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  • richardmitnick 2:44 pm on August 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Reinhard Genzel from Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), , What’s Next for the Heart of the Milky Way   

    From ESOblog: “What’s Next for the Heart of the Milky Way” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog


    This artist´s impression shows the path of the star S2 as it passes very close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. As it gets close to the black hole the very strong gravitational field causes the colour of the star to shift slightly to the red, an effect of Einstein´s general theory of relativity.
    Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

    Reinhard Genzel on the significance and future of galactic centre research.

    1
    10 August 2018

    Reinhard Genzel’s team at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) recently found general relativistic effects during the closest approach of the star S2 to the Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

    Star S2 Keck/UCLA Galactic Center Group

    SgrA* NASA/Chandra


    SGR A* , the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory

    Sgr A* from ESO VLT

    This discovery is not only a step forward in the research of the galactic centre, but it’s also a great leap in our understanding of physics. In the last of three blog posts, Reinhard Genzel discusses this recent discovery and what future research might look like.

    Q: Firstly can you tell us about the observations your team have just completed?

    A: The star S2 passed very close to the black hole in the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way, just a few weeks ago. With our long-term preparations for this event, we were able to gather a lot of high-quality data, not only on the position of the star along its orbit, but also on its velocity. Indeed, over the past decade, we developed a completely novel instrument, GRAVITY, which allows us to study the galactic centre in unprecedented detail and ultra-high precision.

    ESO GRAVITY in the VLTI

    Q: Some members of team have worked over 16 years to prepare for these observations, since the last time S2 made a close approach to SgrA*. What have we learned in this time and what have you discovered now?

    A: The first close approach in 2002 and the first full orbit, were dedicated to proving that there is indeed a supermassive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way. Actually, we now believe that all large galaxies harbour a black hole at their core. With the current observing campaign, we focused on studying the black hole in more detail to find out more about general relativistic effects and the properties of the black hole itself — and we have now found evidence of these effects.

    3

    This artist´s impression shows the path of the star S2 as it passes very close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. As it gets close to the black hole the very strong gravitational field causes the colour of the star to shift slightly to the red, an effect of Einstein´s general theory of relativity. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

    Q: Why are your team’s observations of S2 important?

    A: The black hole in our Milky Way is close enough that we are able to study individual stars near it — we can do that in no other galaxy. The star S2 is special in that it comes very close to the black hole and it completes its orbit in only 16 years. For the other stars, we can only observe part of their orbits — which also gives us some very interesting information — but in the coming years, only S2 dips so deeply into the gravitational well of the black hole.

    Q: What can these observations tell us about general relativity?

    A: We are observing an object in a very strong gravitational field, much stronger than anything that can be observed on Earth. We saw general relativistic effects indicated by the orbital precession, an effect we already know from the orbit of Mercury around the Sun, and the gravitational redshift, wherein the starlight changes frequency due to the strong pull of gravity. While other observations have seen general relativistic effects in a few other astronomical systems, our observations of the heart of the Milky Way, for the first time, tested Einstein’s theory in the extreme gravitational field around a massive black hole.


    Learn more about the first successful test of Einstein´s General Theory of Relativity near a supermassive black hole in ESOcast 173.

    Q: What can these observations tell us about black holes?

    A: First of all, it can tell us that black holes really do exist, and that they are not just a theoretical construct. All our observations show that there is a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, if Einstein’s general theory of relativity holds. With this new data we can make a strong case that Einstein is right — and with general relativity in place, the only possible explanation is a black hole.

    Q: What is it about these observations that make them different from the last time S2 made its closest approach to the galactic centre?

    A: To observe the effects that I have mentioned above, we need very accurate data on the orbit of S2 and on its velocity. With the GRAVITY instrument, we now have a hundred-fold improvement in our astrometry, our tracking of stars, compared to the 1990s and about 20 times better data than during the last close flyby. Now, we can even follow the star’s motion from day to day.


    This time-lapse view shows images from the GRAVITY instrument on ESO´s Very Large Telescope as it tracks the progress of the star S2 as it made a close passage past the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way in May 2018. Credit: ESO/GRAVITY Collaboration

    Q: What are you looking forward to learning about the galactic centre in the future? What do you realistically expect to find out in the next few years?

    A: Our first step was to look for one particular post-Newtonian effect, namely, that clocks tick more slowly in a gravitational field. But predictions from the theory of general relativity are far more astonishing. If the black hole has a spin, spacetime itself will rotate, pulling the stars along with it. The unprecedented resolution and sensitivity of our GRAVITY instrument — we hope — will allow us to measure this effect using faint stars at an even closer orbit. Such measurements might also allow us to determine if there are additional massive objects, such as stellar-mass or intermediate-mass black holes, close to the galactic centre as predicted by many theorists. Furthermore, we also hope to see gas orbiting at distances very close to the black hole. We do see gas emission shining up regularly, and we hope to push our instrument a bit further, such that we can see how the emission runs around the black hole – within less than half an hour or so! This would be the full relativistic regime, and correspondingly exciting!

    Q: Why should we continue studying the galactic centre? What mysteries are still unsolved?

    A: The black hole in the galactic centre is the ideal laboratory to study these extreme objects. Ultimately we want to bring together the theories of quantum mechanics and gravitation, which could lead to new physics. Theorists predict that this should happen close to the event horizon, the point from which leaving a black hole becomes impossible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • richardmitnick 1:44 pm on August 3, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESOblog, Frank Eisenhauer,   

    From ESOblog: Advancing Technology for Galactic Observations 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    Science Snapshots

    3 August 2018

    In May 2018, the star S2 made its closest approach to the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. Observing this event was no easy task. The centre is full of dense dust clouds, impenetrable at visual wavelengths. The unique instruments GRAVITY and SINFONI, able to take highly precise measurements, needed to be developed for these observations. Frank Eisenhauer, a member of the Galactic Centre group at Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and principal investigator for GRAVITY and SINFONI, talks about observing the close approach of S2 in the second of a three blog post series.

    ESO GRAVITY in the VLTI

    ESO SINFONI


    ESO/SINFONI

    Q: Can you tell us a bit about what observations your team aimed to make about the galactic centre?

    A: We knew that the star S2 would make a close flyby of the black hole in the centre of the Milky Way in 2018, making it possible to study the effects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. We expected the motion of the star to deviate from a Keplerian orbit based on Newton’s laws. Our observations aimed to see these differences, so, to see any visible changes, we had to improve our observation accuracy by several orders of magnitude compared to previous measurements.

    3
    This simulation shows the orbits of stars very close to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. The area is a perfect laboratory to test gravitational physics and specifically Einstein´s general theory of relativity. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/spaceengine.org

    Q: What did you and your team do to prepare for this year’s observations?

    A: Our instrument — GRAVITY — was finished about three years ago and arrived in Chile, the site of ESO’s telescopes. Then the most intense period started: making GRAVITY work together with all four telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT). In the summer of 2016, we had our first observations of the galactic centre, which, for the first time, showed not only S2 but also the black hole with unprecedented resolution. Since then they have become our faithful companions whenever we visit for a look. For the closest approach in 2018, the team returned for further observations every month.


    Animation of the path that an incoming light ray traces through the GRAVITY instrument. Note the intricate design and complex interaction of the various components for the four telescopes. For interferometry to work, the light paths have to be superposed with a precision of a fraction of the wavelength – less than 1 micrometre.
    Credit: MPE

    4
    The VLTI Delay Lines, which lie below the ground at Paranal, inside a 168-m tunnel. They form an essential part of this very complicated optical system by ensuring that the light beams from several telescopes arrive in phase at the common interferometric focus. Credit: Enrico Sacchetti/ESO

    Q: What kind of telescope did the team use to observe the galactic centre?

    A: So, we needed a “super-telescope”, which we created by combining the four largest ESO telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) with a technique called interferometry. This technique is well established in radio astronomy, i.e. when observing at longer wavelengths, but many thought it would be impossible to achieve that level of sensitivity and accuracy at infrared wavelengths. And, yes, it was not easy. But the star would not wait for us — and in the end, we were ready in time!

    Q: Can you explain how infrared interferometry works?
    The optical path lengths between the four telescopes and our instrument have to be controlled with the precision of a fraction of the wavelength

    A: With an interferometer, you combine the light received from different telescopes. The big challenge is to combine this light properly, or “in phase” as the physicists say. This means that the optical path lengths between the four telescopes and our instrument have to be controlled with the precision of a fraction of the wavelength—several hundred times smaller than the thickness of a human hair—while the telescopes are separated by as much as 130 metres.


    Learn more about the first successful test of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity near a supermassive black hole in ESOcast 173.
    Credit: MPE

    5
    Every day, before the observations start, each telescope undergoes a complete start up during which each of its function is checked, like a plane before take off. Here, Yepun, the fourth Unit Telescope, has been moved to a very low altitude, revealing the cell holding its main mirror and the SINFONI integral-field spectrograph. Credit: ESO

    Q: Can you tell us a bit about the ESO instruments used and the differences between them?

    A: The group around Reinhard Genzel at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) started to observe the galactic centre with the SHARP I camera on the New Technology Telescope in the 1990s. At that time, high-quality infrared detectors became available and we were the first to use them to peer through the dust cloud obscuring the galactic centre. Then came NACO with the VLT, which lead to the breakthrough with the first orbit measurement in 2002. In parallel, we developed SINFONI, the first near-infrared imaging spectrograph for the VLT, which has given us crucial velocity measurements since its installation in 2003. And, finally, GRAVITY now combines all four VLT telescope to a “130-m super-telescope.”

    Q: What about these instruments makes it possible to see through the curtain of dust and stars?

    A: The galactic centre is hidden behind dense dusts clouds — but this is only true for visible light. If you go to infrared wavelengths, you can see through to the stars beyond. However, part of this radiation is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere, and in particular water vapour in the air. This meant we needed to go to a high place, with less atmosphere above us, and a dry place, i.e. a desert. This is why the Paranal observatory, on top of a high mountain in the Atacama desert, was the perfect place for these observations. But even for the best observing conditions, the atmosphere’s turbulence blurs the images, which is why we need adaptive optics (AO).

