Table of Contents Messenger No. 134 (December 2008)

The Organisation

2 (PDF)
Michael Bode, Guy Monnet, on behalf of the ASTRONET Roadmap Working Group
The ASTRONET Infrastructure Roadmap: A Twenty Year Strategy for European Astronomy
The process followed by ASTRONET to build a long-term strategy for European astronomy is presented. The main conclusions and priorities given in the recently unveiled report on the Infrastructure Roadmap for the next 20 years, following the establishment of a Science Vision last year, are summarised. These reports together hopefully represent a blueprint for a bright future for European astronomy.

Telescopes and Instrumentation

6 (PDF)
Gerard T. van Belle, Johannes Sahlmann et al.
The VLTI PRIMA Facility
The Phase Referenced Imaging and Microarcsecond Astrometry (PRIMA) instrument was recently delivered to the summit of Cerro Paranal and installed as part of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) infrastructure. PRIMA is designed to (i) provide phase-referenced interferometric imaging at milliarcsecond scales, (ii) enable faint star science several magnitudes fainter than the current atmospheric limits of the VLTI, and (iii) provide astrometric measurements at the tens of micro-arcsecond level. PRIMA has successfully seen first fringes and is currently (as of late 2008) undergoing initial commissioning tests.
12 (PDF)
Sandro D’Odorico
News on the Commissioning of X-shooter
14 (PDF)
Guy Monnet
Report on the JENAM 2008 Meeting Symposium Science with the E-ELT
The symposium "Science with the E-ELT" was held at the Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting (JENAM) 2008 meeting. It featured presentations on the development of a comprehensive E-ELT science case and how it is driving the detailed design of the facility, followed by talks addressing topical observational domains in which the E-ELT should have a major scientific impact. All presentations can be accessed at

Astronomical Science

20 (PDF)
Nicolas Nardetto, Pierre Kervella et al.
From the Dynamics of Cepheids to the Milky Way Rotation and the Calibration of the Distance Scale
High precision spectroscopic measurements of ten southern Galactic Cepheid stars with the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) on the 3.6 m telescope at La Silla has allowed detailed analysis of the dynamical structure of their atmospheres and close environment. The results have consequences for the calibration of the cosmic distance scale, and show that the rotation of the Milky Way is probably simpler than previously thought. However, a full understanding of the effect of spectral line asymmetries still requires the development of dedicated models.
25 (PDF)
Maria Teresa Botticella, Enrico Cappellaro et al.
STRESS Counting Supernovae
The rate of occurrence of supernovae (SNe) is linked to some of the basic ingredients of galaxy evolution, such as the star formation rate, the chemical enrichment and feedback processes. SN rates at intermediate redshift and their dependence on specific galaxy properties have been investigated in the Southern inTermediate Redshift ESO Supernova Search (STRESS). The rate of core collapse SNe (CC SNe) at a redshift of around 0.25 is found to be a factor two higher than the local value, whereas the SNe Ia rate remains almost constant. SN rates in red and blue galaxies were also measured and it was found that the SNe Ia rate seems to be constant in galaxies of different colour, whereas the CC SN rate seems to peak in blue galaxies, as in the local Universe.
30 (PDF)
Guido Chincarini, Raffaella Margutti et al.
Swift, VLT and Gamma–Ray Bursts: The Richness and Beauty of the Global View
In this paper we emphasise the role of ESO in the optical follow-up of gamma-ray burst light curves and the importance of early observations via rapid response mode. We describe some of the best short gamma-ray burst observations ever and illustrate the need for spectroscopic data. Specifically, we show how the exceptional dataset collected for the naked-eye burst GRB080319B, the brightest burst ever, has proved very challenging for current theoretical models. The final aim is the understanding of the physical processes that make such phenomena the true beacons at the edge of the Universe.
35 (PDF)
Simon Lilly, and the zCOSMOS team* et al.
The zCOSMOS Data Release 2: the “zCOSMOS-bright 10k-sample” and structure in the Universe out to redshifts of order unity
The global COSMOS project is aimed at understanding the evolution of galaxies and active galactic nuclei, and in particular the role of the galactic environment in that evolution. It is built around observations of a single equatorial 1.7 deg2 field corresponding to transverse dimensions of 100 x 100 Mpc2 at high redshift. The COSMOS field is emerging as the premier extragalactic survey field, and is currently the object of study of large observational programmes on most of the major observational facilities around the world. The zCOSMOS programme on the VLT is securing spectroscopic redshifts for a very large number of galaxies and quasars over the whole redshift range 0 < z < 3.5, using the VIMOS spectrograph. This allows the environment of galaxies to be characterised on all scales from that of the immediate group environment, 100 kpc, up to the 100 Mpc scales of the cosmic web. The second public data release, DR2, of approximately 10000 zCOSMOS spectra, took place via the ESO Science Data Archive in October 2008. This article describes the current status of the project and in particular of this so-called "10k-sample", and our reconstruction of large-scale structure in the Universe out to z ~ 1.

