Brigitte Bailleul and Thor’s Helmet — Winners of ESO’s 50th Anniversary Competitions!

10 septembre 2012

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is pleased to announce the winners of the two competitions dedicated to the organisation’s 50th anniversary this year, Choose What the VLT Observes & Tweet Your Way to the VLT! The Thor’s Helmet Nebula (NGC 2359) received the most votes from the public in the first competition, and will be the target of these special observations with the VLT (Very Large Telescope). Brigitte Bailleul, from France, won the second competition and will travel to the Paranal Observatory in Chile to help make the observations.

For the first time in the history of the Very Large Telescope, the VLT will be pointed towards an object in the sky selected by members of the public — the Thor’s Helmet Nebula (NGC 2359). The observations will be streamed live from the VLT on Paranal on the day of ESO’s 50th anniversary, 5 October 2012, with additional talks and features from ESO’s Headquarters during the day. Members of the public are invited to submit questions for ESO astronomers, and the stream will be available free of charge on the web via the anniversary competitions webpage. On the same day, dedicated anniversary events will take place as part of our ongoing series of anniversary events at venues around the world.

The Thor’s Helmet Nebula received 908 votes out of a total of 4044. A random draw was made from all voters and Mario Cannistra (Italy) won the first prize — the latest iPad and a set of ESO products. Fifteen additional prizes consisting of ESO books, DVDs, posters, stickers were awarded. A full list of the winners is available here.

Thor's Helmet is a great choice: a nebula with a very distinctive shape and unusual name, which may be what made it so popular. At its core is a rare type of very hot and massive star, which will explode as a supernova in the future. I can’t wait to see the VLT's observations of this dramatic nebula!” says Olivier Hainaut, ESO astronomer working for the education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD).

The Tweet Your Way to the VLT! competition received over 2000 tweets from participants wishing to visit Paranal Observatory in Chile. The jury was impressed by the participants’ curiosity, enthusiasm and wish to share astronomy with others.

We had teachers wanting to share the experience of being at Paranal with their class back home, parents wanting to inspire their children, young people interested in becoming astronomers, older people who had always wished to be one. It was incredible to see how astronomy and ESO inspire people from all walks of life,” says Oana Sandu, ePOD Community Coordinator.

The jury found it difficult to choose a winner, but in the end they picked French freelance writer, Brigitte Bailleul for her tweet: “I'd visit @ESO because I'm proud that Europe had the vision to build and to operate these telescopes! #ESO50years”

Brigitte’s tweet encapsulates so many of ESO’s core values, as well as its mission. Fifty years ago, on 5 October 1962, five European countries were signing the ESO convention. It was the culmination of leading astronomers’ dream to bring Europe to the forefront of scientific research through cooperation and by building and operating the most powerful ground-based observing facilities,” says Lars Lindberg Christensen, head of ePOD. “Today ESO has 15 Member States and is the most productive ground-based observatory in the world. We should all be proud of that!

Brigitte found out about the competition from ESO’s Twitter feed, which she had been following with interest for some time now. “Space is awesome. I never go out at night without automatically looking up at the sky because it's amazingly beautiful. And yet, when you look through a telescope, even a small one, you get a glimpse of something far beyond what can be imagined. I just wanted to see that with my own eyes. Be there. Travel to the southern hemisphere and look up at the unpolluted sky. Tell anyone who wants to hear about my first-hand experience with a world-class telescope and get them to look up, too.”

Brigitte will travel to Paranal in early October to help perform the live observations of the Thor’s Helmet Nebula with the VLT. Follow her Twitter account as well as ESO’s for live updates from her.

Twenty other runners up will receive a set of ESO products such as books, DVDs, posters etc. A full list of the winners and their tweets is available here.

We would like to thank everyone who entered the competitions for their contributions and their enthusiasm!



Olivier Hainaut
The education and Public Outreach Department
Tel: +49 89 3200 6752

Oana Sandu
Community Coordinator
The education and Public Outreach Department
Tel: +49 89 320 069 65

À propos de l'annonce



Winner of the Tweet Your Way to the VLT! anniversary competition
Winner of the Tweet Your Way to the VLT! anniversary competition
Winner of the ESO anniversary competition — the Thor’s Helmet Nebula
Winner of the ESO anniversary competition — the Thor’s Helmet Nebula