    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.

    Q: Can you tell us a bit about the Adaptive Optics system for IR imaging? Are there any challenges using AO to observe the Galactic Centre?

    A: Adaptive optics means that you measure the distortion from the Earth’s atmosphere a few hundred times per second, and correct it in real time with a deformable mirror. For this, you need a bright reference star. Unfortunately, there are no really bright stars at visible wavelengths close to the galactic centre to measure these distortions. Therefore you have two options: create your own artificial star with a laser beacon, as done with SINFONI, or build an infrared wavefront sensor as we did for GRAVITY.

    Q: What advancements in observing technology have made it possible for us to study the galactic centre as compared to 20 or 25 years ago when observations of the galactic centre were really becoming possible?

    A: When the group at MPE started observing the galactic centre in the 1990s, we could observe with 150 milliarcsecond resolution. This is about the angle under which a stadium 300 metres diameter would appear on the Moon. Now, with GRAVITY, we can observe with a resolution as good as 2 milliarcseconds, and measure the separation between the star S2 and the black hole with a precision of just a few tens of microarcseconds. The latter is equivalent to observing two objects on the Moon that are separated by the length of a pencil.

    Q: What do you find most exciting about studying the galactic centre?

    A: To see so many miracles predicted by the general theory of relativity all in one place: the black hole, stars moving at incredible speed, the time dilation, and many other phenomena. The centre of the Milky Way is and will remain our Rosetta stone for deciphering these wonders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 12:40 pm on July 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Eyeing the Centre of the Milky Way   

    From ESOblog: “Eyeing the Centre of the Milky Way” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    Science Snapshots

    27 July 2018

    In May 2018, the star S2 made its closest approach to the galactic centre in 16 years. This star can help us study an elusive area of our galaxy, the heart of the Milky Way, which was not well understood until only a few decades ago. In the first of a series of three blog posts, Stefan Gillessen, astronomer with the galactic centre research group at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, shares more of what we previously knew of this area as the group releases the latest observations from this year.

    Q: To start, can you tell us a bit about the environment at the centre of the Milky Way?

    A: In the galactic centre, we know of a radio source: Sagittarius A*. It was discovered in 1974 but it turned out to be quite difficult to reliably determine the mass of this very compact radio source.

    Star S2 Keck/UCLA Galactic Center Group

    SGR A* , the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory

    For example, the centre is hidden behind dense dust clouds, making it impossible to see in visible light. However, with the advent of infrared detectors, we can now look through these clouds, and so we now know that there are actually thousands of stars. We can observe these stars and see them moving individually.


    Animation of the orbit of the star S2 around the galactic centre black hole.
    Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/http://www.spaceengine.org

    This time-lapse of images from the GRAVITY instrument on ESO´s Very Large Telescope tracks the progress of the star S2 as it made a close passage past the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way in May 2018.
    Credit: ESO/GRAVITY Collaboration

    ESO GRAVITY in the VLTI

    Q: What about the galactic centre was your team observing and why?

    A: We want to learn more about the black hole. We cannot observe a black hole directly — it is black, not even light can escape from it. However, we can study the surroundings of the black hole. Imagine you would like to observe a lion at a waterhole. Usually, it is hard to spot when it is lying below a bush. However, all the other animals that you actually can see start behaving differently. The lion influences its environment — and so does a black hole. The stars close to a massive black hole feel the strong gravity, and do not move on straight trajectories, but on Keplerian ellipses. By now, we know of 45 stars orbiting the black hole at the centre of our Milky Way. It is just like the planets are orbiting the Sun in our Solar System. The difference is that the stellar orbits around the Milky Way centre are randomly oriented (as opposed to an almost flat plane like our Solar System) and the orbital periods are somewhat longer, in the range of tens or hundreds of years.

    4
    A panorama of the Milky Way arching above the platform of ESO´s Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal, Chile.
    Credit: John Colosimo (colosimophotography.com)/ESO

    Q: What’s so extraordinary about the star S2 and why is it useful for studying SgrA*?

    A: The star S2 is special in that its orbit is very close and that it is actually bright enough for making detailed measurements. S2 completes a revolution in only about 16 years — this means that we can actually study a full orbit (or more) in one astronomer’s lifetime. This is exactly what we did. Starting in 1992 we began observing its orbit, including the closest approach in 2002. In 2008, we had the first full revolution completed and have continued observations, covering now a second pericenter approach in May 2018.

    Q: Where did you go for observations and why did you need to go there?

    A: The galactic centre is located in the skies of the southern hemisphere, so the best thing to do is to go south. As the stars are quite faint we need a large telescope and for the best view, it helps to be high up and in a dry environment. And, most crucial, we need the images to be as sharp as possible since the stars in the galactic centre are very densely packed. That’s why we use the VLT operated by ESO in the Chilean Atacama Desert. It offers all the requirements we need.

    Q: What needs to be researched after these observations?

    A: After the discovery of the black hole, the next logical step was to investigate this black hole in more detail. Due to the extremely strong gravitational field, we expected to see the effects of general relativity — but only if we can look close enough. This is why we needed to push the technology. Our team has developed SINFONI and GRAVITY [above]. With SINFONI we can measure the radial velocity of stars very accurately and GRAVITY gives us extremely sharp images and accurate positions.

    ESO SINFONI

    Q: Why should we study the galactic centre?

    A: Ever since the discovery of the radio source in the galactic centre, there have been discussions on its nature, and, in particular, if it could be the counterpart of a supermassive black hole, which is also the source type speculated to be at the centre of quasars. Unlike those galaxies, however, the Milky Way centre is right on our doorstep — and this makes it possible to study it in exquisite detail. And it is very a unique laboratory – where does one otherwise have access to a massive black hole to study the extreme physics close to an event horizon?

    Learn more about the first successful test of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity near a supermassive black hole in ESOcast 173.
    Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/spaceengine.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 10:18 am on July 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESOblog, Steffen Mieske Head of Science Operations at Paranal   

    From ESOblog: Interview with Steffen Mieske, Head of Science Operations at Paranal 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1

    6 July 2018

    Since the Paranal Observatory opened in May 1998, it has become one of the most productive observatories in the world. The observatory houses the Very Large Telescope (VLT), ESO’s premier observatory consisting of four large telescopes and four smaller partner telescopes. For its 20th year in operation, we caught up with Steffen Mieske, Head of Science Operations at Paranal, to learn more about the past, present, and future of the observatory.

    Q: What has been your personal role at Paranal?

    A: I was a regular staff astronomer between 2008 and 2015, where amongst other things I was in charge of the instruments VIMOS and OmegaCAM. Since 2015 I have been the Head of Paranal Science Operations, where we have about 40 astronomers and 25 engineers in the department. My work involves making sure science operations run smoothly. I’m in charge of the optimisation of output and quality, support of new facilities and instruments, preparation and control of the department budget, as well as definition and implementation of policies at the observatory.

    2
    This distant, aerial view of Paranal and surrounding the Atacama Desert was taken in late 1997. The Pacific Ocean is seen in the background while the buildings at the basecamp are seen below and to the left of the summit. Credit: ESO

    Q: Do you enjoy working at Paranal? What is it like to work in the Atacama Desert?

    A: I enjoy working at Paranal more and more every year. The place is growing in terms of capabilities and continues to be at the absolute forefront of astronomy. We have extraordinarily dedicated staff that all share a great motivation to work here. Therefore, I do consider it a privilege to have my job. Personally, I enjoy going on walks and jogs through the desert and really immerse myself in the special atmosphere of Paranal. When I am in a particularly good mood, I may even sing a Pet Shop Boys song in the control room, much to the edification of my colleagues.

    Q: Could you tell us more about the history of Paranal and how ESO came to be located there?

    A: In the 1980s, after ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile had been established for a couple of decades, it became clear that technology and astronomy as a science had evolved such that optical telescopes with apertures in the 8–10m range were becoming feasible and necessary. Furthermore, based on more detailed meteorological data of Chile, it became clear that there were sites in north Chile with even better atmospheric conditions than La Silla. The site selection for ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) then converged to Cerro Paranal, a mountain summit 120 km south of Antofagasta and 12 km from the Pacific Ocean at an altitude of 2635 metres. In 1988, the Chilean government donated the Paranal Summit and an area around it to ESO for the construction of the VLT. Then, in 1995, construction was halted for a while due to a legal dispute about the ownership of the summit with a Chilean family. The dispute was eventually settled, and in 1996 Paranal was formally inaugurated by the Chilean president. The “first light” took place in May 1998.

    ESO VLT (VLT) in the Atacama Desert from aboveCredit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacamaphoto

    3
    The image shown here was obtained with the VLT on 16 May, 1998. The 10-minute exposure of the centre of Omega Centauri demonstrated the VLT’s ability to continuously track continuously with a very high precision. Credit: ESO

    Q: Could you tell us what “first light” is and the event that took place in 1998?

    A: The first light event for a telescope is when the first astronomical image is recorded with it. For Paranal, this event took place 20 years ago, on 25 May 1998 with Unit Telescope 1 (UT1). In the “life” of a telescope, this is a very important event since it demonstrates the performance capabilities of the telescope for the first time. The sharper the image we can obtain, the better. Many pieces must fall into place for this to happen, including achieving the best possible optical surfaces in the various telescope mirrors, an active adaption to optical deviations in the system, and highly accurate tracking of the telescope. The first light for the VLT on 25 May 1998 was a big success in this context: we obtained very sharp images of thousands of stars in the globular cluster Omega Centauri.

    Q: How important has the VLT and Paranal been to astronomy?

    A: Paranal is the most productive optical observatory in the world due to its variety of astronomical instruments and the unique atmospheric conditions. True to ESO’s mission, observations with Paranal telescopes have served thousands of individual astronomers across Europe and the world. This service to the broad community, enabled by its current arsenal of instruments, makes Paranal unique.