Astronomical News

42 (PDF)
Magda Arnaboldi, Jörg Dietrich et al.
Preparing for the ESO Public Surveys with VISTA and VST: New Tools for Phase 2 and a Workshop with the Survey PIs
New Phase 2 tools are described to support service mode operations for large public surveys. A workshop was held with the principal investigators and selected team members of the VISTA and VST surveys to introduce the new tools.
45 (PDF)
Announcement of the Workshop The E-ELT Design Reference Mission and Science Plan
45 (PDF)
Announcement of the Workshop Imaging at the E-ELT
46 (PDF)
Catherine Turon, Francesca Primas et al.
The ESA–ESO Working Group on Galactic Populations, Chemistry and Dynamics
ESA and ESO initiated a series of Working Groups to explore synergies between space- and ground-based instrumentation. The work of the fourth of these Working Groups, described in this article, focuses on Galactic stellar populations, their chemistry and dynamics, and identifies a set of top questions that future missions and/or ground-based facilities will help to answer. Its mandate was to focus on Gaia/ground synergies in the domain of Galactic science. The major recommendations are for ESA to guarantee the expected tremendous capabilities of Gaia, for ESO to consider the construction of highly multiplexed spectrographs for follow-up and complementary observations of selected Gaia targets, and for ESA and ESO to consider jointly ways to give European astronomers a lead in the exploitation of the Gaia catalogue.
50 (PDF)
Jesus Martin-Pintado
Report on the Workshop Interstellar Medium and Star Formation with ALMA: Looking to the Future. A Workshop to Honour Tom Wilson
In June 2008, a group of friends and colleagues of Tom Wilson gathered in Madrid to honour his scientific career in a workshop on ALMA organised by three of his PhD students. The workshop was devoted to reviewing recent progress in our understanding of the main topics of research that Tom has pursued during his career: the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium and how stars form. Specific topics included HII regions, molecular clouds, clumps, cores, outflows and masers in Galactic and extragalactic environments, mainly from an observational perspective.
52 (PDF)
Award of the Ioannes Marcus Marci Medal to Tom Wilson, Associate Director for ALMA
53 (PDF)
Elena Masciadri
Report on the Conference Optical Turbulence — Astronomy meets Meteorology
The spatial resolution of current and future ground-based telescopes is limited by the optical turbulence of the atmosphere. An interdisciplinary conference of astronomers, meteorologists and atmospheric physicists to consider the study, characterisation and correction of atmospheric turbulence is reported.
56 (PDF)
Hans Ulrich Käufl, Gian Paolo Tozzi
Report on the Conference Future Ground-based Solar System Research: Synergies with Space Probes and Space Telescopes
An interdisciplinary workshop bringing together Solar System researchers, space mission engineers and scientists, ground- and space-based observers and theoreticians is summarised. The broad scope of the meeting covered current and future space missions, planned ground-based facilities and their closer interaction.
57 (PDF)
Bojan Nikolic, John Richer et al.
Report on the ALMA Workshop Simulations for ALMA
A workshop on Simulations for ALMA was held on 8-10 September 2008 at IRAM. About 40 participants from Europe, North America and Japan attended, and discussed many aspects of ALMA imaging: topics included detailed scientific simulations of astronomical observations together with more technical simulations of instrumental and atmospheric effects and the strategies for their correction. The workshop web page contains the presentations made at the meeting and is available from
59 (PDF)
Bernhard Brandl Remko Stuik
Report on the Conference 400 Years of Astronomical Telescopes
61 (PDF)
Announcement of the ESO–Porto Conference Towards Other Earths: Perspectives and Limitations in the ELT Era
61 (PDF)
Announcement of the EIROforum School of Instrumentation (ESI)
62 (PDF)
ESO ALMA Fellowship Programme
63 (PDF)
Martin Cullum
Daniel Enard 1939–2008
64 (PDF)
New Staff at ESO
65 (PDF)
Fellows at ESO
66 (PDF)
Henri Boffin, Ed Janssen and Hännes Heyer
ESO at the European City of Science
66 (PDF)
Douglas Pierce-Price, Pedro Russo and Lars Lindberg Christensen
ESO and the International Year of Astronomy 2009
67 (PDF)
Personnel Movements