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  • richardmitnick 4:08 pm on December 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Monitoring the changing R Aquarii   

    From ESOblog: “Monitoring the changing R Aquarii” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1

    Three generations of astronomy in the last installment of ESO’s R Aquarii week

    R Aquarii is a binary system in which the violent interaction between two stars is creating a swirling nebula and a dazzling jet of light. A team of scientists have spent three decades studying this famous and unique object with ESO telescopes to find out more about various astronomical phenomena. So far this week we have published a Picture of the Week and a Photo Release looking at different aspects of this interesting star-nebula system. We wrap up the week with a blog post from Romano Corradi, an R Aquarii expert, who tells us first-hand about why this star is so interesting to study, and how our observation methods have changed over the last thirty years.

    I am particularly interested in R Aquarii because it is a symbiotic star — two interacting stars locked in a binary system in which a hot white dwarf strips away matter from a nearby cool giant star. In the case of R Aquarii, the giant is a highly evolved pulsating star reaching the end of its life; it will soon completely shed its external gaseous envelope to become a white dwarf just like its partner.

    The mass pulled away from this giant star creates an extended complex nebula that is further shaped by the surplus material that the white dwarf occasionally ejects to create loops and arcs. An accretion disk around the white dwarf sends out a jet of hot X-ray emitting material. This is the source of the S-shaped feature visible in the main photo above, which we took using ESO’s Very Large Telescope in 2012. At a distance of 650 light-years, R Aquarii is one of the closest known symbiotic systems and offers a unique opportunity to find out more about these special stars.

    One of the most challenging aspects of astronomy is that things change extremely slowly, so it can be difficult to study the dynamical nature of systems like R Aquarii, for example how fast they expand. We can only see how systems evolve by regularly taking images of them.

    My PhD supervisor, Hugo Schwarz, began imaging and studying R Aquarii in the mid-1980s, and I joined him as a PhD student in 1991. Over the years I have continued to study the symbiotic star system, and now work on the research with my own PhD students. By combining 30 years of observations, and three generations of scientific ideas and expertise, we now have a good idea of how the system evolves. But two of the key ingredients of this project really have been patience and perseverance.

    2
    R Aquarii observed using the New Technology Telescope [see NTT below] in 1991. The white vertical line in the middle is caused by light from the red giant and bright inner nebula saturating the detector. Credit: Romano Corradi

    Our work has changed a lot during this time. When I joined 27 years ago, image processing was extremely slow and direct human interaction was needed at every stage in making observations. No real pre-existing codes for processing raw data were available for most astronomical instruments, just basic guides or “recipes”. In addition to this, in the early nineties we typically had to be physically present at a telescope to observe, but nowadays we are often able to use telescopes remotely — almost from the comfort of our own homes! Improved computing power has of course made a huge difference to us. I was lucky to appear on the “astronomy scene” when large and highly efficient CCDs became commonly available in astronomical observatories. This all combined to make our research much more efficient.

    When I arrived at ESO’s La Silla Observatory as a student, I had the chance to take advantage of the superb image quality of the recently installed New Technology Telescope (NTT). The NTT really was a step forward in measuring the fine details necessary to follow the apparent growth of nearby nebulae. Since then, we have used several telescopes for our work, mainly at ESO and at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on La Palma.

    Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2,396 m (7,86

    Because R Aquarii is large and fairly close, it is relatively easy to observe the region around the central binary system out to the place where the outflow mixes with the interstellar medium. At such scales, we see the imprint of the initial “kick” of the outflow. But in order to study the central “engine”, higher spatial resolutions were needed, such as those provided by the SPHERE instrument on the VLT.

    ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT UT3, Cerro Paranal, Chile, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Now a team of scientists led by Hans Martin Schmid from ETH Zurich University has actually used SPHERE to image the innermost regions of R Aquarii in extraordinary detail — even better than can be done from space — enabling them to resolve the source of the jet to further investigate how it is launched into space. It also marks the first time that we can resolve the red giant and white dwarf in this binary system.

    3
    New VLT/SPHERE observations of R Aquarii shows the binary star itself, as well as the jets of material spewing from the stellar couple. The fantastically-detailed images allow the giant star and the white dwarf star in R Aquarii to be resolved.
    Credit: ESO/Schmid et al./NASA/ESA

    R Aquarii is not the only “large-scale structure” this research could help us understand, in fact the information could revolutionise our understanding of the formation and evolution of astrophysical jets. Using SPHERE to image R Aquarii was really a test to see how much the instrument’s new ZIMPOL camera could help with investigating all of these systems in more detail than ever before. The team found that the SPHERE images were of an incredible quality, as well as being complementary to Hubble observations.

    ESO SPHERE ZIMPOL camera schematic

    The timelapse below shows just how much R Aquarii has changed over the last 20 years. At the beginning of the video, we see an image from the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) taken in 1997.


    The evolution of the chaotic and fascinating binary star system R Aquarii, from 1997 to today.
    Credit: T. Liimets et al./ESO/M. Kornmesser


    Nordic Optical telescope, at Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain, Altitude 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

    This is combined with another NOT image from 2007 and a VLT image from 2012 to show how the nebula is growing over time. We can even see how different parts of the system expand with different speeds, for example the white jet grows particularly fast. It is so rare to be able to see theis kind of evolution in astronomy, and I think it’s amazing!

    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

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 4:08 pm on November 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “Revealing the True Nature of Asteroids” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    A team of scientists are currently using ESO’s Very Large Telescope to survey the largest asteroids in the Solar System. Nicknamed HARISSA, the survey has recently gathered lots of information on asteroid Psyche, special because of its metallic nature. In this week’s blog post the team behind the project explain what Psyche can tell us about the history of the Solar System, and how their research will feed into a NASA mission to study the same asteroid.

    Q. Firstly, could you tell us a bit about the HARISSA survey.

    Pierre (P): We are finding out more about some of the largest asteroids in the Asteroid Belt using the SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT).

    ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT MELIPAL UT3, Cerro Paranal, Chile, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    With the VLT, we can see surface features such as craters, allowing us to carry out geology and geophysics from here on Earth for the first time ever. Craters tell us more about the age and collisional history of each asteroid, as a higher number of craters imply an older surface or more violent past. They can also hint at an asteroid’s internal structure.

    Franck (F): We have been observing asteroids for years using the W.M. Keck Observatory, so when we found out about the VLT’s next-generation adaptive optics system, we couldn’t wait to use it to image asteroids with a much better resolution — four times sharper than that of the Hubble Space Telescope! The survey is still ongoing, and more data is coming, so we hope that there will be some interesting results in the future.

    Q. So you observed Psyche as part of this HARISSA survey — could you give us a brief overview of how you observed this asteroid and what you found out?

    P: We combined our VLT observations from May this year with additional data from the last 20 years, many of which came from amateur astronomers! In total, we had 206 data sets for Psyche, and we fed them all into an algorithm to find out about its size and shape. We discovered that it is 226 kilometres wide, with two particularly interesting features — one very bright patch and one huge crater almost half the size of the asteroid itself.

    F: We named the bright patch Panthia and the crater Meroe after the twin witches in the story Metamorphosis, which Psyche’s name also comes from. We also looked for a moon, because measuring a moon’s orbit could give us a good estimate of Psyche’s mass. But we are now almost certain that Psyche hosts no moons larger than one kilometre in diameter.

    2
    Images of Psyche from the HARISSA survey, with Meroe and Panthia highlighted. Credit: ESO/LAM

    Q. Could you tell us a bit about asteroids? What are they and why should we study them?

    F: Asteroids are the remnants of the formation of the Solar System. In a way, they are the “bricks” that make up the Solar System, and it’s important to understand the bricks to understand the whole structure.

    P: Most asteroids live in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. But we believe that they actually formed in a wider range of locations. Some are very rocky, and probably formed closer to the Sun, and some are more icy, having probably formed further out, between Jupiter and Neptune. There are clear differences between these icy and rocky bodies — rocky asteroids are covered in craters, but the presence of ice smooths these scars on the icy asteroids. Rarer, metal-rich asteroids also exist.

