The year 2020 will go into history as an exceptional one in almost every area of human activity. While we are still suffering the direct impact of the global pandemic and these will surely continue for some time, the end of the year is a suitable occasion to sincerely thank the efforts of our scientific community to carry on producing excellent science. I also wish to express my appreciation to all ESO staff and to our partners and contractors in the Member States and Chile for finding creative ways of enabling our projects to move forward, and of resuming astronomical observations and the delivery of scientific data. Last but not least, my warmest thanks to the Member State delegations in our governing bodies for their continued, unfailing and invaluable support to ESO.
The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) is planning to start the observations for Cycle 8 2021, in October 2021. A Call for Proposals (CfP) with detailed information on the new cycle is anticipated to be issued in March 2021 and the deadline for proposal submission will be in April 2021. The purpose of this pre-announcement is to highlight aspects of the CfP to assist with early planning. It also contains information related to the proposal review process.
VIRCAM@VISTA started science operations on December 15th, bringing back all Paranal telescopes. The operational systems on Paranal are: FORS2@UT1, UVES@UT2, SPHERE & X-Shooter@UT3, MUSE@UT4 with AOF, ESPRESSO@ICCF, OmegaCAM@VST, VIRCAM@VISTA, Gravity/MATISSE/PIONIER @ VLTI.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the European ARC Network continues to provide support for PIs and users of archival data. More specifically the European ARC Network is offering a series of topical trainings called I-TRAIN. The next appointment is on January 15th, 2021, with an online training on UVMultiFit, a versatile library for fitting models directly to visibility data. More information on this event can be found at this link and upcoming trainings will be soon advertised on the European ARC Announcements page.
The ESO Office for Science is pleased to announce the beginning of the Hypatia Colloquium Series, where early career scientists will have the opportunity of describing their research to a very broad audience. The seminars were selected after a very competitive process following the reception of over 300 proposals by ESO. The detailed programme of the seminars, which are scheduled to take place online on Tuesdays at 3pm (Central European Time), is already available.
GRAVITY+ was recently recommended by the ESO Scientific and Technical Committee as the top priority instrument upgrade for the VLT/I and will start the Phase A in 2021. It will transform interferometric capabilities of the VLTI by enhancing the sensitivity to K=18mag on-axis or K=22mag off-axis with Laser Guide Stars on all UTs and will allow phase referencing over an unprecedented large field of >30" (compared to currently 2"). This will enable milliarcsecond imaging and microarcsecond astrometry in the infrared for a wide new range of Galactic and extragalactic science cases. The GRAVITY+ consortium invites interested members of the ESO science community to a two half-day online workshop on GRAVITY+ that will take place on 24-25 February 2021.
The first 60000 data cubes and continuum images generated by the Additional Representative Images for Legacy (ARI-L) ALMA development project are now available to download from the ALMA Science Archive (ASA). In addition to the primary-beam-corrected images, the released products also include the primary beams, and mask for all targets and calibrators of more than 1200 Cycle 3 and 4 datasets.
The User Support Department again extends its thanks to all those Principal Investigators and their Phase 2 delegates who filled in this year's online Paranal Service Mode User Satisfaction Survey. A total of 139 responses were received from the targeted campaign. As in the past, where possible, those respondents who provided detailed comments have been contacted via e-mail. A summary report based on this latest User Satisfaction Survey is now available.
A broad range of fundamental science is pushing for significantly better spectroscopic sensitivity at near-UV wavelengths. The four 8.2m telescopes of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) are the world's most scientifically productive ground-based observatory at visible/infrared wavelengths. Looking to the future of the VLT there is a long-standing aspiration for an optimised ultraviolet spectrograph, culminating in plans for the Cassegrain U-Band Efficient Spectrograph (CUBES). An on-line workshop on science with UV-efficient ground-based spectrographs will take place on 3-5 February 2021.
The ELT has recently received a 10% increase to its budget, which brings the total cost of the project to €1.3 billion. The funding boost was approved by the ESO Council, the organisation’s main governing body. An 80% of the ELT’s budget is being invested in contracts with industry in ESO member states and in Chile. The revised budget includes the procurement of components originally deferred to a second phase of the project, such as the telescope’s second prefocal station, two more laser guide star systems, a set of astronomy-relevant atmospheric monitoring equipment and a small technical building at Armazones to optimise operations and maintenance activities. The new budget includes the cost of activities needed to bring the ELT into operation as part of ESO’s Paranal Observatory.
Under normal circumstances, the Period 107 telescope schedule would have been announced at this point in time. However, as previously announced, the corresponding Call for Proposals has been suspended, as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chile, and a special call will be opened in the coming months. Principal Investigators whose programmes have been affected by the loss of science time in Period 105 will be contacted in January on a case-by-case basis with information on the specific plans for their observations in Period 107. Further information can be found on the COVID-19 impact FAQ webpage and on the La Silla Paranal Observatory news webpage.
