather was not great. We observed a very time-intensive programme with the instrument PI230 that can be used even when there is a lot of water vapour in the air. We created maps of a molecular gas cloud in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Because molecules such as carbon monoxide form at very low temperatures, they are not visible with optical telescopes. With submillimetre telescopes like APEX, however, we can observe bright spectral lines at a very specific wavelength and can thus observe the source. With telescopes such as APEX it is possible to either observe a single spectrum or to create a small map of a region in the sky that shows the structure of a source emitting at a certain wavelength. In both modes, it is also important to observe a reference position in the sky to remove unwanted background emission from Earth’s atmosphere. Sometimes the reference position is contaminated by other astronomical light and this is one of many reasons why the observer has to look at the data while they are being taken.

    4
    Large and Small Magellanic Clouds above the antennas that are used for communication between basecamp and the APEX telescope.
    Credit: ESO/Katja Fahrion

    DAY EIGHT: THE NIGHT SHIFT

    My first and only night shift was from 10 pm to 4 am. During this night, the weather conditions were very good at first, so we used the ArTeMiS instrument that requires the best conditions to create beautiful maps of astronomical sources. Later, we switched to SEPIA. Switching the instrument requires some time, so it’s best not do it too often. After my night shift, I was very tired, but I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the night sky.

    DAY NINE: TIME TO SLEEP!

    After my night shift I slept in. The weather was not great again, so during my shift in the evening, we made more maps with PI230. It was a relaxing shift that gave me time to work on my own projects.

    DAY TEN: UP TO THE TELESCOPE AGAIN

    On the second Saturday of my stay, I had the opportunity to go back up to the telescope. Even the second time, the visit was exciting. On the way, we saw llamas and several Vicunas that were very close to the road. My shift was during the Asado, but I could still spend some time with the others in the kitchen, enjoying empanadas and the barbecue.

    ___________________________________
    I would get up, have breakfast, work on my PhD project and go swimming. In the evening, from 5 to 11 pm, I was in the control room doing my shift.
    ___________________________________

    DAYS ELEVEN TO FOURTEEN: GETTING INTO A ROUTINE

    Only a few days of my shift at APEX were left and by then I was used to the routine. I would get up, have breakfast, work on my PhD project and go swimming. In the evening, from 5 to 11 pm, I was in the control room doing my shift. The weather was at first very good for observing with the most demanding instruments but then it got worse and we even had to close the telescope for an hour one night due to strong wind. The sunsets during these last days were beautiful because for the first time, there were clouds in the sky.

    On my last full day, 4 September, another observer from ESO and I visited the nearby Valle de la Luna. We were rewarded with astonishing views of an alien-looking landscape — similar to the surface of Mars or the Moon!

    DAY FIFTEEN: NEXT STOP — ANTOFAGASTA AND THE VERY LARGE TELESCOPE [below]

    After 13 nights at the APEX basecamp, it was time to leave. I had finished my last shift the day before, and after lunch, the driver brought me to the bus terminal in Calama. From there I took a four-hour bus ride to Antofagasta, 300 kilometres southwest of San Pedro. The next day, an official ESO bus took me to my two-night stay at the Very Large Telescope. Not to work, but just to visit.

    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 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,

    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, a major asset of the Adaptive Optics system


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

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    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.

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

     
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