    At the same time, it’s recognised by ESO and the community at-large that large, coherent observing campaigns pursued by big, strong collaborations can provide transformational advances in our understanding of the universe. These programmes are either of use to a large part of the community, complementing the large number of smaller programmes of teams of a few people, or aim to answer one of the “big” questions in astronomy. One such example is the observing campaign of the supermassive black hole in the centre of the Milky Way that has been going on for more than 25 years with several instruments. These kinds of programmes have been increasing, and Paranal has the best suite of instruments to investigate this very special physical phenomenon.

    Q: Have there been any issues for ESO whilst at Paranal?

    A: Except for the eventually-settled legal dispute during the construction phase in 1995, there have not been any major issues. Quite the contrary. Relations with the Chilean government have been excellent throughout the years. This is evidenced, for example, by the additional transfer and concession of land around the Cerro Armazones summit that has allowed ESO to start the construction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT).

    Q: What have been the major achievements and discoveries over the 20 years at Paranal?

    A: The continuous observation of the surroundings of the Milky Way’s centre is one of Paranal’s key achievements. Measuring the motion of stars in this region has provided the ultimate proof for the existence of black holes. Paranal has also obtained the first ever image of an exoplanet and the first ever characterisation of the atmosphere of a Super-Earth exoplanet. The VLT helped to prove that the violent cosmic events called Gamma Ray Bursts are linked to supernovae. It measured the light emanating from the gravitational wave event in 2017 and was instrumental in confirming the nature of a nearby solar system with seven Earth-like planets.

    Q: What changes have occurred over the years?

    In the early days, data was shipped to Europe on hard disks and took weeks to arrive. Now you can download them to your laptop within minutes.

    A: Unsurprisingly, there have been many changes over the years. Information technology and, in particular, worldwide connectivity have improved dramatically. At the beginning of operations at Paranal, the observatory really was a lonely island in the middle of the desert, both geographically and in terms of communication. Nowadays, we have high-speed internet connectivity that includes a real-time transfer of data taken at Paranal to the data archive at ESO Headquarters in Garching, Germany. In the early days, data was shipped to Europe on hard disks and took weeks to arrive. Now you can download them to your laptop within minutes. This has enabled a very close feedback loop to our colleagues in Garching and to users all over the world and immensely streamlined the science operations data flow.

    Until a few years ago, most of our daily working routine was based on paper checklists. Now we have integrated online activity tracking tools across ESO. Until recently, internet connectivity in the accommodation for scientists and engineers, the Residencia, was restricted to some ethernet cables. Now we have high-speed wireless that even allows, say, Netflix streaming in one of the most remote places in the world. Also, for many years turbines and generators on site supplied power to the observatory. Since 2017, Paranal has been connected to the Chilean power grid.

    On the side of the instruments in use: the early instruments were certainly less complex compared to the standards of today. Nevertheless, several of these older instruments continue to be at the very top of the scientific publication ranking and requests for telescope time due to the unique observing areas each cover. With newer instruments, several are very complex in order to fulfil the specific needs of a certain community, such as imaging planets and stellar disks. But the ones that receive the highest time requests are typically the ones with a general purpose and a “simple” observing mode (though a “simple” mode does not mean it is a simple device — sometimes quite the opposite). Examples of these are MUSE and X-Shooter for the second generation of instruments, and FORS2 for the first generation.

    ESO MUSE on the VLT

    ESO X-shooter on VLT at Cerro Paranal, Chile

    In recent years, the big change for Paranal for sure is the beginning of work for the ELT. Paranal sometimes doesn’t feel like a small family anymore. It has certain characteristics of industrial places, with very strict maintenance protocols and a large number of staff and contractors. With the arrival of the ELT and its interface with the Paranal infrastructure, those aspects will gain further importance. I am sure we will maintain Paranal as a great place to work and live even—or in particular—with the inclusion of the ELT, which will require a lot of preparation for the changes to come.

    Q: What does the future hold for ESO at Paranal, in regard to the ELT?

    A: The future is extremely bright with the ongoing construction of the ELT, which will see first light in about six and a half years. The ELT will be fully integrated into the Paranal Observatory. Amongst other things, we all secretly hope to detect a second Earth around another star with the ELT, and generally contribute to a much better understanding of our Universe. It is exciting to see the constructions at Cerro Armazones proceeding, and the first technical infrastructure be erected at Paranal premises. It will be very hard work for many of us, and, in particular, the project team, to achieve our dream of observing the universe with the ELT. In terms of long-term motivation for a job at Paranal, I would say there has never been a better time.

    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-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 11:22 am on June 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hunting for Other Worlds", , , , , ESOblog, Matias Jones- exoplanet hunters   

    From ESOblog- Science@ESO: “Hunting for Other Worlds”ESO Fellow Matias Jones 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    Science@ESO

    29 June 2018

    Ever since the first detection of a planet orbiting a pulsar in 1992, astronomers have been keenly searching for more, driven by perhaps the most profound question for humanity: is there life elsewhere in the Universe? ESO’s observatories are equipped with a unique arsenal of instruments primed to search for and study these planets, and ESO Fellow Matias Jones is one of our exoplanet hunters. We chatted with him about how ESO searches for other worlds and what we have found so far.

    Q: Matias, how did you get involved in ESO’s hunt for exoplanets?

    A: I first became interested in the field of exoplanets during my PhD at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, Chile. This was back in 2008 when I started to search for planets around giant stars. These kinds of stars are near the end of their lives, so they expand to have large radii and cool into red giants. This stellar expansion phase may greatly affect the architecture of planetary systems. The orbital angular momentum transferred from the planet to the star, created by the mutual attraction between the planet and the stellar surface, causes the planet to slow down and move into an inner orbit until it is evaporated by the heat from the stellar surface. By looking for close-in planets (or lack of them) orbiting such evolved stars, we can measure how efficiently planets are destroyed by this mechanism.

    During my PhD, I was able to spend two years in the ESO studentship programme in Vitacura. Afterwards, I got a postdoctoral position at the Astro Engineering Center of La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, also in Santiago, where I worked mainly on extrasolar planet searches. I also helped to develop a high-resolution spectrograph, called FIDEOS (FIber Dual Echelle Optical Spectrograph), optimised to search for exoplanets using the radial velocity method. This spectrograph is currently installed at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. At the end of 2016, I started a fellowship at ESO in Vitacura and Paranal.

    FIDEOS (FIber Dual Echelle Optical Spectrograph at on the ESO 1-metre telescope ESO La Silla

    Radial velocity Image via SuperWasp http:// http://www.superwasp.org/exoplanets.htm

    Radial Velocity Method-Las Cumbres Observatory

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    ESO telescopes can detect stars wobble due to the gravitational pull of (unseen) exoplanets. When the star moves towards us, its light is blueshifted, while it becomes redshifted when moving away from us.
    Credit: ESO

    3
    This composite image shows an exoplanet (the red spot on the lower left), orbiting the brown dwarf 2M1207 (centre). 2M1207b is the first exoplanet directly imaged and the first discovered orbiting a brown dwarf (see the press release). It was imaged the first time by the VLT in 2004. Its planetary identity and characteristics were confirmed after one year of observations in 2005. 2M1207b is a Jupiter-like planet, 5 times more massive than Jupiter. It orbits the brown dwarf at a distance 55 times larger than the Earth to the Sun, nearly twice as far as Neptune is from the Sun. The system 2M1207 lies at a distance of 230 light-years, in the constellation of Hydra. The photo is based on three near-infrared exposures (in the H, K and L wavebands) with the NACO adaptive-optics facility at the 8.2-m VLT UT1 telescope at the ESO Paranal Observatory. Credit: ESO

    ESO/NACO on UT1

    Q: How are exoplanets detected? Can we look for them in images or do we have to observe the parent star?

    A: Many methods have been developed to detect extrasolar planets, but there are three main methods:

    Firstly, the radial velocity method [see above illustrations]: As a planet orbits a star, they exert a gravitational force on each other. The star’s force is huge and the planet’s force is tiny, but it is enough to make the star wobble slightly. We can look for either a blueshift (as the star moves towards us) or a redshift (as the star moves away) in the star’s light, and thus infer its radial velocity. From these measurements, we can figure out may different things about the planet, such as its orbital period, minimum mass, and so on. With current ESO instruments, we can measure the velocity of the star with a precision of less than a metre per second.

    Secondly, the transit method:

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    If the planetary orbit is aligned with the line of sight of the observer, then the planet blocks a portion of the stellar light when the planet passes in front of the parent star. If we periodically measure this tiny decrease in light, we can infer that this effect is caused by an unseen companion as it orbits and then infer information such as the planet’s radius. This is, like the previous method, an indirect detection.

    This method is particularly interesting for studying planetary atmospheres. As the light from the star passes through the atmosphere on its way to Earth, the atmosphere absorbs some of this light. Different elements absorb light with different wavelengths (colours) and so by studying this light you can see which molecules are in the atmosphere of the planet. Then you can start searching for specific molecules, especially the ones that are biomarkers, that could be evidence of life.

    Thirdly, direct imaging:

    Direct imaging-This false-color composite image traces the motion of the planet Fomalhaut b, a world captured by direct imaging. Credit: NASA, ESA, and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute

    This is the only technique that directly takes an image of exoplanets. To look for planetary companions, we use adaptive optics, to compensate for the atmospheric turbulence, and a coronagraph that blocks the light from the star. However, this method is mainly restricted to relatively massive, young sub-stellar companions because these planets are more luminous than lighter and older planets, making their detection possible.

    ESO V LT Laser Guide Stars on Yepun UT4

    Q: How does ESO search for exoplanets?

    A: Several ESO instruments are optimised for hunting exoplanets. Perhaps the most prolific one is HARPS (the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher), which is a high-resolution spectrograph attached to the ESO 3.6-metre telescope on La Silla. HARPS leads the field of ground-based exoplanet hunting, and it’s one of the most successful planet finders in the history of astronomy. It uses the radial velocity method, picking up the slight wobbles of a star with amazing precision.

    ESO/HARPS at La Silla

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

    Another high-resolution spectrograph, ESPRESSO (Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations), has just come online at the Very Large Telescope (VLT). It’s basically the successor to HARPS but on a much bigger telescope, so it will take the search for exoplanets to the next level.

