ESO Science Newsletter February 2021
01 Feb 2021

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

Science Announcements

Update on the Period 107 Special Call for Proposals

29 Jan 2021:

As previously announced, ESO is implementing a Special Call (hereafter SC107) for the submission of projects consisting of novel and urgent observations that could be executed during P107 (April 1 – September 30, 2021). SC107 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. Only up to 15% of the time dedicated to science observations will be available through SC107. It is therefore expected that only exceptional, highly rated science cases may be allocated telescope time. Resubmissions of previously rejected proposals will not be considered.

Read more

Olivier Chesneau Prize 2021

28 Jan 2021:

Olivier Chesneau, one of the most active and prolific members of the optical interferometry community, passed away in May 2014, at the age of 41. To honour his work in this field, his home institute, the Laboratoire J.-L. Lagrange at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in France, and ESO established a prize in his memory. Since 2015, the prize has been awarded biennially for the best PhD thesis completed in the field of high angular resolution optical astronomy.

Read more

Paranal, La Silla, and APEX Update

28 Jan 2021:

Paranal Observatory is in restricted operations, with almost all systems available for scientific observations: FORS2 and KMOS@UT1, UVES and FLAMES @UT2, SPHERE and X-Shooter@UT3, MUSE@UT4 with the AOF, ESPRESSO at the incoherent combined focus, OmegaCAM@VST, VIRCAM@VISTA, and Gravity/MATISSE/PIONIER @ VLTI. HAWK-I@UT4 recommissioning is foreseen for later in Q1. VISIR recommissioning is suspended until Q2 at the earliest. Regular operations with the NTT and 3.6m telescopes are ongoing at La Silla. Visitors are performing their observations remotely in designated visitor mode. APEX ended the year with restricted operations, almost 1300 hours of hours on sky, and the last run (ever) of one of the most successful APEX instruments ever, i.e., LABOCA. Currently scientific operations are suspended as the annual deep telescope and instrument maintenance is taking place. This period is aligned with the worst weather season for science at the site, the 'Altiplanic winter'.

Read more

ALMA Recovery Status Update

27 Jan 2021:

While the COVID-19 pandemic persists all around the world, ALMA staff at the JAO and in the regions continue to work towards bringing the array back online, with the ultimate goal to resume science operations and deliver high-quality science data to its users. At this moment, the ALMA antennas are in the process of being powered up and inspected after having been stowed for about 300 days.

Read more

New series of ESO Cosmic Duologues

25 Jan 2021:

ESO is happy to announce the start of the new series of ESO Cosmic Duologues. Started in 2020, the ESO Cosmic Duologue series aim at covering the current state of some of the biggest questions in astronomy in a lively way. The program of the new events is now available on-line. The first event of 2021 will be entitled The Big-Bang Nucleosynthesis: Concordance or New Physics? and will take place on Tuesday 26 January at 3pm (Central European Time). For each duologue, ESO invites two speakers who will present in short, dynamic talks, their side on a challenging scientific subject, or on a topic related to the sociology of science. The duologues will be streamed live on the dedicated YouTube channel.  All astronomers are invited to remotely attend the talks. 

Read more

How ESO Impacts Society: New publication highlights ESO’s benefits to its Member States

22 Jan 2021:

ESO is a testament to research, innovation, and collaboration in Europe with a far reaching and invaluable impact on society. A new publication, “ESO’s Benefits to Society”, explores ESO’s contributions to its Member States across five areas: science and engineering, economy and innovation, talent development, education and outreach, and international collaboration and policy. Impact indicators and case studies provide arguments as to why your work matters and why society should continue to invest in astronomical research.

Read more

Pitch your Research to ESO Communications to Reach a Broad Audience

22 Jan 2021:

Are you an author on an upcoming scientific study based on ESO data? If you think your study could be relevant for the wider public or journalists, please consider pitching it to ESO’s Department of Communication by sending your paper to ESO's Media Manager Bárbara Ferreira at

Read more

New Website for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope Launched

14 Jan 2021:

ESO has launched a new website to deliver a wealth of information about the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). Created for a wide range of audiences, the general public and astronomy experts alike can dive into the website to discover the new telescope, its instruments, some of the history behind this ambitious and challenging telescope, as well as how it will further our knowledge of the cosmos.

Read more

Upcoming ESO or ESO-Related Workshops

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.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together the galactic, extragalactic, and high-redshift communities, both theorists and observers, with the final goal of fostering fruitful discussions and new collaborations on the formation of the central regions of galaxies. Amongst the main topics to be discussed are: chemo-dynamical properties of the MW bulge, observed properties of bulges and link to formation scenarios, bulges in a cosmological context, clumpy discs, mergers and bulge formation at high redshifts, formation and evolution of bulges from a theoretical perspective.