German Involvement with the European Southern Observatory

As per 1.10.2012

Germany was a founding member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and signed the ESO Convention in Leiden on 5 October 1962.

Contracts totalling more than 175 million euros have been awarded to German industry in the seven year period 2005-2011 inclusive. Note: this includes expenditure related to the ESO Headquarters.

Current use of ESO Facilities by German Astronomers

The statistics over the last ten years shows that German astronomers have applied for almost 6000 observing nights at the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT). This represents 18.0% of all requested observations. Over the same period German astronomers have been awarded 2100 nights, representing a share of 18.8%. Thus, Germany is by far the biggest user of ESO facilities (the next country is France with 14.0%). German astronomers have 35.0% of their applications for telescope time approved and are thus above the average of all applications (33.7%). German astronomers are therefore slightly more successful than other ESO Member States. (Not including about 5% of the observing time allocated to non-member countries).

German involvement with Science Instruments on the VLT

Many of the instruments of the VLT were built by German institutions. The most used instrument, FORS (Focal Reducer and Spectrograph), was built by the Heidelberg State Observatory, the University of Göttingen and observatories in Munich. Other German contributions were made to SINFONI, NACO, MIDI, OmegaCAM and the development of interferometry. Thus German institutes were involved in approximately a third of all instruments. German astronomers were also involved in the development of PRIMA, KMOS, SPHERE, MUSE, GRAVITY and MATISSE. So Germany is involved in six of the seven planned future VLT instruments.

Discoveries by astronomers at German institutes using ESO telescopes

Of the top 10 ESO science results (http://www.eso.org/public/science/top10.html) half have involved astronomers at German institutes and the highest ranked of all, studies of the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, was led by a German group at MPE, Garching.

Stars orbiting the Milky Way black hole
Several of ESO's flagship telescopes were used in a 16-year long study to obtain the most detailed view ever of the surroundings of the monster lurking at the heart of our galaxy — a supermassive black hole. This study was led by MPE, Garching.
Schödel et al. 2003 (Telbib),
Gillessen et al. 2009 (Telbib)
Read more in the ESO Press Release eso0226, eso0846 and eso1151. The Crafoord Prize in Astronomy 2012 was awarded for this result.

Gamma-ray bursts –  the connections with supernovae and merging neutron stars
ESO telescopes have provided definitive proof that long gamma-ray bursts are linked with the ultimate explosion of massive stars, solving a long-time puzzle. In addition a telescope at La Silla was able for the first time to observe the visible light from a short gamma-ray burst, showing that this family of objects most likely originate from the violent collision of two merging neutron stars.
Galama T.J., et al., 1998, Nature
Hjort et al., 2003 (Telbib)
Hjorth, J., et al., 2005, Nature
Pian, E., et al., 2006, Nature
Read more in the ESO Press Release eso0318 and in the ESO Press Release eso0533

Flares from the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way
The VLT and APEX team up to study the violent flares from the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, revealing material being stretched out as it orbits in the intense gravity close to the central black hole. In addition exquisite VLT observations revealed powerful infrared flares coming from the black hole, strongly suggesting that it rotates very rapidly.
Eckart, A. et al, 2008, A&A
Eisenhauer, F. et al, 2005, ApJ
Read more in the ESO Press Release eso0841

Direct measurements of the spectra of exoplanets and their atmospheres
The atmosphere around a super-Earth exoplanet has been analysed for the first time using the VLT. The planet, which is known as GJ 1214b, was studied as it passed in front of its parent star and some of the starlight passed through the planet’s atmosphere. The atmosphere is either mostly water in the form of steam or is dominated by thick clouds or hazes. This follows from the earlier first direct spectrum of an exoplanet.
Bean, J. et al, 2010, Nature
Janson, M. et al, 2010, ApJ
Read more in the ESO Press Release eso1047 and in the ESO Press Release eso1002

Richest planetary system
Astronomers using ESO’s HARPS have discovered a planetary system containing at least five planets, orbiting the Sun-like star HD 10180. Also evidence that two other planets may be present, one of which would have the lowest mass ever found. Furthermore, the team also found evidence that the distances of the planets from their star follow a regular pattern, as also seen in our Solar System.
Lovis, C. et al, 2010, A&A
Read more in the ESO Press Release eso1035

ESO science press releases from 2011/12 that have involved astronomers working at German institutes (excluding ESO itself) are listed here. These all represent important refereed papers in the recent scientific literature:

Number of German astronomers and staff working at ESO

As of September 2012 there are 145 German nationals employed at ESO, 126 in Garching and 19 in Chile.

German contributions to ALMA

During the seven years 2005-2011 inclusive ALMA contracts totalling more than 52 million euros were placed with German industry.

German contributions to the VLT

During the seven years 2005-2011 inclusive VLT contracts totalling nearly seven million euros were placed with German industry.

German contributions to the E-ELT

During the seven years 2005-2011 inclusive E-ELT contracts totalling more than five million euros were placed with German industry.

Other German Contracts with ESO

During the seven years 2005-2011 inclusive other contracts totalling more than 105 million euros were placed with German industry. Note: this includes expenditure related to the ESO Headquarters.