ESO Science Newsletter November 2018
27 Nov 2018

This newsletter is a summary of recent ESO Science Announcement items. Follow the links or visit ESO Science Announcements to read more.

Science announcements

Workshop: Linking Galaxies from the Epoch of Initial Star Formation to Today

27 Nov 2018:

Sydney, Australia 18–22 February 2019

Over the last two decades, surveys mapping the Universe have made clear that star formation activity peaks about 10 billion years ago (known as cosmic noon). The driver of this behaviour is still an open area of research. A better understanding of star-forming regions and physical processes is required to explain the rise and fall of star formation around cosmic noon.  This joint Australia–ESO conference addresses a range of topical issues, more details are available below. This conference forms part of the Elizabeth and Frederick White research conference series.

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Workshop: The La Silla Observatory - From the Inauguration to the Future

26 Nov 2018:

La Serena, Chile, 25–28 March 2019

The La Silla Observatory was officially inaugurated on 25 March 1969. This event marked the culmination of the vision of European astronomers to create a major observatory in the Southern Hemisphere. In the following decades, La Silla served as the test-bed for developing technical and scientific expertise in the European astronomical community, establishing communications channels with the public at large and the interaction of an inter-governmental organisation and its host country, Chile. Relations with other astronomical facilities in the Andes mountains are also part of its history. La Silla has served as a superb site where national communities of ESO member states could install their experiments; some of these facilities regularly put the La Silla Observatory in the news. This conference celebrates the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of La Silla. We will review the significance of its history in all aspects and discuss possible future scenarios. The history of the Observatory including all of its many facets, and the research areas where La Silla telescopes have made important contributions will be reviewed.

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Workshop: Preparing for 4MOST - Registration Open

26 Nov 2018:

ESO, Garching, Germany, 6–8 May 2019

4MOST is a state-of-the-art, high-multiplex, optical spectroscopic survey facility currently under construction for ESO’s 4-metre VISTA telescope. During the first five years of operations 4MOST will be used to execute a comprehensive programme of both Galactic and extragalactic Public Surveys, and 30% of the observing time during this period will be available to the community. The process of selecting Community Public Surveys will be initiated by a Call for Letters of Intent for Public Spectroscopic Surveys, to be issued by ESO in mid-2019. In preparation of this Call, ESO and the 4MOST Consortium are jointly organising a workshop to prepare the ESO community for this exciting scientific opportunity, to assist potential PIs in successfully responding to the Call, and to foster scientific collaborations between the community and the 4MOST Consortium.  

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ELT News

25 Nov 2018:

A concrete step towards the ELT: Onsite at Cerro Armazones there has been good progress in escavating the platform for the foundations of the Dome and the Main Structure and in pouring the lean concrete. The outline of the telescope’s main structure is clearly visible. The 55-metre diameter circular pit at the centre will eventually contain the foundation for the telescope structure. To put things into perspective, see how small the various construction vehicles look when compared to the size of the ELT’s foundations.

ELT Instrument update: Work on all ELT instruments is proceeding. HARMONI has almost completed addressing the actions from its Preliminary Design Review (PDR), while MICADO is undergoing PDR at the end of November. METIS and MAORY have planned their PDRs for mid-2019. 

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ESCAPE Project on Open Science

23 Nov 2018:

The European Science Cluster of Astronomy & Particle physics ESFRI research infrastructures (ESCAPE) project has received funding of €16 million through the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme of the European Union. The ESCAPE project will combine the efforts of participating institutions to make data and software in multi-messenger astronomy and accelerator-driven particle physics open, accessible and interoperable. As a member of the ESCAPE project, ESO will focus on developing Deep Learning techniques to enhance the content of its Science Archives for the La Silla Paranal and ALMA observatories, and on supporting Virtual Observatory activities across Europe.

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Telbib Update

22 Nov 2018:

ESO telescope bibliography (telbib) records were recently enhanced to provide more comprehensive access to data products in the ESO Science Archive. All telbib records are linked to raw data of the Programme IDs used in the research as before. In addition, the library has identified all programmes for which data products exist in the Archive. If data products are available, an additional link is displayed, providing direct access. A script is run regularly to identify new Programme IDs in telbib records for which data products have become available, as well as new data products for existing Programme IDs.  