    Q. Why did you decide to investigate this particular asteroid? Why is it interesting?

    P: Psyche is much richer in metals than other asteroids, which implies that it formed a very long time ago. Being part of the first generation of planetary building blocks means that it could be useful for understanding the early Solar System.

    F: Also, past radar observations implied that this asteroid is a metallic world with a metal-rich surface. These types of asteroids are rare compared to rocky and icy asteroids. We are trying to observe all types of asteroids through the HARISSA programme, and Psyche is one of the few large metallic asteroids believed to exist.

    F: But actually, we were surprised that our observations showed Psyche to be a mesosiderite asteroid, meaning it is a mixture of metal and rock. Mesosiderite meteorites make up just 0.7% of the meteorites found on Earth, making them even rarer than purely metallic meteorites. This leads us to wonder which asteroids they came from and where these parent bodies were formed. And now we consider that Psyche could be the source of these meteorites!

    P: It is possible that mesosiderite asteroids are the result of a collision between small molten objects and a large asteroid early in the history of the Solar System, or maybe they arose from the breakup and reassembly of a large asteroid. Understanding the formation of Psyche with a dedicated NASA mission will hopefully shed some light on this mystery to tell us more about the early Solar System. That’s really exciting!

    Q. So why is NASA sending a spacecraft to Psyche?

    P: Metal-rich asteroids have not been observed in much detail before. And although we have found out a lot from ground-based observations, some measurements can only be done in situ, for example analysing the composition of the rock to find out what elements are on the surface and measuring the magnetic field around Psyche. The NASA spacecraft will carry instruments that can do these things. It will also measure Psyche’s gravity to find out about its interior, possibly helping us determine whether the asteroid formed as a result of a collision.

    F: Metal-rich asteroids are like a missing piece in the puzzle of our understanding of the formation of the Solar System. And one topic that comes up quite a lot at the moment is asteroid mining. These metal-rich objects are the type that we would mine for precious metals that are becoming more difficult to collect on Earth. But first, we need to answer questions like: how much metal is in the rock? how could we go about extracting it? Moral questions surround asteroid mining, but at least if we understand the science, we can get a broader view of the situation.

    NASA Psyche spacecraft

    Q. Will your observations be useful for the NASA mission?

    F: By carrying out the first exploration of the asteroid, we observed some things that will be very useful for the Psyche mission team, for example, we now know that there is no large moon for the spacecraft to potentially collide with. We also found that the features on the surface vary by about 10% in brightness; this knowledge will help the Psyche team tune their instruments to clearly see surface features — just like when your camera has to adjust to different light levels here on Earth.

    NASA will use all this information to optimise their mission. For example, they might plan to start by studying the most interesting geophysical areas — Meroe or Panthea, perhaps — as they don’t know exactly how long the spacecraft will survive in deep space. They want to get the most interesting results right at the beginning!

    Q. What do you hope to do in the future?

    P: Psyche is moving closer to Earth, so in a few months it will be even larger than when we first observed it. If the HARISSA programme is extended, we hope to get additional observations; new images would allow us to see other sides of the asteroid that weren’t visible when we first observed it in May, meaning we could identify and map new features.

    F: We would also like to use the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) [below] to image this asteroid. The resolution will initially be two to three times better than that of the VLT, so we would be able to see small details on the surface, and to spot if there is a tiny moon. We already have images of the surfaces of the very largest asteroid belt objects, but the ELT will allow us to clearly spot craters on the surfaces of more than 100 asteroids!

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 10:55 am on November 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Missing Solar Siblings   

    From ESOblog: “Missing Solar Siblings” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1

    23 November 2018

    Could the Sun’s long-lost relatives help us find life elsewhere in the Universe?

    It is believed that the Sun has a few thousand solar siblings, any of which could host living organisms similar to those found on Earth. A team of scientists recently searched through data from several ESO telescopes as well as ESA’s Gaia mission to find one such sibling.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Vardan Adibekyan, who led the research, tells us more about what we can learn from these special stars, including why they are a good place to search for life.

    Q. First of all, what is a solar sibling and why should we study them?

    A. It is generally accepted that most stars are born when clouds of dust and gas condense to form stellar clusters. We believe that the Sun was formed in one such cluster about 4.5 billion years ago, together with a few thousand other stars known as “solar siblings”. As time went by, the Sun’s birth cluster disbanded, with its members spreading throughout the Milky Way.

    Different theoretical models suggest that only a handful of these solar sisters are still in the vicinity of the Sun, which makes locating them very difficult. But finding them would help us understand where in the galaxy — and under which conditions — the Sun formed, as well as how we ended up in our current position. There is also a possibility that life was transported between stars in this cluster, potentially making solar siblings an ideal place to search for life that at least started off the same as life on Earth, even if it may have evolved differently.

    Q. Why is it important to understand where and how the Sun formed?

    A. We don’t have much direct information about the Sun’s past. We know that a star’s metallicity — the amount of elements other than hydrogen and helium in its atmosphere — should be similar to the metallicity of the cloud from which it was born. But we have observed that the Sun’s metallicity is actually higher than the average metallicity of most nearby stars of a similar age. This peculiarity is usually explained by the hypothesis that the Sun migrated from the inner part of the Milky Way, where the interstellar medium is more metal-rich.

    At the same time, some of the characteristics of the Solar System suggest that its very early evolution was quite violent, with semi-catastrophic events such as the explosion of a nearby supernova and a close encounter with another star. Finding and characterising solar siblings would help us to better understand the birth and evolution of the Solar System.

    2
    This open cluster is IC 4651, a stellar grouping that lies at in the constellation of Ara (The Altar). The Sun was born in a similar open cluster. Credit: ESO

    Q. There have been searches for solar siblings in the past. What makes your research different?

    A. A good solar sibling candidate has two characteristics: as it would have formed at the same time as the Sun, it should have the same age, and as it would have formed from the same cloud, it should also have the same chemical make-up.

    Indeed, several previous attempts have been made to find solar siblings, and in most of these studies, scientists started by searching for stars moving in a way that some models of the galaxy suggest that solar siblings should move. Then they verified whether the chemical composition and age of the candidate siblings were similar to those of the Sun. But the results are limited because of the dependence on the models used.

    In 2014, I took a different approach to searching for solar siblings, in collaboration with others including Sérgio Batista, a Master’s student at Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA) in Portugal, which is the institute I also work for. For that research, we selected a sample of 1111 stars in the solar vicinity, all previously observed with the HARPS spectrograph on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope [see below].

    We preselected stars with chemical compositions that best match the Sun’s composition, then we estimated their ages and finally, we studied their motions. But the sample of stars was too small, and the number of chemical elements we could study was limited, so we had to try something else.

    3
    A spectrometer splits up light from a star into a spectrum, which can tell us about its chemical composition. Credit: ESO

    Q. So what did you do next?

    A. I decided to undertake a much larger search with the help of Patrick de Laverny and Alejandra Recio-Blanco from the Côte d’Azur Observatory in France.

    Côte d’Azur Observatory, Nice, France Lunar Laser Ranging


    Côte d’Azur Observatory, Nice France

    They were working on a project called AMBRE to create a very large database of light spectra from local stars. A spectrum can tell us a huge amount about a star’s chemical composition.

    The AMBRE database contains lots of archival data from many different instruments, including ESO’s FEROS, HARPS, UVES and GIRAFFE. In total, the database consists of about 230 000 spectra, corresponding to 17 000 stars, all of which have been carefully analysed. From the database, we selected 55 stars with a metallicity similar to that of the Sun for further investigation, and we found that 12 of these are actually chemically identical to the Sun. We combined this information with data about the positions and motions of these stars from ESA’s Gaia mission which enabled us to calculate precise ages for the most interesting stars.

