Press Releases

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eso9951 — Organisation Release
Recent Views from the Paranal Observatory
8 December 1999: A series of photographs from the Paranal Observatory was obtained with large-format cameras in mid-November 1999 by the ESO EPR Team.
eso9950 — Organisation Release
Third VLT 8.2-m Mirror Successfully Coated and Installed at MELIPAL
3 December 1999: In the course of the current installation of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) , a delicate operation has just been successfully achieved at the Paranal Observatory. The coated 8.2-m Zerodur main mirror for the third VLT 8.2-m Unit Telescope, MELIPAL , is now in place!
eso9949 — Organisation Release
VLT Commissioning Data Now Publicly Available
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
A Powerful Twin Arrives
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
Solitude of an Observatory
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
Lots of Small Stars Born in Starburst Region
13 October 1999: An international group of astronomers [1] has used the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal (Chile) to perform unique observations of an interstellar nebula in which stars are currently being born.
eso9945 — Organisation Release
ALMA Moves!
7 October 1999: The clip contains a full-scale computer animation of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) at the future site of this large astronomical facility.
eso9944 — Organisation Release
Successful "First Light" for VLT High-Resolution Spectrograph
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
Recent VLT Progress
17 September 1999: Work is progressing well at ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) project, both at the Paranal Observatory and in Europe. Here is a brief summary with recent news from this major project, illustrated with photos from the construction.
eso9942 — Science Release
Faintest Methane Brown Dwarf Discovered with the NTT and VLT
18 August 1999: A team of European astronomers [1] has found a cold and extremely faint object in interstellar space, high above the galactic plane. It is a Methane Brown Dwarf of which only a few are known. This is by far the most distant one identified to date.
eso9941 — Photo Release
Report about the Solar Eclipse on August 11, 1999
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
The VLT Writes Its Name
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?
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) [1]. 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
Extrasolar Giant Planet in Earth-like Orbit
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
A Home in the Desert
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
A Vanishing Star Revisited
20 July 1999: ESO's new Very Large Telescope allows the discovery of a rather peculiar binary system, made up of two dwarf stars orbiting each other. The discovery provides new insights on the theory of stellar evolution.
eso9935 — Organisation Release
Impressions from the ESO Solar Eclipse Expedition in 1994
14 July 1999: This video contains some scenes from ESO Video News Reel no. 7 - "Impressions from the ESO Solar Eclipse Expedition in 1994" that is being issued in anticipation of the upcoming solar eclipse on August 11, 1999, four weeks from today.
eso9934 — Photo Release
Secrets of a Dark Cloud
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
Comet Hale-Bopp - Still Enormous!
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
Scouting for ROSETTA
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 [2], 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!