Due to the evolution of the pandemic situation in Chile, operational activities at Paranal have been further reduced as of April 16 and until at least May 7. Operations are now limited to two of the four UTs (baseline UT4 and one of UT123, according to operational and scientific requirements). No VLTI or survey telescope operations are taking place. La Silla remains operating only the NTT, and APEX in a 8/24hr scheme. Further information can be found in the La Silla Paranal Observatory News webpage.
The deadline for proposal submission for Period 108 (1 October 2021 - 31 March 2022) was 25 March, 2021. 948 valid proposals were submitted, including 37 Large Programmes. On the VLT the most requested ESO instrument was MUSE with a request of 452 nights, followed by X-Shooter with 344 nights. HARPS on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope was the most demanded instrument at La Silla (and third most demanded instrument overall), with 265 nights.
The ESO research studentship programme provides an outstanding opportunity for PhD students to experience the exciting scientific environment at one of the world's leading observatories. ESO's studentship positions are open to students enrolled in a university PhD programme in astronomy or related fields. Students accepted into the programme work on their doctoral project under the formal supervision of their home university, but they come to ESO to work and study under the co-supervision of an ESO staff astronomer for a period of between one and two years.
Between 11 and 24 March the Assembly, integration, verification and commissioning of the upgraded InfraRed Low-Order wavefront Sensor of MUSE, IRLOS, was carried out through an efficient collaboration between the local Paranal team and the remote support team in Garching. The goal of the upgrade, which uses a new SAPHIRA detector with sub-electron readout noise, is to add at least two magnitudes to the limit for the wavefront sensing while simultaneously increasing the correction rate to 500 Hz. The 500Hz SmallScale mode of the new IRLOS system is in operations with a fully automated acquisition since the beginning of Period 107 with a limiting magnitude of J=17.0for point sources. This fainter magnitude limit is offered for P108 and proposals submitted during P107. Prior to this commissioning MUSE Narrow Field Mode could use as AO reference stars brighter than H=14.5, with the sensing done at a fixed 200Hz with field-selector scales for point-sources, SmallScale, and extended objects, LargeScale.
March 17th marked an important milestone for the ESO Science Archive with the download of the 10,000,000th processed science file by a member of the ESO community. The Science Archive is a major science resource: more than 35% of the refereed papers based on ESO data that were published in 2020 used it. Its data holdings are constantly increasing, and it currently includes more than 3,000,000 processed datasets from the La Silla Paranal and ALMA observatories, calibrated to remove instrumental and atmospheric effects. These are spectra, images, data cubes, source catalogues, flux maps and interferometric visibilities (the 10,000,000th file itself was a spectrum from the GAIA-ESO Public Survey). These data products can be browsed and downloaded via an highly interactive and intuitive web application or programmatically with Virtual Observatory protocols and tools
Since 17 March 2021, the 12-m Array has been used for PI science observations with more than 37 antennas. Unfortunately, it has become clear that the recent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Chile will have an impact on ALMA observations. Several areas in Chile are back to full lockdown and the anticipated addition of more staff to the ALMA site to conduct the change of ALMA configurations will be delayed by a minimum of 20 days.
Following the first two of three workshops intended to promote upgrades that will realize the ALMA 2030 vision, it is planned to complete the workshop trilogy with an ALMA Front-End Development Workshop, entitled “The ALMA 2030 Vision: A next generation of front-end receivers”. This workshop will be held online the week of September 27-30 (inclusive), 2021.
The annual public release of ESO VLT/VLTI instruments data reduction software packages is scheduled for end of May 2021. Please note that the new pipeline packages will be released for the following operating systems: Fedora 28 – 32, CentOS 7 and macOS 10.14 – 10.15. ESO is working toward full support for macOS 11, but for the time being it is not possible to say when MacPorts binary packages for the pipelines on macOS 11 will be provided. Nevertheless, the use of MacPorts is recommended as opposed to installing from install_esoreflex script. Using MacPorts the pipelines will build and install from source in macOS 11, thus installations will take a bit longer than for those OS versions that are supported with binary packages.
The 4th Azores School on Observational Cosmology will take place in Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira Island, Portugal) from 6 to 12 September 2021. The school is jointly organized by CAUP/IA, ESO and University of Azores, and the topic for this edition will be 'Fundamental cosmology from the ELT and space'. Should the COVID-19 situation make an in-person school impossible in September, the school will be online.