    We found one really good candidate for a solar sibling: HD186302. Like the Sun, this is a G-type main sequence star, identical to the Sun in age and composition. Its other physical properties are also very similar to the Sun’s, making it not just a solar sibling, but also a solar twin.

    Q. Why is it particularly exciting that HD186302 is also a solar twin?

    A. The term “solar sibling” is often confused with “solar twin”. Solar twins are stars that have similar physical properties — such as temperature, metallicity and surface gravity — to the Sun, but they didn’t necessarily form in the same cluster. Solar siblings, on the other hand, always form in the same cluster but apart from their metallicity, don’t necessarily match the Sun’s physical characteristics. As the saying goes, we got “two birds with one stone”.

    The search and study of solar twins is an important subject in itself, because the comparison of properties of such stars with those of our Sun helps to understand how typical or unique the Sun is. And perhaps it’s reasonable to say that a star with similar characteristics to the Sun would be more likely to support life than one with very different characteristics — who knows!

    Q. Tell us more about why solar siblings are good candidates to search for life elsewhere in the Universe.

    A. The somewhat speculative hypothesis that biological materials that can spark life can travel through space and settle in new habitats is called panspermia. In particular, the transfer of life between exoplanet systems is called interstellar lithopanspermia. Thus, solar siblings can be good candidates to search for life, since it is possible that life was transported between planets around stars in the Sun’s birth cluster.

    There was a violent period in the history of the Solar System called the Late Heavy Bombardment, during which many asteroids are thought to have collided with the inner, rocky planets, sending material flying into space. Some calculations show that there is a tiny probability that life spread from Earth to other planets or exoplanet systems during this period. If we are lucky, and our sibling candidate has a planet, and the planet is a rocky one, in the star’s habitable zone, and finally if we are extremely lucky and this planet has been “contaminated” by seeds of life from Earth (or vice versa!)… voilá: we have an Earth 2.0, orbiting a Sun 2.0.

    Q. And will you try to find planets around this star?

    A. Absolutely! Unfortunately, the ESO archive has very few spectra of this star, so at the moment we don’t have enough information to investigate whether there are planets orbiting it. But our team at IA plans to start a campaign to search for possible planets using HARPS and the ESPRESSO instrument on the Very Large Telescope. Not only is there the potential to find life, but finding and characterising planetary systems around solar siblings could return very important information about planet formation in a common 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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 4:18 pm on November 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Searching for an Exoplanet", , , , , , ESOblog,   

    From ESOblog: “Searching for an Exoplanet” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1

    14 November 2018

    After archival data indicated the possible presence of a planet around nearby Barnard’s Star, a team of scientists undertook an epic campaign to try to confirm its presence. The result, published this week and described in an ESO press release, was the discovery of evidence for the second-closest exoplanet to Earth. In this blog post, lead scientist Ignasi Ribas helps us investigate the discovery further and look at the incredible story behind it.

    Related ESO press release can be found here.
    See https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2018/11/14/from-european-southern-observatory-super-earth-orbiting-barnards-star/ for a full accounting of the instrumentation used in this project and also the science team.

    Q. Could you start by telling us what you found and why it’s exciting?

    A. We have combined 20 years of observations to discover a candidate planet around Barnard’s Star, one of the nearest stars to the Sun. Barnard’s Star has been famous for a long time, not only because of its proximity and because it is the fastest moving star in the night sky, but also because back in the 1960s scientists thought that they found an exoplanet system orbiting it. Those planets were later disproved, but now we believe that we really have found one!

    We are 99% sure that this planet exists. It is a cold super-Earth at least 3.2 times the mass of the Earth, orbiting 60% closer to its parent star than Earth does to the Sun. Even so, Barnard’s Star is so small and cool that it provides this planet with just 2% of the energy that the Earth receives from the Sun, and therefore this planet is a very cold world.

    2
    Data from many different instruments, including ESO´s planet-hunter HARPS, have revealed this frozen, dimly lit world. (Artist´s impression)
    Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

    Q. Why do you think it’s important to search for planets around other stars?

    A. Personally I am involved in this area of research because I want to understand our place in the Universe. I think part of understanding our situation is to find out about nearby planets, to discover their properties and figure out how they formed. This will help us discover whether Earth is unique or whether life could be commonplace in the Universe.

    Much of the Universe is still a complete mystery; at the moment we are exploring it long-distance, from Earth, but perhaps someday in the distant future we will really be able to visit these planets, so we need to find out more about them first.

    Q. So tell us how you went about finding this planet.

    A. We used a technique called the radial velocity, or Doppler, method.

    Radial Velocity Method-Las Cumbres Observatory

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

    When a planet orbits a star, its gravity pulls the star forwards and backwards just a tiny amount, changing its velocity slightly and making the star wobble. When a star comes towards us, its light becomes “squashed” and the wavelength we see is more blue, and when the star moves away, its light reddens, in what is known as the Doppler effect. This method allows us to find out the minimum mass of the planet, but we must use complementary techniques to determine a planet’s true mass.

    We went through huge amounts of data dating back to the 90s to look for a pattern in this star’s motions and saw that it was moving forwards and backwards with a regular rhythm. The wavelength, and therefore the star’s velocity, varies with a period of roughly 233 days, implying that a planet orbits once every 233 days. Determining how much the wavelength changes over this time allowed us to figure out how fast the star moves towards and away from us. The mass of the planet is related to the change in velocity, so we were able to calculate the minimum mass of the planet to be about three times the mass of Earth.


    This animation shows how astronomers watch for changes in the wavelength of light from a star to search for exoplanets.
    Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

    Q. Planets have been discovered around stars thousands of light-years away. Barnard’s Star is just six light-years away, so why was this planet not found before?

    A. There have actually been many previous searches for planets around Barnard’s Star, and even announcements of discoveries, but not one has ever been confirmed. The thing is that the candidate planet we found is so small and so far from its host star that its effect on the star is really, really tiny. The planet only changed the star’s speed by 4.3 km/h in each direction and with a long period of 233 days, making it extremely difficult to detect. Finding the planet was only possible by collecting an enormous number of velocity measurements. In total, we combined nearly 800 measurements from seven different facilities.

    In particular, between 2016 and 2017 we used the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope to observe Barnard’s Star on every possible night that we could, to gather as much information as possible on how its velocity changes over time. It is thanks to HARPS and the CARMENES instrument at Calar Alto Observatory that we can be sufficiently confident that this planet exists.

    ESO/HARPS at La Silla


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

    CARMENES spectrograph, mounted on the Calar Alto 3.5 meter Telescope, located in Almería province in Spain on Calar Alto, a 2,168-meter-high (7,113 ft) mountain in Sierra de Los Filabres



    Calar Alto 3.5 meter Telescope, located in Almería province in Spain on Calar Alto, a 2,168-meter-high (7,113 ft) mountain in Sierra de Los Filabres

    Q. You say that you are 99% sure that this is a planet. Where does the uncertainty come from? And how certain do you have to be before you are convinced this is a planet?

    A. We would like to be 99.9% certain that this is a planet before we stop observing it. We already feel very sure — it passes all the tests that a planet should pass, but we will continue to make more observations to become more certain.

    The uncertainty comes from the intrinsic error in each radial velocity measurement. In this case, the typical uncertainty of our data is 3.6 km/h, meaning that each velocity measurement we obtain could actually be anywhere within an interval of 3.6 km/h around the value we observe. This is large compared to the velocity values of 4.3 km/h that we are dealing with, so we needed hundreds of measurements to beat down the errors. Furthermore, such precision requires instruments to be extremely stable over timescales of decades so that we can trust that all radial velocities are free from systematic effects. Heat and cold, for example, can affect how instruments operate, so engineers try to keep the instruments at a constant temperature and we are sure to correct for any change. We are convinced that instrument effects cannot be responsible for the 4.3 km/h signal we observed because we see the same value in datasets from different instruments.