    ESO/ESPRESSO on the VLT

    We also have instruments that can directly image exoplanets, such as the adaptive-optics instruments NACO and SPHERE, both on different Unit Telescopes (UTs) at Paranal. NACO took the first-ever direct image of an exoplanet back in 2004. SPHERE focuses on finding new giant exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, and can also look at discs of dust and debris around other stars, where planets may be forming.

    ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT, on Yepun UT4 Cerro Paranal, Chile, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Q: What are some of the biggest exoplanet breakthroughs and discoveries made by ESO so far?

    A: There are many interesting discoveries made with ESO instruments. For instance, using HARPS astronomers have detected hundreds of planetary systems, including the famous TRAPPIST-1 system just 40 light-years from Earth. This system has both the largest number of Earth-sized planets yet found and the largest number of worlds that could support liquid water on their surfaces.

    5
    An artist’s impression compares the seven planets orbiting the ultra-cool red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 to the Earth at the same scale.
    Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

    HARPS also discovered a rocky planet, Proxima Centauri b, orbiting the closest star to our Sun. Intriguingly it has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface.

    6
    This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. This planet was discovered using the HARPS spectrograph on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile.
    Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

    Additionally, instruments like NACO and SPHERE have allowed us to detect a few massive substellar companions, like gas giants several times more massive than Jupiter, using the direct imaging technique, plus many protoplanetary discs, where we think most planets form.

    Q: Will the upcoming ELT change what ESO can learn about alien worlds?

    A: The Extremely Large Telescope will be equipped with incredibly advanced instruments that will allow us to detect exoplanets in a more efficient way. The ELT may hopefully discover more exoplanets like radial velocity and direct imaging, and, with the latter technique, may even be able to study these planetary atmospheres. For these techniques, the size of the telescope really matters, so the ELT will play a huge role. It will be revolutionary. The ELT will also allow us to study planetary systems as they’re still forming, helping us answer fundamental questions about how planets form and evolve.

    But we don’t have to wait for the ELT to improve our knowledge of exoplanets. There are also always new instruments coming to telescopes at La Silla and Paranal, and continuous upgrades of the current facilities improve the science output of the current instruments. In particular, near-infrared spectrographs will allow us to detect and study exoplanets in more detail — for instance, to study their atmosphere.

    Q: What excites you most about exoplanet science, both now and in the future?

    A: I’m interested in several aspects of exoplanets, but particularly in their long-term stability of exoplanets and the period of time when a parent star engulfs a planet as it evolves into a red giant. By studying other planetary systems, we can gain some information about our own Solar System when the Sun becomes a giant star about five billion years from now. For instance, we now know that short-period planets around giant stars are rare compared to solar-type stars. This might be at least in part due to the tidal destruction of the innermost planets by stars expanding as they age. By combining transit data from the Kepler mission with radial velocity measurements, we have already been able to detect a few such close-in planets, which we expect will be engulfed “soon” by their parent stars.

    7
    An artist’s rendering showing the Extremely Large Telescope in operation on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile. The telescope will be equipped with incredibly advanced instruments that will help us answer fundamental questions about how planets form and evolve.
    Credit: ESO/L. Calçada
    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).

    Q: You work up on the mountain at Paranal — what’s it like to spend so much time in such an amazing environment?

    A: ESO Fellows in Santiago basically spend half of their time at the ESO offices in Vitacura doing research, and half of the time doing functional work for the observatory, mainly as a support astronomer. I spend about 80 days per year up on the mountain, providing support for visiting astronomers and operating the instruments that I am assigned (SPHERE and VISIR mounted on UT3).

    ESO/VISIR on UT3

    When no visiting astronomer is present at the telescope to collect their own data, we perform the observations in “service mode.” In this mode, we decide which observations are done during the night in collaboration with the telescope operators.

    I really enjoy my time on Paranal for two main reasons. First of all, the environment is fantastic — it is really a unique place. Paranal is located in the middle of the driest desert in the world and at an altitude of 2635 metres. The view at sunset and sunrise is simply amazing. All of the mountains reflect the sunlight and become very nice reddish colours. At night, especially when there is no Moon, the view of the Milky Way is astonishing.

    From a more scientific perspective, the VLT at Paranal is the most advanced optical observatory in the world — not only because of the large aperture telescopes, each 8.2 metres in diameter, but also because of the instruments that are attached to them. These instruments deliver very high-quality data, allowing us to do front-line research in astronomy. For me, it is a unique opportunity to work in such a great environment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 2:32 pm on June 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A SINFONI of Exoplanets, , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “A SINFONI of Exoplanets” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    Science Snapshots

    22 June 2018

    Exoplanets have fast become a huge research area and astronomers are now trying to study their atmospheres. The possibility of finding an exoplanet with an atmosphere that may be able to support life is incredibly exciting. We spoke to Jens Hoeijmakers, from the Geneva Observatory and the Center for Space Habitability in Bern, Switzerland, to find out more about these distant worlds.

    Q: Let’s start simple: what is an exoplanet?

    A: Since 1995, we have known that many stars other than the Sun have their own “solar systems,” with the majority of stars hosting one or multiple planets. Exoplanetary systems come in all shapes and colours, meaning that they are very diverse. Astronomers have discovered planets ranging from gas giants to smaller, rocky planets. Some planets orbit far away from their star like the gas and ice giants in our Solar System, and some orbit very closely, with surface temperatures greater than 1000°C.

    Q: Why do you think it’s important and exciting to study exoplanets?

    A: The discovery of the existence of exoplanets has evolved as a major branch of astronomy in the past two decades. We now know of the existence of thousands of exoplanets, and this has shown that planets may even be more common than stars in our Universe! This ubiquitous presence of planets all around us begs the question of whether it’s possible for extraterrestrial life to exist. This is a major driving force behind the continued search for exoplanets and the detailed study of those that we’ve already discovered. But besides the exciting prospect of discovering life, the exoplanet population also gives us a unique window into understanding our own Solar System and the possible outcomes of the same planet formation processes that have made our Solar System the way that we see it today — essentially, studying exoplanets can help us understand how we got to be here.

    2
    This composite image represents the close environment of Beta Pictoris as seen in near-infrared light. A very careful subtraction of the much bright stellar halo reveals this very faint environment. The outer part of the image shows the reflected light on the dust disc, as observed with ADONIS on ESO 3.6-metre telescope. The inner part is the innermost part of the system, as seen with NACO on the Very Large Telescope.
    Credit: ESO/A.-M. Lagrange et al.

    3
    ADONIS Infrared Cameras

    ESO/NACO

    Q: Your research looked at one exoplanet in particular: Beta Pictoris b. Why did you choose to look at this system?

    A: Beta Pictoris b is maybe the most famous directly-imaged exoplanet, meaning that astronomers have managed to actually take a snapshot of the planet rather than infer its existence through its indirect effect on its star, as is most commonly done. Beta Pictoris b orbits a bright star about 70 light-years away from Earth, is in a system about 20 to 25 million years old and has a fairly hot surface, about 1700°C.

    Beta Pictoris b is one of the easier (but still challenging) planets to image directly because it’s young and hot enough to be observed at infrared wavelengths. When stars and planets form in a large disk of gas and dust, known as the protoplanetary disk, the material from which the planets form is very hot. This means that newborn planets start off with very high temperatures, and throughout the first tens of millions of years of their lives, they slowly cool down as they radiate this heat away, making these planets visible at infrared wavelengths. This is the class of planets that we can directly image, and Beta Pictoris b is a typical example of such a young planet, which is why we chose to observe it — and, indeed, why it is one of the most famous directly imaged exoplanets.

    Q: How did you observe Beta Pictoris b and what were you aiming to find?

    A: We used existing data of the planet from the SINFONI spectrograph on ESO’s Very Large Telescope located at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Our aim was actually to test out the instrument — to investigate to what extent an adaptive-optics-assisted integral field spectrograph like SINFONI can be used to study an exoplanet’s atmosphere.

    ESO/SINFONI

    SINFONI is a special instrument. Not only does it perform the high-contrast imaging necessary to separately image the planet from its brighter host star, but it also simultaneously generates a spectrum of each pixel in that image at a high enough resolution. This allows us to see absorption lines in the spectrum of the planet. These absorption lines are what tell us about the chemicals in the planet’s atmosphere, and also about the planet’s temperature and other physical parameters. In fact, our new technique relies on the fact that the planet’s spectrum has absorption lines that are not present in the star that it orbits. This helps us disentangle the planet from its much brighter star, effectively increasing the contrast on top of the already high-contrast imaging from SINFONI. The instrument was not actually designed to be used in this way, so we’re the first to apply this technique.

    The only other instrument in the world that can currently perform this type of research is the OSIRIS spectrograph at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

    UCO Keck OSIRIS being installed

    It is very similar to SINFONI but is located at a much more northern latitude, meaning that SINFONI and OSIRIS can access complementary parts of the sky.

    3
    Molecular maps of carbon dioxide (left) and water (right) around Beta Pictoris. Beta Pictoris b is starkly visible in the lower right side of both maps. The left-side scale is the y-position and the bottom-side scale is the x-position. The scale is in arcseconds. Credit: J. Hoeijmakers.

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    Yepun, the fourth Unit Telescope of the VLT, is angled at a very low altitude, revealing the cell holding its main mirror and the SINFONI integral-field spectrograph.
    Credit: ESO

    Q: So what did you and your team find out?

    A: First of all, our analysis of the existing dataset confidently shows the presence of water and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of Beta Pictoris b. This in itself is not a new result because both species were known (and expected) to be present. However, it is the first time that a high-contrast imaging instrument has been used to directly detect these absorption lines in an exoplanet’s atmosphere, thereby uniquely and robustly confirming their presence.

    Q: Did you face any challenges during your research?

    A: Our analysis was quite challenging because these observations were experimental. SINFONI is not tuned for these kinds of observations, so when the data was initially taken in 2014, it was quickly deemed too challenging even for the detection of the planet, let alone a measurement of its spectrum. In the case of this dataset, our method is more sensitive to the planet, but we also had to overcome the fact that the instrument is simply not designed to image a very faint planet next to a very bright star. This is why we strongly advocate that future, SINFONI-like instruments (such as the planned HARMONI instrument on ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope) should be outfitted with a coronagraph, which blocks out much of the starlight, making such observations even more powerful.

