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eso9951 — Organisation Release
eso9950 — Organisation Release
eso9949 — Organisation Release
29 November 1999: "First Light" was achieved in May 1998 for VLT ANTU, the first 8.2-m Unit Telescope at the Paranal Observatory. Since then, thousands of detailed images and spectra of a great variety of celestial objects have been recorded with this major new research facility. While some of these were obtained for scientific programmes and were therefore directed towards specific research needs, others were made during the "Commissioning Phases" in 1998/99 for the two major astronomical instruments, FORS1 (FOcal Reducer and Spectrograph) and ISAAC (Infrared Spectrometer And Array Camera). They were carried out in order to test thoroughly the performance of the telescope and its instruments before the new facility was handed over to the astronomers on April 1, 1999. The Commissioning data are accordingly of variable quality and, contrarily to the science data, normally not intensity calibrated. However, while some of these frames are short test exposures that mainly served to ascertain the image quality under various observing conditions, a substantial fraction still contains scientifically valuable data.
eso9948 — Organisation Release
17 November 1999: The first, major astronomical instrument to be installed at the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) was FORS1 ( FO cal R educer and S pectrograph) in September 1998. Immediately after being attached to the Cassegrain focus of the first 8.2-m Unit Telescope, ANTU , it produced a series of spectacular images, cf. ESO PR 14/98. Many important observations have since been made with this outstanding facility. Now FORS2, its powerful twin, has been installed at the second VLT Unit Telescope, KUEYEN. It is the fourth major instrument at the VLT after FORS1 , ISAAC and UVES. The FORS2 Commissioning Team that is busy installing and testing this large and complex instrument reports that "First Light" was successfully achieved already on October 29, 1999, only two days after FORS2 was first mounted at the Cassegrain focus. Since then, various observation modes have been carefully tested, including normal and high-resolution imaging, echelle and multi-object spectroscopy, as well as fast photometry with millisecond time resolution. A number of fine images were obtained during this work, some of which are made available with the present Press Release.
eso9947 — Photo Release
26 October 1999: The La Silla Observatory is located in the Chilean Atacama Desert, one of the driest and loneliest areas of the world. The land around this isolated peak was acquired in 1964 and following some years of construction work, the inauguration of ESO's first observatory took place just over 30 years ago, in March 1969. The solitude of this remote desert site is well illustrated by the above panorama, obtained in 1996.
eso9946 — Science Release
eso9945 — Organisation Release
eso9944 — Organisation Release
Successful "First Light" for VLT High-Resolution Spectrograph — Great Research Prospects with UVES at KUEYEN
5 October 1999: A major new astronomical instrument for the ESO Very Large Telescope at Paranal (Chile), the UVES high-resolution spectrograph, has just made its first observations of astronomical objects. The astronomers are delighted with the quality of the spectra obtained at this moment of "First Light". Although much fine-tuning still has to be done, this early success promises well for new and exciting science projects with this large European research facility.
eso9943 — Organisation Release
eso9942 — Science Release
eso9941 — Photo Release
18 August 1999: This webpage provides information about the total eclipse on Wednesday, August 11, 1999, as it was seen by ESO staff, mostly at or near the ESO Headquarters in Garching (Bavaria, Germany). The zone of totality was about 108 km wide and the ESO HQ were located only 8 km south of the line of maximum totality. The duration of the phase of totality was about 2 min 17 sec.
eso9940 — Organisation Release
13 August 1999: A computer-controlled "Active Optics" system was first developed at ESO in the 1980's. It allows the continuous tuning of the optical system of an astronomical telescope, thus ensuring that it always produces the sharpest possible images of astronomical objects. The first major telescope to profit from this revolution in telescope techniques was the ESO New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla observatory. Since it began operation in 1990, 75 adjustable supports below the 3.58-m primary mirror, coupled with advanced image analysis and control software, have made this prototype telescope one of the best in the world. Each of the four ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) Unit Telescopes is equipped with the latest, improved active optics system that controls the primary 8.2-m Zerodur mirror as well as the secondary 1.1-m lightweight beryllium mirror at the top of the telescope structure. This system offers complete control of the optical quality, allowing the VLT to take full advantage of the exceptional atmospheric conditions at Paranal. This is amply confirmed by fine quality of the astronomical observations now performed with the first Unit Telescope, ANTU. In the course of the one-year commissioning period (May 1998 - March 1999), ESO's opticians performed extensive tests and further improvements of the active optics system at ANTU. Here are some interesting examples that illustrate the amazing versatility of this front-line technological system.