    Q. If it isn’t a planet, what else could it be?

    A. There is a small chance that the signal is produced naturally by the star. We found that Barnard’s Star spins very slowly, with a rotation period of about 140 days. As the star rotates, the starspots on its surface rotate with it, appearing and disappearing in a way that could give rise to a signal similar to the one we observed. We calculated the possibility of this to be 0.8% — small, but not zero. More observations will help us decrease this small chance even further and nail the case for the planetary nature of the radial velocity modulations that we are seeing.

    Q. Will you try to confirm that this is a planet in the future? How will you do this?

    A. Absolutely! It’s proximity makes this planet a prime target for exoplanet research. For now, we will continue to collect more radial velocity data to push down the uncertainty even further. Then we would like to observe the planet using different techniques, for example, we could use the Hubble Space Telescope or ESA’s Gaia mission to look for the change in the position of the star in the sky as the planet’s gravity pulls the star around as it orbits. Using a space telescope to do this would tell us more about the properties of this planet.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    This planet is one billion times fainter than its parent star, so it would be extremely difficult to take a direct image of it — we could not dream of doing this with the telescopes that exist today. But now we know where to look for it, we would like to use the amazing imaging capabilities of ESO’s future Extremely Large Telescope to image it.

    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).

    This would reveal a huge amount of information about the planet, for example about its orbit, radius, mass and temperature.

    Q. Earlier you mentioned that scientists thought they found a planet around Barnard’s Star back in the 1960s. Did you see any sign of this “planet” whilst you were carrying out this research?

    A. We did find something! Our analysis revealed that the velocity of Barnard’s Star varies not only with the 233-day period of the planet discovered by us, but also with an intriguing long-term period of 15–20 years. This period is similar to that of the planets proposed in the 1960s but the radial velocity variations are much smaller than would be expected. If the variations were caused by a second planet, it would be very distant from its parent star and with a mass similar to Neptune.

    But we actually think it’s more likely that the long-term variation is caused by changes in the magnetic activity of the star. Just like the Sun — which has a sunspot cycle of about 11 years — Barnard’s Star gets more and less active over time. Very precise position measurements using the Hubble Space Telescope or Gaia could be used to further investigate the possibility of an outer planet orbiting Barnard’s star.

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 8:54 pm on November 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ASKAP- CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope in remote Western Australia, , , , , , ESOblog, , FRBs-fast radio bursts-one of today’s big mysteries in astronomy, If we can identify host galaxies of FRBs with ASKAP then we can use a telescope like ESO’s VLT to get optical spectra of those galaxies which can tell us their distances very precisely   

    From ESOblog: “Pinpointing the Hosts of Fast Radio Bursts” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1

    9 November 2018

    1
    2
    Interview with Elizabeth Mahony and Stuart Ryder

    First detected barely a decade ago, fast radio bursts (FRBs) are one of today’s big mysteries in astronomy, and Australia’s ASKAP telescope is the best facility in the world for detecting them.

    Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is a radio telescope array located at Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in the Australian Mid West. ASKAP consists of 36 identical parabolic antennas, each 12 metres in diameter, working together as a single instrument with a total collecting area of approximately 4,000 square metres.

    A team of scientists recently used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to follow up on an ASKAP detection, to search for an FRB host galaxy to find out more about how, where and why they form. This investigation was possible thanks to a long-term partnership between ESO and Australia, and is an elegant example of the complementary nature of Australia’s radio telescopes and ESO’s optical telescopes. Project members Elizabeth Mahony and Stuart Ryder tell us more.

    Q. What are fast radio bursts and why should we be interested in them?

    Stuart (S): Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are bright bursts of radio emission that last for just a few milliseconds. Their energetic nature tells us that they must be caused by extreme events, but being so short-lived they are extremely difficult to detect. Pinpointing exactly where they come from is even more challenging, so we still know very little about the environments they form in and the triggers that cause them.

    Elizabeth (E): About 50 FRBs have been detected in the past, but just one has been pinpointed to a host galaxy, and that is the only one that has had repeated bursts. For all other detected FRBs we don’t know precisely where they came from, which makes it hard to understand them and their host galaxies.

    Q. Tell us more about your investigation.

    E: An FRB was spotted a year ago by CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope in remote Western Australia. This particular object, denoted FRB 171020, has the lowest “dispersion measure” detected to date — this measure tells us how much matter the radio emission has travelled through. The value suggests that the FRB must have taken place less than one billion light-years away, meaning that its light took one billion years to reach us. This sounds extremely distant but actually, it’s the closest FRB ever detected, making it easier for us to narrow down its location and search for its host galaxy. The ASKAP detection gave us a rough idea of the position of this FRB, so we could then search for its host galaxy.

    Q. How does ASKAP detect FRBs when they last just a few milliseconds?

    S: ASKAP is a radio telescope made up of 36 antennas that can each see 30 square degrees of sky — as a reference, the full Moon covers just 0.2 square degrees of sky! To search for FRBs we use ASKAP in an unusual configuration called “fly’s-eye mode” where each antenna points in a different direction. This maximises the amount of sky that is observed at once, drastically increasing the chances of catching an FRB when it happens.

    Q. Why is it interesting to identify the host galaxies of FRBs?

    S: All we know currently is that FRBs are the result of some sort of astronomical object undergoing a dramatic, though not necessarily destructive, outburst. If it emerges that FRBs originate only in certain types of galaxies, then this will offer us clues about what objects and environments can spark FRBs.

    E: In addition to this, if we can identify host galaxies of FRBs, we can use a telescope like ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to get optical spectra of those galaxies, which can tell us their distances very precisely. By comparing these physical distances with the measured dispersion values, we will be able to trace the distribution of matter between galaxies far more accurately than is currently possible. Once the distances to thousands of FRB host galaxies are known, we will be able to conduct 3D “tomography” of the intergalactic medium, that will help us understand more about how galaxies expel and accrete gas.

    Q. Why did you use the VLT to follow-up on this FRB?

    E: FRBs are so bright that they can be detected even if they are very far from Earth, coming from potentially quite dim host galaxies. This, combined with the fact that we don’t know what kind of galaxies host FRBs, means that we need to use the largest optical telescopes in the world to identify the correct host galaxy.

    Q. …and what did you find?

    E: With ASKAP we located FRB171020 to an area of sky measuring 50 arcminutes by 34 arcminutes (roughly two full Moons across), but this area contains hundreds of galaxies. The dispersion measure helped us narrow down this number to just 16 potential host galaxies. We then used the VLT’s X-shooter instrument to determine the distances to these 16 galaxies, and identified the closest one — nearby spiral ESO 601-G036 — as the most likely to be the host galaxy.

    ESO X-shooter on VLT on UT2 at Cerro Paranal, Chile

    ESO 601-G036 is 120 million light-years away, which is within the distance limit set by the dispersion measure. This is the first time that a host galaxy has been singled out for a non-repeating FRB. With this knowledge, we will be able to further investigate what kind of environments FRBs are formed in, and shed light on what causes these very energetic outbursts.

    S: We also saw a dim “smudge” next to ESO 601-G036, at the same distance. We expect that this is the remains of another galaxy merging with the larger ESO 601-G036 — a process that can be extremely violent and could potentially spark FRBs. It will be interesting to see if other FRB host galaxies show such signs of merger activity.

    3
    The area of sky selected for follow-up observation by the VLT, with potential host galaxies circled in red and ESO 601-G036 at the centre. At the bottom left is a more detailed picture of ESO 601-G036 from the VST Atlas survey. Credit: Elizabeth Mahony

    Q. When did ESO sign a strategic partnership with Australia and what does this partnership mean for the astronomical community?

    S: The Strategic Partnership between ESO and Australia was signed on 11 July 2017 in Canberra, during the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Astronomical Society of Australia. It gives the Australian astronomy community access to ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories, as well as the opportunity to bid for instrumentation and industry contracts. It also secured the immediate future operations of the Anglo-Australian Telescope.