    5
    This composite image shows the movement of Beta Pictoris b around its star, observed by the NACO on the VLT over six years.
    Credit: ESO/A.-M. Lagrange

    Q: What do you personally find most exciting about this research?

    A: This is a clear example of using an existing dataset and instrument in a completely new way and finding exciting results. I think that there is no reason why the same analysis and observations couldn’t have been carried out 10 years ago, achieving the same results — and something similar is true for the entire field of exoplanets! The first exoplanets could have been discovered with technology that was already available over a decade earlier if only astronomers had taken the possibility of the existence of hot Jupiters seriously. That’s why I sometimes wonder what other new discoveries or applications of existing facilities are still hiding under our noses right now.

    Q: What might this research lead to in the future? And what are the next big steps in the field?

    A: The strength of our signal spells good news for the future, when new instruments will come online that are similar to SINFONI but much more powerful in terms of contrast and spectral resolution. For instance, our result came from over two hours of observations with SINFONI, but we calculated that the same result could be obtained using the Extremely Large Telescope in only 90 seconds — for a planet like Beta Pictoris that is five times closer to its host star! In this sense, our result is a clear demonstration of this analysis technique and should encourage ongoing development of these future instruments, especially for making them suitable for the high-contrast imaging of exoplanets.

    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-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 3:01 pm on June 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Dealing with Science Data at ESO, ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “Dealing with Science Data” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    15 June 2018

    ESO is proud of being the most productive ground-based observatory in the world, making observations that led to over one thousand scientific papers in 2017 alone. But to produce such a huge number of papers, ESO’s telescopes must churn out mind-boggling amounts of data. So where is all this data stored and how do astronomers get their hands on it? We spoke to Martino Romaniello, Head of the Back-end Operations Department at ESO Headquarters, to find out.

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    Science@ESO

    Q: Martino, tell us a bit about your role at ESO.

    A: I joined ESO in late 1998 as a postdoctoral fellow, fresh out of my PhD at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA, the “home” of the Hubble Space Telescope. Those were the early days of science operations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and I was immediately transfixed with the scale and ambition of the project, and of how much it aimed to change the paradigm of ground-based astronomy. I became an ESO staff member in the year 2000, sharing my time between functional duties for ESO and research as a member of the Science Faculty.

    For functional duties, I served as a Support Astronomer until 2006. Since then, I have led different organisational units that dealt with the handling of science data. In our latest incarnation as Back-end Operations Department, we are responsible for the “last mile” of the long journey of science data, namely that the science content is there in the data, that it can be extracted and calibrated, and that it is made available to our community in a scientifically meaningful way through the ESO Science Archive.

    In my own research, I am interested in the formation and evolution of stars, both as individual objects and in stellar systems. Specifically, I use a particular type of stars called Cepheids to gather hints on what might be driving the accelerated expansion of the Universe.

    Q: What data does ESO make available to the community?

    A: ESO makes all of the data generated by our telescopes that has scientific relevance openly available to the science community around the world. Preventing data from being accessible is the absolute exception and is reserved to cases such as the very early phases of commissioning of new instruments or other similar test phases in which the data has no scientific content to speak of.

    In order to be useful for scientific measurements, the raw data acquired at the telescopes have to be processed to remove the signatures of the measurement process (from the telescope, instrument or Earth’s atmosphere) and extract and calibrate the science signal. In addition to the raw data, we also provide processed data directly through the archive. The availability of processed data for science analysis is specifically important to making the archive useful for the general community and increasing ESO’s overall scientific return.

    Q: How much data is currently stored and where?

    A: The data from the La Silla and Paranal Observatories amounts to a bit more than one petabyte (equal to one million gigabytes), and we store copies for redundancy and safety reasons. Two of these copies are in different locations at ESO Headquarters in Garching, Germany. The third one is hosted by the Max Planck Computing and Data Facility at the Garching Research Campus. The homepage of the ESO Science Archive is at http://www.archive.eso.org. ESO also host the European copy of the ALMA Science Archive at https://almascience.eso.org/alma-data/archive.

    Data storage and exchange technologies are rapidly evolving, pushed by the increasing demands of scientific and commercial endeavours. We actively partner with the likes of ALMA, CERN and the Square Kilometre Telescope (SKA) to cater for our needs in the most efficient way possible.

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

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    The ESO Science Archive is located at ESO Headquarters in Garching, Germany. It was developed in partnership with the Space Telescope – European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF) and operated jointly until the closure of the ST-ECF in December 2010. It holds the astronomical data produced by the La Silla and Paranal Observatories and makes them available to the public. Over 1 Pb are stored in the disk servers like those seen on this photo. Credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer

    Q: Why is ESO’s data available as open access for anyone to use? Has it always been that way?

    A: Open access to data is a staple of scientific research and serves several purposes. The first is that it enables any scientific claim to be independently verified and challenged, which is a founding principle of the scientific method. Secondly, it allows for genuinely new science and knowledge to come from the data. This is both in conjunction with other data, or by using the archive as a primary source. In addition, archival data is used to design better experiments that require new data to be obtained. In fact, in order to apply for observing time with any of ESO’s telescopes, astronomers need to show that their proposed science goals cannot be achieved with data already available in the archives — this is much quicker, as applying for and receiving new data can take as long as one to two years.

    ESO’s data open access policy can be traced back to 1988 with the introduction of “Key Programmes” on La Silla. Open access to data has been ingrained in the science operations policy of the Very Large Telescope and its interferometer since the very beginning of science operations in 1999. Initially, access was limited to ESO Member States. Following a decision by the ESO Council in December 2004, the archive was opened to the whole world on 1 April 2005.

    A recent science paper described the ESO Science Archive as the “largest telescope facility ever.” While it may be a bit of a hyperbole, it does convey the power of reusing data collected over decades from some of the most powerful telescopes and instruments ever built.

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    These servers help provide access to the science data archive. This picture was obtained in early 2005. Credit: ESO

    Q: By sharing its data, how does ESO benefit?

    A: What ESO gets in return is that more science is done with our data.

    Enabling major scientific discoveries by the astronomical community is core to ESO’s mission. The ESO Science Archive plays a very significant role in this: 30% of the refereed publications that use ESO data make use of archival data. In addition, the Science Archive broadens the user base of ESO data: about 30% of the users of the archive do not use ESO in any other way. And again, open access to data is a staple of research. Astronomy as a discipline and ESO, in particular, have long been pioneers in this area. In order to further increase archive use of the data, we have recently developed the Archive Science Portal to provide more intuitive, enhanced data discovery tools to our users.

    Open access to science data is also a pivotal policy point for governments and funding agencies around the world. Most notably, the European Commission has launched and is shaping the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). ESO has endorsed the EOSC Declaration in recognition of the vital need for open access to trusted and reliable data in today’s world of scientific research. We also actively collaborate with other observatories and data centres worldwide, most notably with ESA and the Strasbourg astronomical Data Centre (CDS), to foster the open exchange of science data.

    Q: Who uses ESO data?

    A: Scientists are the main users of ESO data. Since 2011, more than 7000 professional astronomers have accessed the ESO Science Archive. For reference, this is between a half and two-thirds of astronomers worldwide, as gauged by the number of IAU members. As mentioned earlier, they use the data in a variety of ways that ultimately lead to more science being done and more knowledge being extracted from the data.

    There are other scientists than astronomers who use the ESO Science Archive, for example, the people who study the Earth atmosphere. In contrast to astronomers, they are not interested in the celestial objects. Rather, they study the composition of the atmosphere above the observatory and how it changes over time, which relates to climate studies. Such cross-disciplinary science is growing in importance.

    There are also amateur astronomers and teachers among the visitors to the ESO archive. Unfortunately, we do not have a good handle of what they do with it. Perhaps it would be worth it trying to learn more about this, as it may be worth experimenting with citizen science.

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    The number of refereed papers published based on data from ESO and other telescopes over the period 1996 to 2017. These numbers are from the ESO Telescope Bibliography (telbib).
    Credit: ESO [There are many astronomical assets simply not included n this portrayal, which mostly serves to benefit ESO.]

    Q: Are there any restrictions — are some data off limits?

    A: The basic policy is that access to data is initially restricted to the scientists who triggered their creation, after which it becomes publicly available.

    Observing with ESO telescopes is a competitive process. Teams of astronomers submit their ideas for new observations to ESO, which organises a peer-review process within the astronomical community itself. The proposals that are approved through this process are executed and generate new data, which is stored in the ESO Science Archive. Access to this data is initially limited to the original proposers of the observations, typically for a period of one year, after which the data itself becomes available without restrictions. The purpose of the policy is to recognise the effort that went into new data being generated while preserving the principle of open data access.

    There are, of course, exceptions to the general policies and they can go both ways. In some cases, most notably with the Public Surveys, raw data is public immediately. Also, the Principal Investigator of such surveys has to return processed data to the archive for the community at large to benefit. The same applies to Principal Investigators of Large Programmes. In both cases, this is in recognition that the large investment of telescope time needed to carry out these large, coordinated observational campaigns has to have a large return for the whole community.

    4
    This picture of the spiral galaxy NGC 3621 was taken using the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

    ESO WFI LaSilla 2.2-m MPG/ESO telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    The data used to make this image were selected from the ESO archive by Joe DePasquale as part of the Hidden Treasures competition.
    Credit: ESO and Joe DePasquale.

    In other cases, at the discretion of the Director General, the proprietary rights can be extended if a valid justification exists. This can be applied to individual observations or groups by extending the proprietary protection period, or even to the knowledge that certain data was acquired in the first place. An example of this is the follow-up with ESO telescopes of gravitational wave signals, in which the potential detections themselves were not immediately made public. In these situations, the fact itself of pointing a telescope in a given patch of the sky would give away confidential information, hence the special treatment.