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Now In: Results of the 2018 Paranal Service Mode User Satisfaction Survey

22 Nov 2018:

The User Support Department (USD) extends its thanks to all those Principal Investigators and their Phase 2 delegates who filled in this September's online Paranal Service Mode User Satisfaction Survey. A total of 185 responses were received from our targeted campaign. As in the past, where possible, we have contacted those respondents who provided detailed comments. A summary report based on this latest User Satisfaction Survey is now available.

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First Data Release by the Next Generation Transit Survey

21 Nov 2018:

The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS) is a ground-based exoplanet survey designed to detect Neptune and super-Earth sized planets orbiting around bright stars, using the transit method. The NGTS facility consists of 12 fully-robotic 20-cm f/2.8 telescopes located on ESO ground in Paranal. Each telescope has a 2.8 x 2.8 deg2 field of view and is equipped with a custom filter with a bandpass of 520-890 nm, which increases sensitivity to late-K and early-M stars.

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Data Release: Spectra from the XSHOOTER GRB Afterglow Legacy Sample (XS-GRB)

20 Nov 2018:

This data release provides 1D spectra of 103 individual afterglows that were observed with the X-shooter spectrograph within 48 hours of the GRB trigger. The data release includes a few late-time host observations also for completeness. The total collection of spectra represents all GRB afterglows that have been followed up with XSHOOTER before 31 March 2017. This date marks the end of the XS-GRB legacy follow-up programme. Redshifts have been measured for 97% of these sources, covering a redshift range from 0.059 to 7.84, hence this dataset provides a unique resource to study the ISM across cosmic time.

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Workshop: The Very Large Telescope in 2030

05 Oct 2018:

ESO, Garching, Germany, 17–21 June 2019  

The VLT provides a powerful suite of visible and infrared instruments, including unique capabilities like coherent and incoherent combinations of the four 8-metre Unit Telescopes and a multi-laser guided adaptive optics system.  In combination with ALMA, it represents comprehensive coverage across  the full parameter space encompassing ground-based observations in visible, infrared and sub-mm wavelengths. With the advent of ESO's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) the VLT will take on a new role. It will still serve a large community and will continue to provide unique data. Its strengths will include a suite of versatile instrumentation on four 8-metre telescopes, the spatial resolution achievable by interferometry and a flexible operational model. The VLT, VLTI and the instrumentation have been maintained at peak performance and new capabilities have been developed.

A discussion of future science served by the VLT should be the basis for its development in the ELT era. The ELT, VLT in its many functions and the ESO 4-metre telescopes will form a powerful astrophysics resource. The new role of the VLT needs to be defined and this workshop will provide a discussion forum aimed at shaping the VLT's future.

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Upcoming ESO or ESO-Related Workshops

  • KMOS@5: Star and Galaxy Formation in 3D – Challenges at KMOS 5th Year
    ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany, 3–6 December, 2018

    KMOS is one of the second generation instruments at the ESO-VLT and has been operating for five years, over which it has provided new insights into a variety of scientific topics.This workshop will bring together scientists working on all areas of star and galaxy formation using near-infrared IFU spectroscopy, including results from complementary instruments. The five years milestone of KMOS offers a perfect opportunity to assess the impact of this instrument on its core science cases and to look forward to develop new strategies and programs, also in light of future IFU instruments. Science topics include probing galaxy formation, stellar populations, active galactic nuclei and their relation with the host galaxy. 

  • The Galactic Bulge at the Crossroads
    Pucón, Chile, 10–14 December, 2018

    The bulge is a primary component of the Milky Way, comprising ∼25% of its mass. All major Galactic stellar populations intersect there, reaching their highest densities. Exploring the bulge is fundamental to understanding Galactic formation, structure and evolution. With the advent of multiplexed spectrographs on 8-metre class telescopes, and the availability of wide-field near-infrared photometry, our knowledge of the structural, chemical and kinematical properties of the Galactic bulge has improved dramatically in the last few years. At the same time, the interpretation of the data is not straightforward, and many fundamental questions remain. In this context, a host of exciting new results are expected in 2018. This conference aims to gather the international astronomical community to discuss these developments, and to begin to establish a consensus on their interpretation.