    AAO Anglo Australian Telescope near Siding Spring, New South Wales, Australia, Altitude 1,100 m (3,600 ft)

    Siding Spring Mountain with Anglo-Australian Telescope dome visible near centre of image at an altitude of 1,165 m (3,822 ft)

    The ten-year agreement lays a pathway for full Australian membership to ESO, which would then include access to ALMA [below] and the ELT [below].

    Q. How did the partnership allow you to make this discovery?

    S: While ASKAP is the world’s best facility for detecting FRBs, we need access to other telescopes to carry out the optical and infrared follow-up of their candidate host galaxies. Through this Strategic Partnership, we now have long-term certainty of access to such telescopes. Australia has really dominated the search for FRBs in the past, and is well-placed to feed a steady stream of FRB detections to ESO for rapid follow-up.

    Q. Do you think that the European-Australian collaboration will lead to more astronomical discoveries than either partner could achieve alone?

    E: Absolutely! ASKAP is now operating in a mode that will potentially allow us to not only detect more FRBs, but to then pinpoint their positions with a really high accuracy. That means we could work out not only exactly which galaxy an FRB occurred in, but even where within the galaxy it occurred. Do FRBs occur at the centre of galaxies, perhaps pointing to black holes as their source? Or do they prefer the outskirts of galaxies? Once we know that, we can use the unparalleled capability of the VLT’s MUSE instrument with the Laser Guide Star Facility to home in on the sites of FRBs, as well as to reveal intervening galaxies that the FRB signal passed through.

    ESO MUSE on the VLT on Yepun (UT4),

    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.

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 9:26 am on November 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Planning for the Unplannable", , , , , ESOblog, Site Safety Engineer Christian Muckle   

    From ESOblog: “Planning for the Unplannable” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    On the Ground

    2 November 2018

    2
    Christian Muckle

    ESO manages and operates some of the most complex scientific instruments in the world, in some of the remotest places on Earth. Making sure they perform reliably is vital for providing astronomers with as much observing time as possible. Site Safety Engineer Christian Muckle tells us about how he protects ESO’s exceptional equipment and its employees by designing regulations that prevent disasters — or at least lessen their impact.

    Q: What is the duty of a Safety Engineer and how did you come to work in this role?

    A: In principle, a Safety Engineer is an advisor. In French it is nicely called le conseiller en prévention: the prevention advisor. I studied architecture, but I was always interested in the safety functions and the very basic sheltering features of buildings. After beginning my career at the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), I started my own company dealing with building evaluation, fire safety, and fire prevention for the hospitality industry — that company is now headed by my wife. And in 2010 I wanted to do something new, which is when, whilst being trained on industrial safety, I became an ESO Site Safety Engineer.

    The crux of my work is to advise anyone with a safety issue on how to solve it. But we are not just implementing regulations at ESO; as an international scientific organisation we must develop and write them ourselves, especially when it comes to the one-of-a-kind equipment we produce. ESO’s goal is to build observatories and provide scientific data to the community, so we need to carefully consider the risks involved in designing and using this equipment.

    Q: What kind of risks does ESO’s equipment face?

    A: There are specific risks associated with every place on Earth. ESO’s telescopes are in Chile, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but also one of the most seismically active ones, which doesn’t go hand-in-hand with delicate telescopes! And the observatories are in the very remote Atacama Desert — there are no public emergency services or hardware stores there, so it’s essential that our equipment works safely. It must also resist all the sand and extreme temperatures without wear or safety issues. That’s my main focus — making sure the equipment that will one day end up on the mountain works well and doesn’t come with “surprises” for the people using it.

    3
    Far from light pollution caused by civilisation, ESO’s La Silla Observatory provides a clear view of the night sky for ESO’s telescopes.
    Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)

    Q: …and what kind of risks do ESO’s employees face? What does ESO’s safety record look like?

    A: Here in Germany the highest risks typically involve people cycling to work in wintertime, skidding on ice, and other work-related traffic accidents. Traffic safety is one of the most challenging areas of my job — unfortunately we can’t just tell the staff to take the subway!

    Many people working at the ALMA radio telescope commute 28 kilometres each way on a narrow gravel road at altitudes of up to 5000 metres, so we must consider their vehicle type, promote drowsiness awareness, think about oxygen levels and more. At La Silla and Paranal Observatory, the traffic issue are less relevant, and the 24/7 operational and maintenance risks on large moving structures prevail. But, fortunately, ESO is a truly caring employer, and people rarely get hurt.

    Q: How difficult is it to keep ESO running smoothly?

    A: If there is a safety issue, calling the fire service or an ambulance is not an option — we have to take care of it ourselves. We are running whole villages on these mountains and tasks like moving the telescope domes, transporting and cooking a lot of food and storing and providing large amounts of fuel and water don’t come without risk.

    Some activities come with predictable safety concerns, for example the Very Large Telescope shines powerful lasers 90 kilometres through the atmosphere. It was, and is, necessary to take precautions when building and adjusting the laser, and of course, we must be careful never to look into it! We also cooperate with local air traffic authorities to avoid dangers to aircrafts. Other technologies might come with unexpected safety risks, especially as our telescopes and their enclosures don’t exactly come off the shelf!

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun

    When building a telescope in Chile, it is vital to account for earthquakes. The ELT will weigh 8000 tonnes in total, and there is no immediate way to stop that much mass.

    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: How do your worries change with the construction — and then maintenance — of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT)?

    A: When building a telescope in Chile, it is vital to account for earthquakes. For the safety of the staff and the telescope itself, our mechanical engineers are doing many calculations to ensure that when the ground beneath the ELT starts shaking, the telescope remains as stable as possible. And what happens if there’s an earthquake while part of the equipment is in an unstable position on a crane? We need to consider potential dangers at every moment.

    The bigger the structure, the more vigilant you have to be about its mechanical parts; the ELT will weigh 8000 tonnes in total, and there is no immediate way to stop that much mass. We will also have to recoat at least one of its 798 mirror segments each day. It will be a whole new world for us to work at such an industrial scale.


    Construction is underway at Cerro Armazones — the home of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). When construction is complete the ELT will be the largest optical telescope​ ever built, with a dome the size of a cathedral. Credit: ESO

    Q: What experiences at ESO have been particularly important to you?

    A: Maybe the moment I visited Paranal for the first time and saw my safety plans and contributions in place. When you see ESO’s telescopes in operation, and you see them under the starlight, how they move and perform, and the happy faces of the scientists who are gathering data — I think that’s one of the most rewarding moments. But there have also been some funny moments over here in Germany, like when we tested the Laser Guide Star system and people came through the fields and bushes to ask whether a new dancing hall had opened, because they had seen the light in the sky!

    Q: Finally, what can we all do to make sure to maintain an excellent level of safety at ESO?

    A: Safety is not only a matter of technology, it’s also a matter of soft skills, of awareness, empathy, and taking care. We should remain risk aware and empathetic towards our colleagues, understand the risks and preserve our fellows from harm — that’s the best prevention model.

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 1:17 pm on October 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Gert Finger known as one of the “fathers” of ESO detectors,   

    From ESOblog: “A Lifetime at ESO” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    26 October 2018

    1

    2
    Gert Finger

    The detectors used on ESO’s telescopes are among the best in the world, and without them, ESO would not be able to provide the astronomical community with the amazing facilities that it is known for. The development of these detectors is only possible with many years of research and hard work. And here at ESO, it is common knowledge that a lot of this work can be attributed to Gert Finger, known as one of the “fathers” of ESO detectors. In this week’s blog post, Gert shares insights into his career and tells us more about what makes ESO’s detectors so special.

    Q: Firstly could you tell us how you became involved in ESO? What was your path to working here?