    Q: Do you expect ESO to continue to make this data widely available in the future, particularly in the era of the ELT?

    A: Most definitely! The science return of doing so is evident, as are the wider cultural implications. Plus, ultimately the data generated by ESO is the result of a large investment of public money and it is only fair that it is accessible for everyone to benefit. The ELT will be a unique science machine that will generate preciously unique data and science opportunities. Open access to this data will be fundamental to fully exploit its amazing potential.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 4:25 pm on June 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA and ESO work closely on NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, ESO also makes ground-based follow-up observations of ESA discoveries, ESO and ESA, ESO and ESA generate a significant fraction of science data from ground and space for the European astronomical community (and beyond!), ESO and ESA share a number of goals and ambitions but it wasn’t until 2015 that we signed a formal cooperation agreement to foster future collaborations on themes of common interest, ESO contributes to the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) which aims to detect track and physically characterise Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), ESO offers VLT observing time to perform critical observations of NEOs that cannot be performed using either ESA telescopes or other small telescopes, ESOblog, Gaia-ESO public spectroscopic survey, The ESA/ESO science working group is driving several new collaborative ventures including joint annual ESA/ESO workshops and a joint ESA/ESO Fellowship programme   

    From ESOblog: “How ESO collaborates with ESA” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    VLT

    1 June 2018
    Letters from the DG

    In this week’s blog post, ESO Director General Xavier Barcons discusses the close relationship that ESO enjoys with our fellow intergovernmental organisation dealing with space, the European Space Agency. Xavier talks about just a few of the activities that ESO and ESA work on together, and explains how sharing our knowledge and expertise strengthens Europe’s position in our knowledge of the cosmos.

    Greetings to all and welcome back to the ESO blog!

    In my previous blog posts I’ve talked about the work we do internally here at ESO, but in this post I want to take the opportunity to look outward, specifically towards our fruitful and exciting relationship with the European Space Agency (ESA).

    Since ESO was set up in 1962, it has carried out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities that enable important scientific discoveries. Whilst we have been focused on ground-based scientific observations of the Universe here at ESO, ESA has been developing a number of space-related programmes, with space science being one of its many exciting objectives.

    2
    ESA’s impressive fleet of astronomical spacecraft, many of which share similar scientific aims and technology to ESO’s telescopes. Credit: ESA

    ESO and ESA share a number of goals and ambitions, but it wasn’t until 2015 that we signed a formal cooperation agreement to foster future collaborations on themes of common interest. This agreement provides a framework for a closer collaboration and exchange of information in several areas, including scientific research and technology. Ever since, we have been building our relationship and extending our collaborations more and more each year.

    By working collaboratively we ensure that our Member States (many of which we have in common) are benefitting from the most productive science and the most advanced technologies possible. Our cooperation agreement promotes the coordination of both organisations’ long-term plans, and allows us to work together on specific programmes and share best practices.

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    Representatives from ESO and ESA at the last coordination meeting, held at ESO Headquarters in Germany last January. Credit: ESO

    3
    The Director Generals of ESO and ESA visit the Very Large Telescope at Paranal Observatory. From left to right: Fernando Comerón (ESO’s Representative in Chile), Fabio Favata (Head of the ESA Programme Coordination Office), Johann-Dietrich Wörner (ESA Director General), Tim de Zeeuw (ESO Director General), Laura Comendador Frutos (ESO ‎Head of Cabinet of the Director General & Head of Legal and International Affairs), and Álvaro Giménez (ESA Director of Science and Robotic Exploration).
    Credit: ESO

    As part of our cooperation agreement, we have created three working groups consisting of members from both ESO and ESA: one in science, one in technology, and one in communications. Every year, these groups come together and their leads report to a meeting with myself and Johann-Dietrich Wörner, the Director General of ESA. During these meetings, we all enjoy hearing about the inspiring projects that the respective working groups collaborate on, and we keep pushing our teams to strengthen the existing joint ventures.

    Science

    ESO and ESA generate a significant fraction of science data from ground and space for the European astronomical community (and beyond!). The ESA/ESO science working group fosters collaboration between the organisations, to ensure that both organisations’ resources are used efficiently, and to explore synergies of science operations for ground and space missions. There are a number of ways in which these aims are achieved successfully.

    Gaia is an ambitious ESA mission that is creating a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way, pinpointing the positions of stars with extraordinary precision; its eagerly-awaited second data set has just been released.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    ESA and ESO work together closely on the Gaia-ESO public spectroscopic survey, which aims to provide an overview of the motions and chemical compositions of stars in the Milky Way.

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    Map of observed targets on the sky (provided by Cambridge Astronomy Survey Unit (CASU), see Gaia-ESO Survey overview). Observations included in the fifth internal Survey data release (iDR5; from the beginning of the Survey up until December 2015) are shown. Key: MW = Milky Way, CL = Cluster, SD = Standard.

    The results of this survey will revolutionise our knowledge of galactic and stellar evolution. Data obtained using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) will be combined with data from Gaia to provide a legacy dataset that adds enormous value to the Gaia mission and ongoing ESO imaging surveys. The Gaia satellite is also observed regularly by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST), in order to measure its location extremely precisely, resulting in an improvement of the astrometric accuracy of the Gaia star catalogue.

    In addition to the Gaia-ESO spectroscopic survey mentioned above, ESO telescopes have devoted substantial amounts of observing time (often through Large Programmes, which utilise hundreds of hours of observations) to support scientific objectives shared with ESA science missions. This scientific cooperation channel will remain open, welcoming proposals to use ESO telescopes by teams exploiting ESA science missions.

    Another hugely successful space mission that ESA and ESO work closely on is the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility (ST–ECF) was, until the end of 2010, the European branch of the Hubble science facility. It supported the European astronomy community in exploiting the research opportunities provided by the Hubble Space Telescope. ESA and ESO continue to work closely on the communication of Hubble, which I will discuss later in this post.

    3
    This detailed view shows the central parts of the nearby active galaxy NGC 1433. The dim blue background image, showing the central dust lanes of this galaxy, comes from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The coloured structures near the centre are from recent ALMA observations that have revealed a spiral shape, as well as an unexpected outflow, for the first time. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA/F. Combes

    ESO also makes ground-based follow-up observations of ESA discoveries. As part of the cooperation agreement, ESO contributes to the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN), which aims to detect, track, and physically characterise Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) to determine whether any are potentially dangerous to Earth. The network is made up of scientific institutions, observatories, and a variety of interested groups, all of which can make observations of asteroids and NEOs. As part of this contribution, ESO offers VLT observing time to perform critical observations of NEOs that cannot be performed using either ESA telescopes or other small telescopes. These observations constrain the orbits of faint NEOs newly discovered by ESA, which would be lost without immediate follow-up. The observations also characterise and refine the orbits of faint, known NEOs on threatening orbits. As of July 2017, ESO had made 80 observations of 61 objects. Of these, 21 were removed from the “risk list”, and 20 more have had their risk downgraded. In 6 cases, the improved understanding of their orbit resulted in an increase of their risk.

    The ESA/ESO science working group is driving several new collaborative ventures, including joint annual ESA/ESO workshops and a joint ESA/ESO Fellowship programme. The latter will see the recruitment of a talented postdoctoral researcher to work on a synergetic project — for example, ESA’s PLATO mission.

    ESA/PLATO

    PLATO is an ESA satellite which will look for exoplanets via the shadows cast by their transits across the face of their star, but which will rely on ground-based telescopes for radial velocity measurements to tie down orbital parameters and exoplanet masses.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    Radial velocity Image via SuperWasp http:// http://www.superwasp.org/exoplanets.htm


    Radial Velocity Method-Las Cumbres Observatory

    The Fellow would link ESA and ESO, travelling between the two to share knowledge and experience.

    With the aim of taking full advantage of complementary ground-based and space-borne observing facilities, ESO and ESA jointly support scientific programmes that require observations with both the ESO VLT(I) telescopes and the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory. ESO may award up to 80 hours of XMM-Newton observing time and the XMM-Newton project may award up to 80 hours of ESO VLT(I) observing time to proposals wishing to use both facilities. This collaboration has so far lasted over a decade.

    With the aim of taking full advantage of complementary ground-based and space-borne observing facilities, ESO and ESA jointly support scientific programmes that require observations with both the ESO VLT(I) telescopes and the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.

    ESA/XMM Newton

    ESO may award up to 80 hours of XMM-Newton observing time and the XMM-Newton project may award up to 80 hours of ESO VLT(I) observing time to proposals wishing to use both facilities. This collaboration has so far lasted over a decade.

    Technology

    But we don’t only share scientific aims. A ground-based telescope in the Atacama Desert has a lot in common with a space-based satellite orbiting the Earth, so both ESO and ESA share a lot of the same technology, including optics, electronics, mechanics, materials. We also use similar software and have similar systems overall. Sharing documentation, research results, knowledge and experience is a highly productive way to work.

    ESO has a lot of expertise in laser guide stars and adaptive optics technology.

    ESO VLT Laser Guide Stars

    ESO 4 laser guide stars on UT 4

    We not only share that expertise with ESA, but we also work with them to develop that expertise even further. Furthermore, we collaborate on the development of ever smoother, bigger, and better mirrors, which are of course used on both ESO and ESA telescopes. We share and develop software together too, including image analysis and production tools. Recently we have begun to collaborate on the development of curved CCD detectors to use for wide and curved focal planes.

    Both ESO and ESA host a wealth of state-of-the-art research facilities, and we take advantage of our close relationship not only to use each other’s facilities, but also to share results and conclusions from our own facilities.

    We will continue to keep the communication channel open with regards to technology research and development, in order to potentially identify further collaboration initiatives.

    Communication

    Both ESO and ESA pride themselves on their public outreach activities, and work together to successfully communicate astronomy, space science and space technology.

    In particular, we work together on communications for the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In late 1999, a science communication office was established at the Space Telescope European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF) to carry out the Hubble communication on behalf of ESA. After ST-ECF’s closure in December 2010, ESO continued the core Hubble communications, an arrangement that remains in place today.

