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ann1053-en-us — Announcement
ESO at JENAM 2010
1 September 2010: ESO will have a significant presence at the Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting (JENAM) in Lisbon, Portugal, during the week of 6–10 September 2010. JENAM is organised jointly each year by the European Astronomical Society (EAS) and one of the European national astronomical societies. This year’s JENAM will be the 18th Annual Meeting of EAS and the 20th Annual Portuguese Meeting of Astronomy and Astrophysics. On Monday 6 September EAS will inaugurate a new award to honour astronomers of outstanding scientific distinction, the Lodewijk Woltjer Lecture. The award is named after Lodewijk Woltjer, one of Europe’s outstanding astronomers of the second half of the twentieth century, and ESO Director General from 1975 till 1988. Under his leadership ESO established itself as one of the world’s leading astronomical institutes, and took the decision to build the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory. The inaugural lecture ...
ann1052-en-us — Announcement
ESO Call for Proposals for Period 87 released. Deadline is 30 September 2010
31 August 2010: ESO Call for Proposals for Period 87 released. Deadline is 30 September 2010.
ann1051-en-us — Announcement
How Asteroids Split Up
26 August 2010: Asteroids are often thought of simply as big rocks orbiting the Sun, but they can have quite exciting lives. Small irregularly-shaped asteroids can be “spun up” to fast rotation rates by sunlight falling on them — much as the asymmetric profile of a propeller blade helps it to spin up in the wind. New results show that when asteroids spin fast enough, they can split into two pieces which then begin orbiting each other. Scientists call this process “rotational fission”. A new study released this week, led by Petr Pravec of the Astronomical Institute in the Czech Republic and involving many other institutions around the world, shows that many of these binary asteroids do not remain bound to each other but escape, forming two asteroids in very similar, but independent, orbits about the Sun where previously there was just one. Many such asteroid pairs have been discovered in recent years ...
ann1050-en-us — Announcement
ESOcast 20: Richest Planetary System Discovered
24 August 2010: Astronomers using ESO instruments have discovered a remarkable extrasolar planetary system that has some striking similarities to our own Solar System. At least five planets are orbiting the distant Sun-like star HD 10180 and astronomers have tantalising evidence that two further worlds are present. The regular pattern of the planetary orbits is similar to that observed for our neighbouring planets. One of the new extrasolar worlds is believed to be only about 1.4 times the mass of the Earth, which would make it the least massive exoplanet ever found. To celebrate this dramatic discovery ESO has released a new video podcast, ESOcast 20. Entitled “Richest planetary system discovered”, it explains how these faraway planets were detected and exactly what we know about them. The video is available in many formats, including HD, and can also be watched or downloaded directly from iTunes.
ann1049-en-us — Announcement
ESO Website now Includes Icelandic, Polish and Turkish Translations
12 August 2010: ESO is announcing today that important sections of its website have been translated into Icelandic, Polish and Turkish, allowing even more people to read about the latest scientific advances in their native language. ESO projects include the most advanced observing facility in the world, the Very Large Telescope, as well as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, and the planned European Extremely Large Telescope. Press releases and other important information are translated by the ESO Science Outreach Network (ESON), a group of individuals in several countries — including all the ESO member states as well other interested countries, including Iceland, Poland and Turkey — who serve as local contacts for the media and the general public in connection with ESO developments. ESON members are also useful contacts between the media and scientists in their respective regions, and as such are valuable ambassadors. "ESO is keen on sharing its results with as ...
ann1048-en-us — Announcement
ESO Signs Technology Transfer Deal
12 August 2010: The European Southern Observatory has signed an agreement to license its cutting-edge laser technology to two commercial partners, Toptica Photonics and MPB Communications. This marks the first time that ESO has transferred patented technology and know-how to the private sector, offering significant opportunities both for business and for ESO. The two agreements will serve as test-cases for a new strategy for ESO’s Technology Transfer activities. ESO Raman fibre amplifier technology [1] was developed in-house for use in sodium laser guide stars. These form part of the adaptive optics systems that make ESO’s Very Large Telescope one of the world’s premier astronomical observatories. Since the technology also has wide potential beyond its use in adaptive optics, ESO has chosen to disseminate the technology by offering non-exclusive licensing deals to potentially interested commercial users. Technology transfer encourages the widespread use of ESO’s know-how, meaning that business benefits from a regulated access to ...
ann1047-en-us — Announcement
Light Pollution Seminar held in Antofagasta, Chile
4 August 2010: A report on the latest progress in the design of the European Southern Observatory’s European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), to be built on Cerro Armazones in the Chilean Atacama Desert, was one of the highlights of the Second International Seminar on Light Pollution held on 2–4 August at the Atacama Desert Museum in Antofagasta, Chile. The European Southern Observatory (ESO), in collaboration with the Chilean National Commission for Environment, Chilean universities and the Office for the Protection of the Quality of the Skies in the North of Chile, organised this event, supported by the Ruinas de Huanchaca Foundation, Antofagasta Municipality and the Chilean Astronomy Society, to promote the protection of dark skies as a scientific heritage. Experts from Europe, Brazil, Argentina and the USA discussed the benefits of improving the efficiency of urban lightning to reduce light pollution, and the resulting positive impact on the environment, energy consumption, economy and ...