    A: After obtaining my PhD from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich, I was uncertain where to go. I had received an offer from the renowned Bell Labs in the US, but the technical specialist who had assisted me during my PhD had also found a newspaper announcement for a technical position at ESO in Munich. My son said, “Munich, Munich, Munich!” because he wanted me to stay close to him in my home in Austria. I also liked the fact that ESO has never been involved in any military projects. At the time ESO was building the IRSPEC instrument, a spectrometer for the ESO 3.6-metre telescope, which I thought would be really interesting to work on. So because of all of these reasons my final choice was to apply to ESO.

    ESO IRSPEC now decommissioned

    Q: And you’ve worked in the ESO technology department ever since! What kind of roles did you have there?

    A: Initially, I was working on the calibration and grating of IRSPEC, but once this instrument was finished I started working on a few other instruments. Slowly but surely I moved more into the detector field, which was challenging as I didn’t start out as a detector specialist at all. Throughout my time at ESO I have worked on almost all the infrared detectors that have gone onto the ESO instrumentation.

    Detectors are incredibly important because by converting photons of light into an electrical signal, they achieve the final collection of light that allows us to observe the Universe. When I first joined ESO there were two separate detector groups — one working on detectors that collected optical light and the other focused on infrared light. Later on, the two groups merged and eventually I was appointed Head of the Detector Department, which was my position until the end of my career. Upon retirement, I became an emeritus physicist at ESO. So yes indeed, I have spent a lot of my life here at ESO!

    Q: Within ESO you are known as the “go-to-guy” for information about the ESO detectors. Can you tell us more about them?

    IRAC1 on the ESO 2.2m telescope at LaSilla

    A: The first astronomical research was carried out using the human eye as a detector of light. Then in the 19th century astronomers started using photography to record astronomical images. Nowadays we use electronic detectors, which convert light into electrons to produce images and spectra. Detectors are found in all the instruments of ESO’s telescopes and almost all of these have been developed in house. One of ESO’s areas of expertise is in detector controllers which operate the detectors. We have created our own controller, the NGC controller, which can work with all of the detector systems. This is a big advantage over other observatories that use lots of different controllers from different companies — a nightmare regarding maintenance!

    Q: Is there anything you’ve worked on during your time at ESO that you are particularly proud of?

    A: I am really proud of initiating electron avalanche photodiode (eAPD) detector technology.

    3
    Avalanche photodiode

    4
    A 320 x 256 pixel eAPD array as used in the GRAVITY instrument. This detector has revolutionised ground-based astronomy.

    ESO GRAVITY insrument on The VLTI, interferometric instrument operating in the K band, between 2.0 and 2.4 μm. It combines 4 telescope beams and is designed to peform both interferometric imaging and astrometry by phase referencing. Credit: MPE/GRAVITY team

    When a photon enters an eAPD, it creates an electron which is accelerated to generate an avalanche of fast-moving electrons that are more easily detected than a single electron. eAPDs outperform any other high-speed sensor technology in terms of sensitivity and they are now used worldwide! Five eAPDs are installed on the GRAVITY instrument in the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), allowing it to peer into the galactic centre and precisely measure the positions and movements of stars. GRAVITY has even helped reveal the effects predicted by Einstein’s general relativity on the motion of a star passing through the extreme gravitational field near the black hole at the Milky Way’s centre. And it has led to more amazing discoveries soon to be announced.

    The Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) really understood what could be gained with this technology so I would like to thank them for all their support. The company manufacturing the arrays of eAPDs is called LEONARDO, and I would like to thank Adrian Russell, Director of Programmes at ESO for funding several production runs at LEONARDO. It is thanks to a collaboration between several partners that we have been able to develop this completely new technology.

    Q: How many years have you worked at ESO, and how has ESO changed during your time here?

    A: I came to ESO in 1983 and have acquired expertise over time. To avoid becoming someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing, it is important to communicate with other specialists. In my opinion, what is great about ESO is that there are people who are truly experts in their field, who love their job and who are very competent. There is a lot of support and people are always interested in what you are doing. There has obviously been a lot of restructuring during my time here but these people and their expertise are the backbone of ESO and it’s very nice that this has survived all the changes.

    Q: You’ve retired now. Many people would relish the freedom from work but you’ve decided to remain heavily involved in ESO. Why?

    A: To be honest, the main reason I chose to continue was for the eAPD technology. It had just been implemented in GRAVITY and I saw that it could be developed further — not only for high-speed sensors that correct the twinkling of stars as their light passes through Earth’s atmosphere, but also for large science detectors. I realised this technology could mark the next step in sensitivity, since many characteristics of eAPD arrays are equal to, or better than, the characteristics of conventional science detectors currently in use.

    GRAVITY is home to Mark#3 detectors, but we’ve recently developed version Mark#14, which shows just how far this technology has come over the last few years! GRAVITY eAPDs collect light with wavelengths between 1.3 and 2.5 microns, but the current eAPD technology is sensitive between 0.8 and 2.5 microns. The VLT’s MUSE instrument needs exactly such a sensor to be able to see more astronomical objects.

    Q: What has been your favourite moment working at ESO?

    A: It’s hard to choose just one moment but a special memory that stands out is when we got IRAC 1 working. This is a cryogenic infrared camera which hosted several generations of infrared detector arrays. Another nice moment was when the ISAAC instrument went to the VLT.

    ESO ISAAC at the Nasmyth A focus of UT3 on the VLT

    At that time, there was no hotel for astronomers to stay in; we lived in containers but it was someone’s birthday so a guitar came out and a party got started. I’m so grateful that there are very competent people to collaborate with at ESO and when I come to them they are always open and we have fun working together.

    Q: How do you feel about being known as one of the “fathers” of ESO detectors?

    A: What can I say… it’s true that I started with one-pixel detectors and just before I retired I was working with some 4096 x 4096-pixel infrared detectors! I am extremely lucky and happy that my professional career spanned the time during which detector technology developed very, very quickly.

    Q: Is there anything else you would like to mention about your time at ESO?

    A: I believe that technology development should be prioritised because it really helps the organisation and astronomy as a whole. ESO is a world-leader in this field and it should make sure it stays there. I also think that it’s incredibly important to make ESO technology available for telescopes belonging to other institutes, and I have always worked hard to ensure that this is the case.

    The most important things during my professional life were curiosity, inquisitiveness, communication with experts working in other fields and collaboration with instrument consortia and detector manufacturers.

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 3:46 pm on October 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Christine Desbordes- Head of the Logistics and Facilities Management at Paranal Observatory, , ESOblog, Towards an Ecological and Sustainable ESO   

    From ESOblog: “Towards an Ecological and Sustainable ESO” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    19 October 2018, On the Ground

    3
    Interview with:
    Christine Desbordes

    ESO designs, constructs and operates the most powerful ground-based telescopes in the world, which places significant demands on resources, including energy. ESO’s observatories are located in Chile’s isolated Atacama Desert, and in such a location, limiting the impact on the surroundings while ensuring effective and efficient observations can be extremely difficult. Christine Desbordes, Head of the Logistics and Facilities Management at Paranal Observatory, tell us more about the environmental challenges ESO faces and its impact-reduction policies.

    Q: What are you responsible for here at Paranal?

    A: I am currently the Head of Logistics and Facilities Management at Paranal Observatory. I lead the management of the Residencia, which is where astronomers sleep and eat when they observe here. I also oversee the fleet of 75 vehicles and the maintenance of the civil infrastructure, including the basecamp — it’s like operating a small town!

    Q: Tell us a little about your background and how you joined ESO.

    A: I was born in France in the mid-60s before being raised in West Africa, where I caught the globetrotting virus. As soon as I finished my studies, I left France to start an international career, first in the private sector and later in the public sector. From 2014 to 2016, I held a challenging post as the Head of Administration for both the Kenya and Somalia delegations based in Nairobi, the second biggest representation of the European Union. When my oldest daughter finished high school and went off to university in the United Kingdom, I felt it was time to do something else. An ESO position at Paranal was exactly what I was looking for: a challenging task in a quiet region of a beautiful country.

