eso9817 — Organisation Release
Expectations Increase as VLT First Light Approaches
13 May 1998
Two weeks before the moment of "First Light" of Unit Telescope no. 1 of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) , the ESO Team at the Paranal Observatory reports good progress of the preparatory work.
The crucial optimization of the world's first, thin 8.2-metre mirror proceeds according to the established plan. It is thus expected that this important event will take place as foreseen, i.e. during the night of May 25-26, 1998 .
If no unforeseen obstacles are encountered, the first scientific images will then be presented during a series of near-simultaneous Press Conferences in the ESO member countries on May 27 . The photos will be published on the WWW the same day, together with explanatory texts.
In preliminary optical tests at the first VLT Unit Telescope (UT1), the initial adjustment of the active optics system that controls the telescope optics has demonstrated excellent results. In particular, the first tests have verified the fine optical performance of the 8.2-m primary mirror and of the complex control system that maintains the shape of this thin and flexible Zerodur mirror.
In short test exposures with the guide probe (the technical device that is used to steer the telescope) - i.e., not yet with the scientific CCD-camera that will be used for the First Light images - the telescope has been following the external seeing provided by the Paranal site. Image quality of better than 0.5 arcsec has been achieved routinely.
"We are pleased with the progress and confident that the telescope will live up to the expectations", says Riccardo Giacconi , Director General of ESO. "The team at Paranal is doing a great job."
For more details about the various media activities surrounding the VLT First Light event, please consult the First Light homepage.
A list of locations, times and contact addresses for the Press Conferences is available on the web.