ann1046-en-us — Announcement
Exoplanet–Lithium Link Debated
3 August 2010: In a result just published astronomers have used several telescopes, including ESO’s 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla, to measure the properties of 117 Sun-like stars, of which 14 are known to host exoplanets. They measured the amount of the chemical element lithium in the stars, along with other stellar parameters. The researchers have found that the level of lithium in the stars studied decreases with the age of the star, and furthermore that the lithium levels do not behave differently in stars with known planets. Relatively low levels of lithium are found in our Sun, compared to other Sun-like stars, and there has been much debate about the reason for the difference. One possible explanation is that the presence of planets, as found in our Solar System, may be linked with reduced levels of lithium in the host star. Such a link was indicated in research also done with ESO’s ...
ann1045-en-us — Announcement
ESO signs major contract for laser guide stars
28 July 2010: ESO has signed a large contract to deliver sodium lasers for the new Adaptive Optics Facility for the Very Large Telescope at Paranal. Laser guide stars are used as part of adaptive optics equipment to help telescopes correct for atmospheric effects. This new facility will let astronomers make sharper observations, over more of the sky and in a broader range of conditions than is possible at present. Following a competitive design study, ESO has awarded the contract to build the lasers to Toptica Photonics AG, a German laser manufacturer. The lasers will be based on a novel Raman fibre amplification technology developed by the Laser Systems Department at ESO. This allows the lasers to be lighter, cheaper, more compact and more reliable than would be possible with competing technologies. Laser guide stars work by projecting a powerful laser beam to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. The beam excites the ...
ann1044-en-us — Announcement
Video Compilation Showing the Recoating of a VLT Mirror
26 July 2010: A video compilation of footage showing the recoating of a mirror at ESO’s Very Large Telescope array (VLT) has now been released. The VLT, on Cerro Paranal in Chile, is the flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy. It is the world's most advanced optical telescope, consisting of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors 8.2 metres in diameter and four movable 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes. This video compilation shows the different stages of the complex recoating process for one of the VLT’s giant main mirrors. The footage captures the moment when the mirror is brought out of the telescope and transported to a dedicated mirror maintenance plant. Here, the mirror is separated from its supporting cell, cleaned and finally recoated. The compilation features many timelapse sequences of the whole operation.
ann1043-en-us — Announcement
New ALMA Video Compilation
22 July 2010: A new video compilation of footage of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is available. ALMA is an international astronomy facility, supported by Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. Under construction on the Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes, ALMA will be a revolutionary observatory, composed initially of 66 high precision antennas designed to study some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe. This video compilation visits the different facilities that belong to the extensive ALMA observatory. The footage, obtained in early 2010, includes sequences of some antennas at an altitude of 5000 metres on the Chajnantor plateau, as well as the assembly and testing of antennas at a lower altitude, at the Operations Support Facility. Further material shows astronomers during the commissioning and science verification phase.
ann1042-en-us — Announcement
Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize 2010 goes to Professor Michel Mayor and two team members
20 July 2010: Three astronomers have been awarded the Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize 2010 for their outstanding contributions in the field of planetary systems and their host stars, in which observations with ESO telescopes have played a major role. The 2010 winners of the Prize are Professor Michel Mayor from the University of Geneva and two of his team members, Dr Garik Israelian from the Astrophysical Institute of Canary Islands (IAC) and Dr Nuno Santos from the Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto (CAUP), nominated by the Swiss Academy of Sciences. The Viktor Ambartsumian International Prize was established by the President of Armenia in 2009 and is one of the most important awards in astronomy/astrophysics and related sciences. It is awarded to outstanding scientists from any country and nationality who make significant contributions to science. The Prize totals US$ 500 000 and will be awarded once every two years, starting in 2010. The ...
ann1041-en-us — Announcement
VLT VISTA Compilation Released
16 July 2010: A video compilation of footage of VISTA — the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy — is now available. VISTA is the newest telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile and the world’s largest survey telescope working at near-infrared wavelengths. Its large mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors reveal a completely new view of the southern sky. This video compilation shows the VISTA telescope as seen from different distances and angles. The footage includes outdoor sequences of VISTA as well as indoor shots. Further material shows the telescope as it rotates and astronomers performing night observations.