    3
    Paranal Observatory is situated in the vast Atacama Desert, far from other civilisation. In this image, the telescopes are in the foreground with the Residencia to their right. Credit: ESO/M. Tarenghi

    Q: Paranal sits in the hostile Atacama Desert, 130 km from the nearest city of Antofagasta, so keeping people fed and watered must take a lot of resources. How do you reduce ESO’s ecological footprint?

    A: Indeed, as Paranal is so remote, food, water and other consumables have to either be produced on-site or trucked in from nearby cities. Paranal has always been wary of the impact of its presence in the Atacama Desert. Before my arrival in August 2016, a member of staff investigated the impact of the flights that bring people to the observatory. And the Maintenance, Software and Engineering Department had already started a recycling procedure for things like oil, batteries and pneumatics. But more certainly needed to be done; my department realised we had to contribute to the “three Rs” (reduce, reuse and recycle).

    We started with small projects such as monitoring food waste, reducing plastic and increasing our use of biodegradable products — we have replaced plastic laundry bags with fabric bags and standard bulbs with LED bulbs. We also reduced the number of big shuttle buses to and from Antofagasta by designing a better rotation distribution during the weekdays. Furthermore, we now organise most of the weekend transfers with more energy efficient vehicles.

    We also have plans for bigger projects which will take more time, for example we plan to install an osmosis plant in 2020 that will recycle up to one third of our waste water. This will avoid having to bring an additional water truck when we host the workers who will be assembling the Extremely Large Telescope in the near future.

    4
    The Residencia gives astronomers the chance to relax.
    Credit: N. Blind/ESO

    Q: The osmosis plant sounds intriguing — could you explain more about how it will work?

    A: We will launch the concept study next year for the upgrade of the existing sewage treatment plant to include the osmosis technology which is the one most used in Chile. The purpose is to be able to recycle up to 30 cubic metres of waste water per day, which will be used in a separate circuit in the toilets and gardens.

    Q: One of your initiatives was to reduce the number of plastic bottles used at Paranal. How did you approach the problem, and was it a success?

    A: Indeed, we started with the most obvious problem which was not only a polluting factor but also a logistics challenge: in 2016, Paranal Observatory disposed of more than 120 000 plastic bottles. To reduce this number, we replaced the individual water bottles with reusable 10-litre and 20-litre containers and we give our staff and visitors individual reusable bottles to refill. We also replaced the individual fizzy drinks bottles by drinks distributors. In 2018, Paranal will dispose of fewer than 12 000 individual bottles — ten times fewer than we used in 2016 — and we will recycle all of these.

    The process was definitely challenging! We had some logistical hiccups with the new suppliers and some resistance to the change on site, but in the end we have a simpler and more reliable water supply system. And I think the onsite staff have come round to the more eco-friendly system!

    Q: Paranal was recently connected to the Chilean electrical grid, which works on mainly renewable energy. What does this mean for ESO and how has the change affected Paranal’s ecological footprint?

    A: Before being connected to the grid, we created power using a gas turbine backed up by a generator which were both terrible for the environment. After being connected in December 2017, our ecological footprint has been considerably reduced as we don’t burn any fossil fuels. Additionally, the connection will allow us to further replace energy consuming items like the gas water boilers at the basecamp with solar-powered boilers and the petrol- and diesel-fueled vehicles with cars that run completely on electricity.

    5
    A hotel room with a view. Credit: Y. Beletsky (LCO)/ESO

    Q: Yes, we’ve actually heard that Paranal will receive its first electric cars this year! Will the whole fleet eventually be electric cars?

    A: We estimate that, depending on the availability of funds, in the next 10–15 years up to 75% of the fleet could be electric sedans and small vans. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to only have electric cars; due to the nature of our activities, we need pick-ups and small trucks on site and, although Chile is promoting the industry, we will not have those specialised electric vehicles available anytime soon.

    Q: How could ESO reduce its ecological footprint in future?

    A: At the moment we are quite heavily restricted by the fact that the Chilean industry has not yet reached a particularly eco-friendly level, so we struggle to find companies who can help us. Hopefully this will change over the next few years!

    Otherwise, the two biggest pollution factors are also the most challenging to tackle. One of these polluters is travel to bring astronomers and support staff to the observatory to carry out their work. Currently, the majority of Paranal observations are made without flying in visiting astronomers, but we are still responsible for more than 10 000 domestic flights per year! To reduce this number, we could look into reducing the number of shifts per year and/or limiting any increase in staff members.

    The other big polluter is the transportation of water and waste, which involves two or three lorries per day. To reduce the impact of this, we could limit our own water use on site even more, and make more of our own water, for example with a desalination plant. We could also further reduce our waste, for example with an organic waste disposal system.

    Even though those possible measures seem like extreme changes that would involve serious financial investment, we are trying our best to continue implementing reduction, recycling and reuse as much as we can at our observatories.

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 11:26 am on October 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Astronomy Past and Present, , , , ESOblog   

    From ESOblog: “Astronomy Past and Present” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    1
    People@ESO

    12 October 2018

    2
    Interview with:
    Valentina Schettini

    Valentina Schettini is part of the team of science content writers at the ESO Supernova & Planetarium Centre. In this week’s ESOblog post she tells us about her role in creating the AstroCalendar, a database of astronomical events that brings the past and present wonders of the Universe to the public.

    Q: How do you describe the ESO Supernova to your friends and family?

    ESO Supernova Planetarium, Garching Germany

    3
    Jupiter and Saturn hang over the reception at the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre. These planets are part of a scale model exhibition comparing the sizes of the planets but they were too big to be placed with the rest of them so take their place in the foyer area instead. The planets are part of the exhibition The Living Universe, which covers 2200 m2 of the visitor centre. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek

    A: The ESO Supernova takes visitors on a trip through the Universe itself, but possibly more importantly, it also tells the story of human efforts to discover and understand the Universe.

    The exhibition starts in the Solar System, with the Sun and the planets that we know so well but which are still so fascinating. Then, we move away through the rest of the unknown, mysterious Universe, on an adventure through space and through human exploration. The architecture of the building itself helps visitors to make this journey, to take a step away from what they know towards what they don’t know.

    Q: What is the AstroCalendar?

    A: It’s a database of over a thousand astronomically relevant events explained for non-experts, each accompanied by at least one high-quality image and in some cases videos. An event could be something interesting happening in the sky tonight or over the next few days. It could also be something that happened in the history of science on this day, particularly relevant to astronomy or cosmology. The database includes eclipses, lunar phases, the publication of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope and much more!

    For now, the AstroCalendar has two main uses. The first is in planetariums; it has already been incorporated into the Data2Dome project which is a content distribution system used by the majority of planetarium software including Digistar 6 which the ESO Supernova uses. Data2Dome gathers and shares lots of multimedia content from places like NASA and ESA and enables planetarium presenters to act as astronomical weathermen. They arrive at the planetarium and through a news feed find out everything interesting happening in the sky that day, as well as lots of historically interesting events. They can then base their own show on this news feed, and this is already happening around the world!

    _____________________________________
    Data2Dome allows planetarium presenters to act as astronomical weathermen.
    _____________________________________

    The second use of the AstroCalendar database is as a touchscreen in the ESO Supernova, which any visitor can use to explore current events as well as historical ones. They can also see high-quality images relating to different events. We are planning to publicly release this touchscreen as well as most of the other ESO Supernova content under a free Creative Commons license later this year.

    Q: Do you have a favourite astronomical event that you felt should be included in the AstroCalendar?

    A: I don’t have one specific favourite event, but one aspect I really liked about creating the AstroCalendar is including scientific contributions from all over the world. Science has come from people of all ages and levels — some discoveries were even made by amateur astronomers in their back gardens!

    It is clear looking back at the history of science that collaboration is key. Something could be hypothesised by one person, and later confirmed with an experimental proof by someone else. It is always a continuous conversation through history between people who want to find out more about the world. I think this is really inspirational for the future, too.