    This year, ESA and ESO plan to hold an internal communication workshop that will cover topics such as audiovisuals, social media, news activities, and exhibition activities. We hope to continue to organise these collaborative workshops in the future in order to share experience. Often, scientific discoveries involve both ESA and ESO; as part of our cooperation agreement, we pay special attention to mentioning each other where possible in the news releases announcing these discoveries, and use such news to develop our relationship further.

    We have worked together on a variety of educational materials, including the ESA/ESO exercises which give students a taste of what it’s like to be an astronomer. We also both worked with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) on a project called Physics on Stage, which selected new ideas for presentations and educational materials and showcased them at the Physics on Stage Festival.

    In the future, we would like to explore the production of a shared manifesto, aiming for a series of principles and values, and a common vision for science communication in Europe. Such a manifesto would help align communication efforts and position Europe at an intercontinental level.

    Here at ESO, we are extremely proud of our relationship with ESA, but we are also proud to be part of a larger group of scientific organisations — the EIROforum. The EIROforum brings together eight of the largest European research organisations with the aim of sharing the expertise of each member organisation to help European science to reach its full potential.

    The projects I have mentioned in this blog post form only part of the areas that ESA and ESO work together on. Having served in a number of ESA science committees and science missions myself, these collaborations are all very close to my heart. We hope that these close relationships continue to grow for many years to come.

    See the full article here .


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 9:51 am on May 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “Astronomer Henri Boffin on ESO’s collaboration in the Gaia mission” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    25 May 2018

    1
    From ESA/GAIA

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Mapping the sky has been one of humanity’s quests since the dawn of time, and ESA’s Gaia satellite is taking our understanding of our stellar neighbourhood to a whole new level. But it can’t do this alone. ESA has a close collaboration with ESO to use our ground-based expertise to help Gaia excel up in space. We talked to ESO astronomer Henri Boffin to find out more.

    Q: Firstly, could you explain what Gaia is and what kind of data it collects?

    A: Gaia is an astrometric mission from the European Space Agency that has been in the making for decades. It was launched at the end of 2013 and since then it has been using its two telescopes to very precisely measure the position, motion and brightness of more than a billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. At the end of the mission, it will provide us with the most precise 3D map of our galaxy ever made.

    Q: In 2016, ESA released the first data set from Gaia. In April this year, the second data set was released — how does it differ?

    A: In Gaia data release 1, only the positions of most of the objects that Gaia could detect were provided. In data release 2, however, things start to become much more interesting, as Gaia is now providing estimates of the distance, the motion and the brightness for a large subset of stars. The dataset has information on the position and brightness of 1.7 billion stars, the parallax and motion of 1.3 billion stars, the surface temperature of over 100 million stars and the effect of interstellar dust on 87 million stars. Gaia has even given us some information about other objects like asteroids within our Solar System, far-off quasars, globular clusters within our own galaxy and dwarf galaxies orbiting it.


    A virtual journey from our Solar System through our Milky Way, based on data from the first (left) and second (right) release of ESA’s Gaia satellite. The journey starts by looking back at the Sun, moving away and travelling between the stars.
    Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

    Q: Why is this extra information so important to astronomers?

    A: Knowing the distance to a star is a crucial piece of information — without a star’s distance, it is hard to do any astronomy. In fact, one could say that astronomy has always been about tackling the challenges of measuring astronomical distances! If you only see the brightness of a star but don’t know how far away it is, it’s hard to understand what kind of object it is. It’s like when you see a light at night time. It could be someone walking with a small flashlight a few metres away or it could be a lighthouse located tens of kilometres away!

    Once you know the distance to a star, it is possible to know if it is intrinsically bright or faint. You can also determine other properties such as the star’s mass, whether it is still in its infancy or if it will soon explode as a supernova. Distances are also needed to know the size of the Universe, whether it is expanding, and by how much.

    Q: What role does ESO play in the Gaia mission?

    A: ESO has been involved in the Gaia mission in several ways. The first one is the Ground-Based Optical Tracking programme, or GBOT. This involves tracking the position of the Gaia satellite using the 2.4-metre VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

    The second major involvement of ESO telescopes is in the Gaia–ESO public spectroscopic survey.

    Moreover, ESO astronomers are interested in using Gaia data not only for their science, but also for operations. For example, it’s planned that the Gaia catalogue will be used as the basis of guide stars for ESO’s Very Large Telescope and Extremely Large Telescope. These telescopes need to use guide stars to precisely track the movement of the sky and keep their desired targets fixed in their field of view.

    Finally, ESO is also co-organising a scientific workshop in September 2018 that will focus on the advances in our understanding of stellar physical processes, made possible by combining the astrometry and photometry of Gaia with data from other large photometric, spectroscopic, and asteroseismic stellar surveys.

    Q: Could you explain further about the Ground-Based Optical Tracking programme?

    A: Gaia is the most accurate astrometric device ever built, but in order for its observations to be useful astronomers analysing the data need to know exactly where it is in the Universe. Its position needs to be known to an accuracy of 150 metres (a challenge given that it is 1.5 million kilometres away) and the velocity needs to be measured with an accuracy of 0.009 km/h!

    The only way to know the velocity and position of the spacecraft with very high precision is to observe it on a daily basis from the ground. But the usual ESA tracking stations are not sufficient for this, so the consortium turned to the VST to track the satellite. So, since the launch of Gaia at the end of 2013, the VST has been taking images of Gaia every other night.

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    These images from ESO’s VST show ESA’s Gaia spacecraft in its position some 1.5 million kilometres beyond Earth’s orbit. The VST captured these images using OmegaCAM on 23 January 2014, taken about 6.5 minutes apart. Gaia is clearly visible as a small spot moving against a background of stars. Its location is circled in red. In these images, the spacecraft is about a million times fainter than is detectable by the naked eye.
    Credit: ESO

    ESO OmegaCAM on VST at ESO’s Cerro Paranal observatory,with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level


    ESO OmegaCAM on VST at ESO’s Cerro Paranal observatory,with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Q: Why is the VST used instead of other ESA tracking stations?

    A: The ESA tracking stations are radars that rely on measuring the radial velocity of the satellites. They are extremely precise, but only for the motion towards us. In order to obtain the real position of an object in space, one would need to combine observations of two such tracking stations. This is, however, very time consuming — and these tracking stations are required for all the other satellites of ESA as well. So it’s not possible to monopolise them for Gaia.

    The consortium of astronomers in charge of analysing the Gaia data came up with another solution — using a 2-metre class telescope to track the satellite. They mostly use the VST for this, as well as the Liverpool Telescope located on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain.

    2-metre Liverpool Telescope at La Palma in the Canary Islands, Altitude 2,363 m (7,753 ft)

    The VST is particularly suited for this task because it can take images of a very large area of the sky. In fact, as an aside, because of this capability, the VST takes images of dozens of asteroids every time it captures the Gaia satellite! In three years, it has discovered almost 9000 asteroids.

    Q: Tell us more about the Gaia–ESO public spectroscopic survey. What value does it add to the Gaia data?

    A: The Gaia–ESO public spectroscopic survey obtained high-quality spectroscopy of about 100 000 stars in the Milky Way with the FLAMES instrument on the VLT.

    ESO/FLAMES on The VLT. FLAMES is the multi-object, intermediate and high resolution spectrograph of the VLT. Mounted at UT2, FLAMES can access targets over a field of view 25 arcmin in diameter. FLAMES feeds two different spectrograph covering the whole visual spectral range:GIRAFFE and UVES.

    The survey spanned six years and used more than 300 nights of telescope time. These spectra allow astronomers to determine the chemical composition and the radial velocities of the stars. Although Gaia is able to take spectra, it can only do so for the brightest stars and in a very limited spectral range. So there was a need to obtain more precise data for fainter stars, in order to systematically cover all major components of the Milky Way, from the halo to clusters of stars to star-forming regions. When combined with the distances measured by Gaia, the survey will quantify the formation history and evolution of young, mature and ancient galactic populations, providing unprecedented knowledge of the evolution of our galaxy and its stars. This creates a legacy dataset that adds enormous value to the Gaia mission.

    Q: What will the future role of ESO be in relation to the Gaia mission?

    A: ESO will of course continue to track the Gaia satellite for several years, but ESO telescopes will be needed for following up many of the targets that Gaia has found to be particularly interesting (and there will be many!). Gaia should lead to the discovery of thousands of exoplanets, tens of thousands of brown dwarfs, more than 20 000 exploding stars, and countless numbers of variable and binary stars, as well as 500 000 distant quasars. Astronomers will most likely want to study many of these in detail. This will require high-multiplex instruments, so the future MOONS on the VLT and 4MOST on VISTA are going to play an important role. And of course, for many decades to come, astronomers will use the distances provided by Gaia to better understand their favourite objects.

    4
    This conceptual engineering drawing shows MOONS, a unique new instrument for ESO’s Very Large Telescope. MOONS will be able to tackle some of the most compelling astronomical questions such as probing the structure of the Milky Way and tracing how stars and galaxies form and evolve.
    Credit: ESO/MOONS Consortium

    Q: What excites you most about Gaia, and in particular about ESO’s involvement?

    A: The sheer amount of data that comes out of Gaia is truly amazing. To know that we will soon have a full understanding of our own galaxy and the myriad stars it contains is mind-blowing!

    I am rather proud that ESO is playing a role in this by tracking the satellite, but as an astronomer I am also very keen to use the Gaia data. In fact, together with colleagues here at ESO, I am currently finishing a study that relies on Gaia data to analyse the well-known star-forming region of Orion in great detail. When we first saw what we could do with these stars using Gaia, we could hardly believe our eyes. With Gaia, we can clearly distinguish where the youngest stars are located as a function of their age, and thus see the structure of this stellar nursery in 3D.

    Q: When is the next data release and what can we expect it to add to our knowledge?

    A: The third data release should come out at the end of 2020. It will improve on the parameters of the stars, distances and motions, as well as provide a catalogue of all the stars that are part of binary or multiple systems. But astronomers will be keen to wait for the final data release, hopefully around 2022, as it will provide orbits for many binary stars and objects in our Solar System, light curves of many variable stars, and a list of all the exoplanets found. This immense amount of data will create work for at least the next generation of astronomers, and perhaps further generations too.