eso9939 — Science Release
Watching the Birth of a Galaxy Cluster? — First Visiting Astronomers to VLT ANTU Observe the Early Universe
30 July 1999: When the first 8.2-m VLT Unit Telescope (ANTU) was "handed over" to the scientists on April 1, 1999, the first "visiting astronomers" at Paranal were George Miley and Huub Rottgering from the Leiden Observatory (The Netherlands) . They obtained unique pictures of a distant exploding galaxy known as 1138 - 262 . These images provide new information about how massive galaxies and clusters of galaxies may have formed in the early Universe.
eso9938 — Science Release
29 July 1999: A new extrasolar planet has been found at the ESO La Silla Observatory as a companion to iota Horologii (iota Hor) . This 5.4-mag solar-type star is located at a distance of 56 light-years and is just visible to the unaided eye in the southern constellation Horologium (The Pendulum Clock).
eso9937 — Organisation Release
28 July 1999: The Paranal Observatory, site of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) , is a long way from anywhere. Located in the northern part of the Chilean Atacama Desert, one of the driest areas of the world, it is also the working place for about one-hundred ESO staff members, some from Chile and others from Europe. Paranal was an empty mountain when the construction of the ESO observatory began here in 1991. Since then, a small community has sprung up at this desolate site. A significant investment has been made here to establish the complex infrastructure that is needed to ensure the proper running of this high-tech research facility. Everything has to be trucked in, from water and food to telescope spare parts. Electricity is generated by several diesel motors that maintain a stable power supply to the sensitive astronomical instruments and also to all devices needed for a minimum of comfort for the staff and visitors. From the outset, they have been living in housing containers at the "Base Camp". The workers and engineers of the contracting firms have also been living in similar quarters across the main road that leads to the telescopes at the top of the mountain.
eso9936 — Science Release
eso9935 — Organisation Release
eso9934 — Photo Release
Secrets of a Dark Cloud — Unique Infrared SOFI Images of Barnard 68 Probe the Very First Stages of Star Formation
2 July 1999: Astronomers at ESO have recently been "Seeing the Light Through the Dark!" Some months ago, the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) observed a classical dark globule, Barnard 68 (B68) , in front of a dense star field in the Milky Way band. CCD images were obtained in various visual wavebands with the FORS1 multi-mode instrument at the 8.2-m VLT ANTU (UT1). They were combined into a colour photo.
eso9933 — Photo Release
29 June 1999: One of the most famous comets is Hale-Bopp that passed near the Earth just over two years ago. It now moves out through the solar system, getting fainter with increasing distance. The estimated magnitude is now about 12.5 (visual), i.e. about 400 times fainter than what can be perceived with the unaided eye.
eso9932 — Photo Release
29 June 1999: The launch in early 2003 of the Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency (ESA), the 3rd "Cornerstone" mission of this organisation, will mark the beginning of an exciting scientific endeavour. Following two close passages by the Earth and another by Mars to gain speed, the complex 1.3-tonnes spacecraft will continue towards a rendez-vous with the icy nucleus of Comet Wirtanen , passing two asteroids on the way. Beginning in late 2011, at a time when the comet is close to its aphelion - the most distant point in its elongated orbit, about 770 million km from the Sun - the Rosetta "orbiter" will literally chase Comet Wirtanen for two years, sending back valuable data about the nucleus and its immediate environment. A "lander" will attach itself to this lump of frozen ice and dust, which is travelling through space at over 46,000 kilometres per hour, and analyse samples. A joint team from ESO and ESA's Space Science Department has proposed a short series of ground-based exploratory observations in support of this European space mission. Responding to the challenge, the second 8.2-m VLT telescope (KUEYEN), while undergoing commissioning at Paranal, has just performed a remarkable feat by observing the nucleus of Comet Wirtanen, now near its aphelion, i.e. at the location of the future Rosetta encounter. This is equivalent to viewing a pitch-black golfball, over 20,000 kilometres away!
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