Table of Contents Messenger No. 135 (March 2009)
An Extension for ESO Headquarters
The ESO Headquarters was completed in 1980, but is now too small to house all the ESO staff and currently only about 50% reside in the original building. A decision was taken to seek an extension to the Headquarters building in close proximity to the current one and a competition was launched for architectural designs. Three designs were shortlisted and the process of selection for the final design is described. Construction will begin in 2010 and is due for completion in 2012.
Telescopes and Instrumentation
The ALMA Correlator: Performance and Science Impact in the Millimetre/Submillimetre
The basic properties of digital correlation are introduced and the main blocks that form the correlator system designed for the ALMA main array are described. Some technical challenges and the performance of this system are presented, together with examples of observational modes, total bandwidths and spectral resolutions. The high flexibility of the ALMA correlator is emphasised and its ability to bring new data in molecular line or continuum astrophysics projects is discussed.
Improving the Multiplexing of VIMOS MOS Observations for Future Spectroscopic Surveys
The need to reduce the negative effects of fringing on VIMOS spectra has led astronomers to use observing techniques that significantly limit the multiplexing of VIMOS observations in multi-object spectroscopy mode. In this paper we propose a new observing strategy which, coupled with a new data reduction technique, has the potential to double VIMOS multiplexing while producing spectra of a quality comparable to that obtained in the major surveys performed so far.
Report on the ESO Workshop Six Years of FLAMES Operations
A significant fraction of the community of users of the VLT multi-fibre spectrograph facility, FLAMES, gathered at ESO Headquarters in December 2008 to present scientific highlights, after six years of FLAMES operations. This proved to be a great opportunity to review the scientific impact that FLAMES has had on different fields of astrophysical research and for ESO to assess the current and future needs of FLAMES users. We report on the two and a half day meeting, during which all participants openly discussed their experience with FLAMES and shared their expertise.
Studying the Magnetic Properties of Upper Main-sequence Stars with FORS1
We summarise the results of our recent magnetic field studies in upper main-sequence stars, which have exploited the spectropolarimetric capability of FORS1 at the VLT extensively.
Wolf-Rayet Stars at the Highest Angular Resolution
Interferometric observations of high-mass evolved stars provide new and very valuable information of their nature. With the unique capabilities of the VLTI, direct images of their closest environment where mass loss and dust formation occur, can be obtained. The breakthrough of the VLTI in terms of angular resolution as well as spectral resolution allows competing theoretical models, based on indirect constraints, to be tested. The high angular resolution made available by the VLTI shows that there is still a lot to discover about these massive stars.
The Beauty of Speed
The burst mode of ISAAC has been used systematically to record lunar occultations with high time resolution, producing several unique new results that remain unattainable by any other technique. This is not the only possible choice of instrument for high time resolution, and fast time modes of one kind or another have been implemented on several other ESO instruments. We provide a brief overview of the present capabilities and summarise some scientific results. We speculate about the future of high temporal resolution applications, presenting the trail-blazing instrument Iqueye that recently completed its first technical run at La Silla.
VISIR Observations of Local Seyfert Nuclei and the Mid-infrared — Hard X-ray Correlation
High angular resolution mid-infrared observations with the VISIR instrument at the Very Large Telescope have allowed the distribution of dust around local active galactic nuclei (AGN) to be studied. The observational results support the unified scenario for AGN and bring constraints on the properties of its key component, a dusty torus obscuring the view onto the AGN when viewed close to the equatorial plane.
A VLT Large Programme to Study Galaxies at z ~ 2: GMASS — the Galaxy Mass Assembly Ultra-deep Spectroscopic Survey
We report on the motivation, sample selection and first results of our VLT FORS2 Large Programme (173.A-0687), which has obtained the longest targeted spectra of distant galaxies obtained so far with the VLT. These long exposures, up to 77 hours for objects included in three masks, were required to detect spectral features of extremely faint galaxies, such as absorption lines of passive galaxies at z > 1.4, a population that had previously escaped attention due to its faintness in the optical wavelength regime, but which represents a critical phase in the evolution of massive galaxies. The ultra-deep spectroscopy allowed us to estimate the stellar metallicity of star-forming galaxies at z ~ 2, to trace colour bimodality up to z = 2 and to characterise a galaxy cluster progenitor at z = 1.6. The approximately 200 spectra produced by GMASS constitute a lasting legacy, populating the “redshift desert” in GOODS-S.
VirGO: A Visual Browser for the ESO Science Archive Facility
VirGO is the next generation Visual Browser for the ESO Science Archive Facility (SAF) developed in the Virtual Observatory Project Office. VirGO enables astronomers to discover and select data easily from millions of observations in a visual and intuitive way. It allows real-time access and the graphical display of a large number of observations by showing instrumental footprints and image previews, as well as their selection and filtering for subsequent download from the ESO SAF web interface. It also permits the loading of external FITS files or VOTables, as well as the superposition of Digitized Sky Survey images to be used as background. All data interfaces are based on Virtual Observatory (VO) standards that allow access to images and spectra from external data centres, and interaction with the ESO SAF web interface or any other VO applications.
News from the ESO Science Archive Facility
The latest developments from the ESO archive are presented. Information is provided to the astronomical community on new data releases and services.
New Infrastructures Require New Training: The Example of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer Schools
The discovery space for astronomy is dramatically widening with the operation, construction and planning of ambitious new infrastructures. A key aspect of the scientific return from these facilities is the training of its users. We report on a series of summer schools designed to train a new generation of young astronomers in optical interferometry with the Very Large Telescope Interferometer.
Report on the ESO Workshop Large Programmes
A report is presented of the workshop on the progress of ESO Large Programmes completed between the last workshop in May 2003 and September 2007.
ESO and the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Opening Ceremony
The ESO contributions to the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and the Opening Ceremony, held in Paris in January 2009, are summarised.
Announcement of the ESO Workshop MAD and Beyond: Science with Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Instruments
Announcement of the IAU Special Session 1 IR and Sub-mm Spectroscopy: A New Tool for Studying Stellar Evolution
Announcement of the ESO Workshop Detectors for Astronomy 2009
ESO’s Studentship Programmes: Training Tomorrow’s Astronomers Today
Students are the lifeblood of astronomy, the next generation of astronomers. While other scientific disciplines are facing declining student enrollments, the ASTRONET strategic plan for European Astronomy notes “young students have continued to enter the field at a steady level”. Indeed, with Very Large Telescope (VLT), Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) and other exciting new facilities on the horizon, it is hard to imagine a better time to be an astronomy student.
ESO Studentship Programme
New Staff at ESO
Fellows at ESO
Annual Index 2008 (Nos. 131–134)