ann1040-en-us — Announcement
ESOcast 19: Photographers of the Night
15 July 2010: Behind the scenes at Paranal Observatory, some dedicated members of the ESO staff spend their own time photographing the skies above the observatory, taking advantage of the same conditions — the clear skies, and low light pollution — that make Cerro Paranal an ideal site for the world’s most advanced telescopes. To give you an insight into astrophotography, ESO has just issued a new video podcast entitled “Photographers of the Night” that looks at the art of capturing images of the sky, illustrated by the work of three ESO employees, who are passionate photographers, and who brave the cold nights to take breathtaking snapshots of the sky with their digital cameras and telescopes. The video is available in various formats, including HD, and can be watched at or downloaded from iTunes.
ann1039-en-us — Announcement
New Very Large Telescope Video Compilation released
14 July 2010: A new video compilation of footage of ESO’s Very Large Telescope array (VLT) is available. The VLT, on Cerro Paranal in Chile, is the flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy. It is the world's most advanced optical telescope, consisting of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2 m diameter and four movable 1.8 m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes.  This video compilation shows the VLT observatory as seen from different distances and angles. The footage, obtained in early 2009, includes indoor sequences from one of the VLT 8.2 m unit Telescopes as well as shots of the Auxiliary Telescopes. Further material shows some of the VLT’s suite of advanced astronomical instruments, as well as the Paranal Residencia, where the observatory staff and visiting astronomers live when working on the site.
ann1038-en-us — Announcement
ESO Director General meets the President of Chile
7 July 2010: On 6 July 2010 the Chilean President Sebastián Piñera received the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, at the Palacio La Moneda, in Santiago, to discuss the selection of Cerro Armazones in Chile, as the home of the future 42-m European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). The Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfredo Moreno, Ambassador Gabriel Rodríguez from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ESO Representative in Chile, Massimo Tarenghi, also attended. On the previous day, the Minister of National Assets, Catalina Parot, invited the ESO Director General for a lunch to discuss the implementation of the offer made by the Chilean Government to transfer to ESO a substantial tract of land contiguous to ESO’s Paranal property, containing Armazones, in order to ensure the continued protection of the site against all adverse influences, in particular light pollution and mining activities. Cerro Armazones is an isolated mountain at 3060 metres altitude ...
ann1037-en-us — Announcement
New Mode for VLT's NACO to Image Exoplanets
6 July 2010: An international collaboration of astronomers has recently commissioned a new observing mode for the NACO adaptive optics instrument attached to ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Paranal. The new capability counteracts the effects of diffraction of light very close to a bright star, enabling astronomers to see very faint nearby objects. The prime example of the kind of objects that can be searched for with the new VLT observing mode, called the Apodising Phase Plate (APP), are Jupiter-like gas giant planets that could be lurking around Sun-like stars in our galaxy. The new mode enables astronomers to search for planets closer to the star than has been previously possible. As a demonstration of the power of the APP technique, a team led by Matthew Kenworthy, Sascha Quanz, and Michael Meyer have confirmed the recent detection of the giant exoplanet around the star Beta Pictoris (eso1024; led by A.-M. Lagrange, Grenoble), ...
ann1036-en-us — Announcement
E-ELT opens for business - in virtual reality
30 June 2010: A breathtaking 3D light show in Linz, Austria gives audiences a virtual tour of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), before construction work has even begun in Chile. Lucky viewers can gain a sneak preview of what astronomers can hope to see once the planned observatory is up and running in 2018. The E-ELT will be the world’s biggest optical telescope and will peer deeper into the depths of space than any before it. Audience members at Ars Electronica, a “museum of the future” that focuses on the interplay of technology and art, are even suspended just above the telescope’s colossal 42-metre primary mirror. In reality, this viewpoint will be impossible without risking grave damage to the fragile reflective surface. They are also told of the amazing power of the E-ELT to see smaller and fainter objects than ever before, and how its revolutionary potential could be as great as ...
ann1035-en-us — Announcement
New Presentation on ESO's Top 10 Science Discoveries Available
30 June 2010: What are the hottest science topics from the most productive observatory in the world? Find out in the new slide presentation “Top 10 Discoveries by ESO Telescopes”, now available online. From the many impressive discoveries based on data taken by ESO telescopes, this presentation introduces ten that have been selected as the most remarkable so far, based on their scientific relevance and implications. The presentation consists of 38 slides with explanations, impressive images, and links to related information on the ESO website. This product, designed for the non-specialist, will be particularly useful for educators or anyone who needs to give a presentation on this topic.
ann1034-en-us — Announcement
ESO releases The Messenger No. 140
30 June 2010: ESO has just published issue 140 of its quarterly journal, The Messenger. This issue features a range of articles including: A roundup of proposed instruments for the planned E-ELT; An in-depth look at the FORS instruments on the VLT on the occasion of their double 10th anniversary; Updates on new advances in adaptive optics; How astronomers are using the CRIRES spectrograph on the VLT to search for exoplanets orbiting very low-mass stars and brown dwarfs; and Wolf-Rayet stars and the search for the origins of gamma ray bursts. The issue also details how ESO staff in Chile helped with humanitarian aid in the aftermath of February’s earthquake.
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