A new release of the Public ESO Spectroscopic Survey for Transient Objects (PESSTO) is available, including spectra and images from its ePESSTO extension, and the delivery of a new transient catalogue, globally covering 7 years of observations, from April 2012 to April 2019, for a total of 45 GB. This new release brings to 2323 the number of observed supernovae and optical transients, with calibrated 1D spectra for 2314 of them, doubling the number of objects previously published (1168 in the previous version).
Astronet is a consortium of European funding agencies, established for the purpose of providing advice on long-term planning and development of European Astronomy. Astronet is now developing a new Science Vision & Infrastructure Roadmap with an outlook for the next 20 years. A delivery date to European funding agencies of mid-2021 is anticipated. After some delays due to the global pandemic, the first drafts of the chapters for the document are now available from the Panels asked to draft them, and input by the Eurpean astronomy and space science community as possible is very welcome.
The INSPIRE project is an ESO Large Programme (ID: 1104.B- 0370, PI: C. Spiniello) which uses X-Shooter (in UVB, VIS, NIR band) to spectroscopically follow up 52 red ultra Compact Massive Galaxies selected from the KiDS VST ESO Public Survey. The goals of INSPIRE (Spiniello et al. 2021a, Spiniello et al. 2021b) are to obtain the first catalogue of spectroscopically confirmed relics in the redshift range 0.1<z<0.5, bridge the gap between the three local confirmed relics and the high-z red nuggets, and use the final statistic on confirmed relics to put a stringent constraint on the predictions from simulations on the initial burst of star formation in galaxies.
The VISTA EXtension to Auxiliary Surveys (VEXAS, Spiniello & Agnello, 2019, A&A, 630) project aims at building wide and spatially homogeneous multi-wavelength catalogues (from X- ray to radio) providing reference magnitudes, colors and morphological information for a large number of scientific uses. Currently the VEXAS catalogue is the widest and deepest public optical-to-IR photometric and spectroscopic database in the Southern Hemisphere, comprising more than 90 million objects with reliable photometry measured in at least one of the VISTA infrared bands, two of the WISE bands and three optical bands.
Proto-clusters, high redshift galaxy clusters, and merging clusters represent the initial stages in the formation of largest gravitationally-bound structures in the Universe. Forming via mergers and accretion, (proto-)cluster assembly has a decisive impact on their subsequent evolution, and is thus an important process to understand. The aim of GCF2021 is to discuss cluster formation over the last roughly ten billion years, from its beginnings to the present day, with a particular focus on the progress and developments since the first GCF meeting in 2017.
The forthcoming generation of Extremely Large Telescope (ELTs) will reach unprecedented spectroscopic sensitivity coupled with high angular resolution in the near infrared. This workshop will bring together the international astronomical community to explore the transformational science that the spectroscopic instrument suites of the ELTs (GMT, TMT and ELT) will achieve. High resolution simulations have played a key role in the development of the instrument science cases providing a quantifiable means to determine feasibility and to predict the scientific outcomes that can be achieved. The meeting will bring together theoreticians, modelers and observers, with interests ranging from exoplanets to cosmology, and it will set the stage for the community to plan and coordinate ELT science programmes and pre-cursor observations, making use of quantitative estimates of what the ELTs can achieve.
The vision for ALMA's future development is described in the ALMA Development Roadmap. In order to implement this vision a series of three workshops has been envisioned, in conjunction with corresponding working groups defining the appropriate scientific and technical specifications. Following the first two workshops held in 2020 to discuss potential correlator and digitizer upgrades that will realize the ALMA 2030 vision, we plan to complete the workshop trilogy with an ALMA Front-End Development Workshop, entitled "The ALMA 2030 Vision: A next generation of front-end receivers". This workshop will be held online, in the week of 27-30 September 2021.
The goal of this workshop is to bring together the galactic, extragalactic, and high-redshift communities, both theorists and observers, with the final goal of fostering fruitful discussions and new collaborations on the formation of the central regions of galaxies. Amongst the main topics to be discussed are: chemo-dynamical properties of the MW bulge, observed properties of bulges and link to formation scenarios, bulges in a cosmological context, clumpy discs, mergers and bulge formation at high redshifts, formation and evolution of bulges from a theoretical perspective.