The new data release from the Gaia-ESO Public Spectroscopic Survey (GES)DR4 delivers about 190,000 stacked, quality-controlled, 1-d spectra (R between 18000 and 54000) of 114,500 unique stellar targets. These stars were observed with GIRAFFE and UVES from 31.12.2011 to 26.01.2018, during the entire period of execution of the survey. These targets were selected from all the major structural components of the Milky Way: bulge, thick and thin discs, halo, including open star clusters of all ages and masses. The 1-D spectra from GES DR4 augment or update the spectra published in the previous data releases, which included observations up to July 2014 (~44000 spectra for ~25000 objects).
The Seyfert starburst galaxy NGC 7130 was targeted for commissioning and science verification of the MUSE Narrow Field Mode, in programmes 60.A-9100(K) and 60.A-9493(A), P.I. Marja Seidel. The reduced data cube provides an angular resolution of 0.17 arcsec across a field of view of 7.5x7.5 arcsec2 covering the spectral range between 4750 and 9300 Å with a resolution of about 2.5 to 2.7 Å.
Galaxy Clusters At Vircam (GCAV) is a survey (programme 198.A-2008, PI M. Nonino) belonging to the second cycle of ESO VISTA Public Surveys. It aims to observe 20 massive galaxy clusters covering in total ~30 deg2 in the infrared Y, J, and Ks bands. Those clusters have also been observed in many ground- and space-based programmes (e.g. CLASH, RELICS, HFF/ BUFFALO). The survey will mainly explore galaxy evolution over a wide, and still largely unexplored, diversity of cluster environments. This second release adds new data of 15 galaxy clusters to the previous DR1.
After its success in the past two editions, ESO is now ready to launch its Summer Research Programme 2021. This fully-funded initiative is open to all university students not yet enrolled in a PhD programme from any country, although priority will be given to students from ESO Member States, Strategic Partners (Australia) and the Host State (Chile). Applications are now open with deadline 3rd of February 2021, 23:59 CET, and full details can be found on the Programme webpage.
Following the announced suspension of the regular Call for Proposals for ESO Period 107 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ESO is implementing a special call for the submission of projects consisting of novel and urgent observations that could be executed during P107. This Special Call for Period 107 will be open only to proposals concerning a highly compelling and competitive scientific topic, requiring urgent observations; proposals of a risky nature, requiring a small amount of observing time to test the feasibility of a programme; and proposals asking for follow-up observations of a programme recently conducted from ground-based and/or space telescope facilities, where rapid implementation holds the promise of breakthrough results.
A broad range of fundamental science is pushing for significantly better spectroscopic sensitivity at near-UV wavelengths. The four 8.2m telescopes of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) are the world’s most scientifically productive ground-based observatory at visible/infrared wavelengths. Looking to the future of the VLT there is a long-standing aspiration for an optimised ultraviolet (UV) spectrograph, culminating in plans for the Cassegrain U-Band Efficient Spectrograph (CUBES). With a science case strongly motivated by stellar astrophysics and nucleosynthesis, and also driven by compelling cases from extragalactic astronomy and Solar System science, CUBES will provide a world-leading capability to obtain high-resolution spectroscopy (R = 20,000) in the near ultraviolet (300 – 400 nm), with a tenfold sensitivity gain compared to existing instruments (e.g. ESO’s UVES instrument).
GRAVITY+ is the first new Very Large Telescope (VLT) instrument selected following the “ESO in the 2030s” review. It will increase the sensitivity, sky coverage, and field of view of the VLT Interferometer (VLTI) to enable milliarcsecond imaging and microarcsecond astrometry in the infrared for a wide new range of Galactic and extragalactic science cases. GRAVITY+ constitutes a phased upgrade of the current, enormously successful GRAVITY instrument. With a final capability of fringe tracking down to K~15 mag, off-axis targets down to K~22 mag will be observable. By opening this new discovery space, the VLTI will become of broad interest to the European science community beyond the classical interferometry fields.
VIMOS, the VIsible Multi-Object Spectrograph, was decommissioned in March 2018. After 15 years of operations, VIMOS has amassed over 9700 hours of science data, mostly devoted to spectroscopic surveys of galaxies across cosmic time. This also marked the completion of the two last VIMOS Public Surveys: VANDELS and LEGA-C. To commemorate this milestone, we are celebrating a 5-day workshop to review past and current spectroscopic surveys on galaxy evolution (both with ESO and non-ESO instruments), as well as to explore future surveys that will be soon enabled by new MOS and IFU facilities.
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