    Q. Could you tell us more about the process of creating the AstroCalendar?

    A: My role was to set clear criteria for choosing which events to include and then to put the events into the database. I am hugely grateful to the rest of the ePOD staff, who were always incredibly kind and helpful, but I would also like to use this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who helped me collect the information and translate all the written content from English to German.

    4
    Screenshots from the AstroCalendar touchscreen at the ESO Supernova.

    One of the most challenging but interesting steps was when we started to include dynamic events happening in the sky — like bright comets, close encounters with Near Earth Objects, and visible passages of the International Space Station — from other feeds.

    Q: How else have you contributed to the ESO Supernova?

    A: I designed two other touchscreens — one for Portal to the Universe and one for NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. Much of my role has been focused on designing digital interfaces in the Planetarium & Visitor Centre — thinking about how people come into contact with the vast amount of wonderful content that we have produced. Throughout the planning, we focused on the Supernova values: science communication, openness of information, and practical learning experiences.

    Q: What is most exciting for you personally about the ESO Supernova?

    A: I am always really curious about the reaction people have when they first walk through our doors. I’ve been a tour guide since the centre opened and I always look forward to welcoming visitors and walking them through the exciting exhibitions.

    I get particularly excited talking to teenagers about astronomy, and seeing the sparkle of curiosity in their eyes. I love to try to feed this curiosity and answer questions about whatever they want to know.

    5
    Visitors to the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre are seen here enjoying a tour through the exhibition The Living Universe, given by Mathias Jäger, coordinator of the ESO Supernova’s permanent exhibition. Credit: ESO/P. Horálek

    _____________________________________
    Great things can be achieved only through collaborative efforts, and it’s amazing to see that the ESO Supernova also upholds these values.
    _____________________________________

    Q: Would you say that the ESO Supernova is in a unique position to communicate astronomy?

    A: Absolutely! Not only is the entrance free of charge in 2018 but most of the content is (or soon will be!) available online and shared publicly. Also, to prepare the educational activities we involved local schools and the teaching community, which was really fabulous.

    Creating and maintaining the ESO Supernova involves so many people, including professional astronomers, planetarium show producers, exhibition designers, and people who create hands-on activities. Together, these people speak all the languages of the ESO Member States, providing an amazing international environment. Just as I’ve learned through the AstroCalendar project, great things can be achieved only through collaborative efforts, and it’s amazing to see that the ESO Supernova also upholds these values.

    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 4 lasers on Yepun


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

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

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

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

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


    ESO APEX
    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 12:42 pm on October 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESOblog, Martian Crater or Chilean Commune?   

    From ESOblog: “Martian Crater or Chilean Commune?” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

    5 October 2018

    1
    On the Ground

    On 20 September 2016, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) approved the name Taltal for a crater on Mars. In part due to its striking resemblance, the Martian Taltal was named after an area of Chile home to some of ESO’s state-of-the-art telescopes. The name means “Night Bird” in the Mapudungun language spoken by the Mapuche people indigenous to Chile.

    Taltal is a town and commune in the Atacama Desert in the Antofagasta Region of Chile. First recorded in the 1850s, the commune now has a population of over 13 000 and covers an area of 20 405 square kilometres. Taltal already hosts ESO’s world-famous Paranal Observatory , home to the Very Large Telescope (VLT) [see below], and the neighbouring commune of Antofagasta will soon host the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) [see below], to be situated on Cerro Armazones.

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

    Many people who have visited the Atacama Desert with its red, dusty soil and barren landscape have remarked upon its similarity to Mars. But what is missing from the Chilean landscape is craters. Our planet has been battered by space rocks just as often as our planetary neighbour, but Earth is a constantly changing place. Tectonic activity, life, and the atmosphere erode craters over time, whereas the less active Mars preserves the scars of its past and is pockmarked with impact craters. Researchers have catalogued over 600 000 Martian craters greater than one kilometre in diameter, compared to a meagre few hundred on Earth.

    2
    Martian gullies.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

    Dr. Tjalling de Haas of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, was studying gullies — channels probably formed by running water — in one of these Martian craters. Such a study subject requires a name, and Taltal was suggested by a member of the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. The Chilean commune has a similar geological landscape to the Martian crater, with sediment deposits that resemble the deposits found at the end of the gullies. The Taltal commune is also a dry and arid place, making it a fitting namesake.

    Measuring ten kilometres across, Taltal crater is located in a large region in the southern hemisphere of Mars, called Terra Sirenum. This upland area is marked by widespread cratering, including the 300-kilometre-wide Newton Crater. Remarkably, the average elevation of the Taltal commune on Earth and the elevation of the Martian crater are about the same — approximately 2100 metres above “sea level”.

    3
    Terra Sirenum, with Taltal visible to the upper right of the map, with coordinates of 39.5°S 234.2°E.
    Credit: Base image: THEMIS IR Day mosaic by ASU; Margin image: THEMIS IR Global Mosaic v11.6; ASU Colorized Topography: MOLA Elevation Model, GSFC.

    Craters are not the only intriguing aspect of Terra Sirenium; it also boasts tantalising hints of water. Chloride-based mineral deposits suggest the region once hosted near-surface water, and indicate the presence of an ancient lake bed, 200 metres deep with an area of 30 000 square kilometres. And it is likely that recently-flowing water produced many of the gullies running down Terra Sirenum’s steep crater rims.

    The name Taltal originates from Mapudungun, the language spoken in south-central Chile and western-central Argentina by the Mapuche people who make up over 80% of Chile’s indigenous population, and 9% of the total Chilean population. Taltal is a variant of the Mapudungun Thalthal, meaning “night bird”. A language isolate, Mapudungun has no obvious relation to other languages — its lineage cannot be drawn to any common linguistic ancestor. As experts estimate that just 200 000 people can speak Mapudungun fluently, efforts are being made to preserve this ancient language.

    4
    The flag of the Mapuche people, who make up over 80% of Chile’s indigenous population and are heavily influenced by the cosmos.
    Credit: Huhsunqu

    Mapuches have lived in southern Chile for thousands of years. They have a deeply rooted connection to nature and its power on life on Earth; Mapuche literally means “People of the Earth” in Mapudungun. Like many indigenous people, Mapuche have a close relationship with the night sky. Cosmology is centred around the idea of a creator (ngenechen); embodied in four parts by an older man (fucha/futra/cha chau), an older woman (kude/kuse), a young man and a young woman. Fundamental too, are complex ideas about spirits and their coexistence alongside humans and animals. The Mapuche flag displays four astronomical symbols: a star, a crescent Moon and two Suns.

    As a symbol of its commitment to preserving Chilean culture, ESO named the four Unit Telescopes of its Very Large Telescope (VLT) after Mapudungun words. School children from the Antofagasta region of Chile were asked to suggest and justify names, and the competition drew many excellent entries dealing with the rich cultural heritage of ESO’s host country. The telescopes were named Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun [repeated in the image], which respectively mean the Sun, the Moon, the Southern Cross and Venus.

    It is common for small Martian craters (less than 60 kilometres in diameter) to be named after towns or villages, whereas larger craters tend to be named after deceased scientists, writers and others who have contributed to the study and the story of Mars. Features are named when they come under scientific scrutiny, making it easier for them to be mapped, described and discussed, but a scientist can’t just give an interesting feature any name they like!

    When the first images of the surface of a planet, moon or asteroid are obtained, categories are chosen for naming the different feature types. As scientists start studying the surface in more detail, they may request names for any scientifically interesting but as yet nameless features. New names are reviewed by the appropriate Task Group, and if approved are then submitted to the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.

    If the Working Group approves the new name, it is considered to be official IAU nomenclature, and only then may it be used on maps and in scientific papers. Approved names can be found in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.

    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 4 lasers on Yepun

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

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

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

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

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

    ESO APEX
    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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