    See the full article here .


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

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

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

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

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

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    Part of ESO’s Paranal Observatory, the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) observes the brilliantly clear skies above the Atacama Desert of Chile. It is the largest survey telescope in the world in visible light.
    Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
  • richardmitnick 6:12 pm on May 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A Brilliant New Supernova Shines Over Munich, , , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “A Brilliant New Supernova Shines Over Munich” 

    ESO 50 Large

    ESOblog

    1
    Outreach@ESO

    4 May 2018

    The ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre opened its doors to the public on 28 April 2018 and one of our writers, Stephen Molyneux, was there to check it out for the first time. The centre is located right next to ESO Headquarters in Garching bei München, Germany, and it’s a full-on astronomical experience complete with a huge exhibition and immersive planetarium shows. Stephen reports on his visit.

    The first thing that strikes me about the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre is the building itself, which is architecturally magnificent. It was designed by the architecture firm Bernhardt + Partner to look like a double star system with one transferring mass to the other. This cosmic event would eventually result in one of the stars exploding as a supernova in a brilliant flash of light — hence the centre’s name.

    Before I have a full look inside I get the chance to chat to Tania Johnston, ESO Supernova coordinator. She tells me that the idea for the centre was first proposed in 2011 and construction started February 2015.

    “It’s fantastic to finally have the Supernova open and I’m really looking forward to seeing the response from members of the public,” she says. “It’s been a lot of hard work from a huge number of people and I am so grateful to each and every one of them. This project couldn’t have happened without the staff and volunteers who have helped to create this amazing facility.”


    This ESOcast Light explores the newly-opened ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre.
    Credit: ESO

    Entering the building, I step into a large open space, with Jupiter and Saturn hanging over my head and beautiful astronomical images of galaxies and nebulae surrounding me. I’m also greeted by several smiling faces from members of staff and volunteers. Everyone is super friendly and happy to help, whether it was directing me to the bathroom or explaining more about the centre itself. They all seem to be buzzing with excitement and pride at the opening — they have, after all, worked hard on making this dream a reality.


    Time-lapse of the construction of the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre in Garching near Munich in Germany.
    Credit: Timelapse-Camera operator: Carlos Guirao. Music Intro: Jennifer Athena Galatis. Music timelapse: Johan B. Monell (http://www.johanmonell.com)

    “I’m fascinated by astronomy and science communication,” says intern Calum Turner. “The chance to help out and see behind-the-scenes in a cutting-edge astronomy outreach centre is a great opportunity to get more experience, learn more about outreach, and meet the people who communicate science for a living!”

    Mathias Jäger, coordinator of the content production for the permanent exhibition, tells me that their aim was to create an exciting visitor centre to educate everyone, young or old, about the wonders of the world we live in.

    “Visitors getting in touch with astronomy for the first time will be as satisfied as astronomy lovers who want to expand their knowledge,” he says with confidence. “We also explain the topics in simpler terms for our younger visitors, and convey our educational messages in many different ways: classically via panels, more modern via screens showing videos, interactively with instructive games created by HITS, and also experimentally with hands-on stations.”

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    The public enjoy “Stars” section of the permanent exhibition at the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre. The exhibit includes scale models of famous stars, indicating just how relatively little our Sun is. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek

    The exhibition was designed by Design und Mehr in collaboration with HITS — the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Physics — and ESO. The 129 panels are located around the edge of the building, along a gently sloping 255-metre-long path. The path takes you all the way to the top of the building and then back to the bottom again, and you can interact with the exhibitions as you go. They’re beautifully designed and very engaging, with explanations suitable for all ages coupled with incredible images — one of my personal favourite parts of astronomy.

    “The exhibition covers a wide range of topics across modern observational astronomy,” explains Jäger. “From planetary science to stars to exoplanets to the most distant galaxies, including information on the different techniques we use to study these objects. The amount of information and topics we cover is amazing!”

    There are also specific themes dedicated to ESO, covering the organisation’s history, how it is run, and some of its biggest discoveries to date. There’s an impressive section about ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, currently being built in Chile, which will be the largest optical and infrared telescope in existence.

    My personal favourite exhibit is about exoplanets and the search for life elsewhere in the Universe — I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of life out there from watching various science-fiction TV shows and films, and the exhibits in the ESO Supernova feeds into that fascination. There are also some really cool inclusions like the Atacama Desert selfie station and the virtual reality stations that transport you to Chile, allowing you to look around ESO’s amazing facilities. Even cooler, there are some fun interactives where you can make galaxies collide or play Pong with black holes!

    4
    Learn all about the ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) at the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre. The ELT will be “The Worlds Biggest Eye on the Sky” and will be a 39-metre mirror telescope sited on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile, close to ESO’s Paranal Observatory.
    Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.

    Those who created the exhibitions also have their personal favourites.

    “My personal highlights are a real meteorite and an ELT mirror segment you can touch, which is something you wouldn’t normally get the chance to do,” says Jäger. “My favourite hands-on is a station where you can build your own lens telescope. And if you get tired of walking you can take a seat in the relativity bike, which allows you to cycle at almost the speed of light!”

    5
    The Atacama desert is home of ESO’s telescopes. This mock-up in the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre transports you to the Atacama desert and is a great photo opportunity for a selfie! Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.

    Perhaps the most exciting part of the experience for me is the planetarium itself. Located in the centre of the facility, it’s the largest tilted planetarium in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It presents a wide variety of shows and cultural events, ranging from shows suitable for small children such as A Tour of the Solar System to public talks such as Massive Black Holes and Galaxies and musical performances like Stan Dart — Mare Stellaris. There is also a huge programme of bilingual events already planned for the next three months. Almost all activities, except some in English, are fully booked by now.

    During my visit, I watch From Earth to the Universe and am completely mesmerised. The film is a stunning 30-minute voyage through space and time, starting with our neighbours in the Solar System and zooming all the way out to the vast large scale structure of the Universe. The planetarium is wonderfully designed and I’d personally be happy to sit there all day, especially if I was allowed to watch all the planetarium shows!

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    Young filmmaker Theofanis Matsopoulos presents a show inside the planetarium at the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre. Mr Matsopoulos directed From Earth to the Universe, the world’s first free downloadable fulldome planetarium movie. Here Jupiter, our Solar Systems biggest planet, waltzes across the dome. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek.

    Strikingly, the ESO Supernova is the world’s first open-source planetarium — a great step forwards for science communication.

    Head of ESO’s education and Public Outreach Department Lars Lindberg Christensen explains: “All the planetarium shows, exhibition and educational content are available online for other museums and planetariums to download and use for free. The ESO Supernova is not just a boon for Germans but also for people in the other ESO Member States and beyond.”

    At the centre of the facility is also an interesting area dubbed “The Void”, analogous to the void of space. The high glass ceiling of this unique room contains a beautiful display of the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere — a new experience for many visitors.

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    This is the spectacular star-roof of the centre, which weighs almost 30 tonnes, consists of glass panels set into a metal framework made of triangular sections — 262 of them, arranged to artistically represent constellations of the southern sky.
    Credit: ESO/P. Horálek

    Its walls are covered with a what is arguably the largest image of the night sky anywhere, again viewed from the Southern Hemisphere. The Void is a great space for special events and functions, with a seating capacity of up to 150, and it will also house temporary exhibitions, such as the Our Place in Space exhibition from 17 May – 2 September 2018.

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    The Void is located in the centre of the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre and is a great space for functions and special events. Visitors can look through one of the telescopes placed along the balcony areas at the full wall covered by the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek

    I explored the exhibits at my own pace, but guests can also hop on one of the many guided tours available — including a tour that takes you into ESO Headquarters next door, where you can take a sneak peek at how such a huge scientific organisation is run.

    According to one tour guide Valentina Schettini, “There are no concepts or formulas to be learnt from a tour. It is more about communicating a sense of wonder and curiosity about our marvellous Universe, especially the human adventure represented by the scientific research.”

    9
    An aerial view of the ESO Headquarters with a completed ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre. The star-roof can be seen reflecting the clear blue sky.
    Credit: S. Lowery/ESO

    The guides themselves are all very enthusiastic and love to see the reactions of the visitors, especially to hear questions and to hear from younger visitors.

    “I enjoy it when young people, especially teenagers, ask about the daily life of astronomers and want to know how the research actually works,” says Schettini. “You can tell they’re thinking about their own future and that is super exciting!”

    Wherever you’re from, there’s a good chance that you will find someone who will speak your language.

    “The tours will be presented in German and in English and in fact the entire educational offers provided by the ESO Supernova is bilingual,” explains Schettini. “In addition, for special occasions or particular needs, tours could be offered in other languages.”

    10
    Visitors are seen here enjoying a tour of the exhibition by Mathias Jäger, coordinator of the ESO Supernova’s permanent exhibition.
    Credit: ESO/P. Horálek

    At the end of your visit be sure to check out the ESO gift shop filled with awesome astronomical gifts. It has everything ranging from ESO caps, t-shirts and mugs to posters, postcards, pens and stickers.

    Before I left, I chatted to a few members of the public to get their first thoughts about the facility.

    “My first impression was clearly that the whole thing — the building, exhibition, organisation, and so on — is very professional,” says Barnabás, astronomy enthusiast. “It looks very modern, exactly like something built in the twenty-first century should look like. I’ve just run through the exhibition, but it is probably the best I’ve ever seen on this topic and I will definitely visit again.”

    Another visitor Noemi, a resident of the nearby town Garching, says: “The building is very impressive with its large open spaces and the beautiful architecture. The exhibition is definitely interesting for both astronomers and the public since it answers very popular questions in an easily understandable, but still scientific way. Thumbs up for the beautiful pictures on the walls and the floor, as well as for all the exhibits that you can interact with!”

    A supernova can shine brighter than all of the stars in the Milky Way combined, and the ESO Supernova shines in a similar way. I have no doubt that it will generate enthusiasm and a passion for astronomy with young and old alike.

    See the full article here .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
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