ESO Science Newsletter May 2020
08 May 2020
Cerro Armazones, the home of ESO's ELT.

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 Suspended ESO Operations due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

08 May 2020:

All ESO observatories continue to operate in safe mode and no science operations are taking place. As in April and May,  all Visitor Mode runs have also been cancelled for the first two weeks of June. An update will be posted on the La Silla Paranal Observatory news page as soon as ESO starts to ramp up and resume science observations. At present, no date has been set for the commencement of operations.

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2020 ESO Studentships

08 May 2020:

The ESO research studentship programme provides an outstanding opportunity for PhD students to experience the exciting scientific environment at one of the world's leading observatories. ESO's studentship positions are open to students enrolled in a university PhD programme in astronomy or related fields. Students accepted into the programme work on their doctoral project under the formal supervision of their home university, but they come to ESO to work and study under the co-supervision of an ESO staff astronomer for a period of between one and two years.

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ESO Cosmic Duologues

07 May 2020:

ESO is organising a web-based series of Cosmic Duologues aiming to cover the current state of some of the major questions in astronomy today in a lively way, via a duologue between two professional astronomers, each expert in their field. These events are streamed live via YouTube and are open to all members of the scientific community. The dedicated website will show how to access the last two duologues, including information on how to access past events. The next event on Substructure in Protoplanetary Discs will take place on Monday 29 June. The following duologue will be called Dust at High-z  and will be held on Monday 6 July. Please see the event webpage for more details of the event.

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Online Munich Joint Astrophysics Colloquia (JAC)

05 May 2020:

The Munich Astrophysics Colloquium (JAC) series is jointly organised by ESO, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestial Physics and the Observatory of the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. JAC presentations cover the most exciting topics and developments in astrophysics. A video archive of presentations given in  2020 and 2019 is available and earlier presentations can be found through the ESO Garching Seminar Web page.

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Update on Status of ALMA Cycles 7 and 8

03 May 2020:

The COVID-19 crisis has continued to affect the global community, including ALMA users and staff. ALMA operations remain suspended, as announced on March 20. On behalf of the ALMA Director, with support from all Executives, a number of decisions were taken regarding the status of Cycle 7 and Cycle 8. Cycle 8 has been postponed until 2021 October. It is anticipated that the Cycle 8 Call for Proposals will open again in 2021 March. ALMA Cycle 7 will continue through 2021 September, with currently non-completed projects ranked A, B and C remaining in the observing queue.

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ESO Period 106 Submission Statistics

01 May 2020:

The deadline for proposal submission for Period 106 (1 October 2020 - 31 March 2021) was 23 April, 2020, after an extension of four weeks due to the COVID-19 crisis. 1070 valid proposals were submitted, including 47 Large Programmes, which is the largest number of Large Programme proposals ever submitted in a single period. On the VLT the most requested ESO instrument was MUSE with a request of 486 nights, followed by X-shooter with 364 nights. HARPS on the ESO 3.6-metre telescope was the most demanded instrument at La Silla, with 396 nights.

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ALMA Band 2 Contracts Signed

29 Apr 2020:

The contract has been signed for the production of the final set of receivers to be installed on the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Of the originally foreseen ten receiver bands, eight have already been installed, and the ninth, Band 1, is currently in production in East-Asia. Now, contracts have been signed to start the production of the final band in the original ALMA definition —  Band 2 (67-116 GHz), led by ESO. Exceeding the originally defined frequency range for this Band (69-90 GHz), the proposed receiver will operate over the full 67-116 GHz frequency window. The hugely successful Band 3 receiver already opened up the 86-116 GHz frequency range years ago, but the new Band 2 will allow for observations across the entire 67-116 GHz atmospheric window using a single receiver. The ALMA board approved pre-production of a series of six cartridges, with the goal of moving into production of the full set, one for each ALMA antenna.

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ALMA and La Silla Paranal Data Jointly Accessible from the ESO Archive Science Portal

28 Apr 2020:

ALMA data products have been integrated into the ESO Archive Science Portal along with data products from the La Silla Paranal Observatory (including APEX). Millions of datasets can be browsed jointly through a uniform set of query items, providing a unique integrated panchromatic view of the southern hemisphere extending from the near-ultraviolet to millimetre wavelengths. Queries can be carried out interactively through a web application which presents the results on the celestial sphere and provides aggregate and detailed individual information, or via direct database and Virtual Observatory access for programmatic, recurring and/or massive queries. The selected data can then be downloaded from the respective portals for ALMA and ESO. In this initial phase content from the ALMA Archive Interface is synchronised every two weeks, with the cadence progressively increasing with time.

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Online Conference: Assessing Uncertainties in Hubble's Constant Across the Universe

25 Apr 2020:

Online, 22–26 June 2020, daily from 12:50 - 15:10 UTC

What's lurking behind the discord in the Hubble constant? This conference will discuss a wide range of observational methods, how to improve their systematics, and what H0 and other cosmological tensions tell us about cosmology and possible new physics beyond the Lambda-CDM model. The registration deadline is 29 May. Please see the conference webpage for more information.

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Conference Galaxy Cluster Formation (GCF) 2020 Postponed

24 Apr 2020:

ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany (postponed)

The aim of GCF2020 is to discuss cluster formation over the last roughly ten billion years, from its beginnings to the present day, with a particular focus on the progress and developments since our first GCF meeting in 2017. Given the rapidly evolving and highly uncertain situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second installment of the Galaxy Cluster Formation Workshop series is postponed until 2021. The workshop will most likely take place in summer 2021, although the month and dates have not been decided. Those who have already submitted an abstract will have the chance to update and resubmit. For updates and revised deadlines, please follow the workshop website.

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New Issue of The Messenger Online

23 Apr 2020:

The latest edition of ESO's quarterly journal, The Messenger, is now available online. In issue 179, highlights include an article on the 2018 Visiting Committee report, imaging main belt asteroids using SPHERE, the ASPECS survey which is an ALMA Large Programme Targeting the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field. In addition, all subscribers to the print edition are asked to confirm their subscriptions and update their postal addresses. Please hold on to your envelope which contains your personalised confirmation code – see the back page of The Messenger 179 for further details.

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ESO Archive Science Portal 2.0 released

23 Apr 2020:

The ESO Archive Science Portal allows browsing and exploration of archive content using an intuitive interactive user interface that supports iterative queries or by direct database and Virtual Observatory (VO) access using user scripts and VO-aware tools. The latest version, released on 23 April 2020, provides the features and improvements listed below.

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2020 Release of VLT/VLTI Instrument Data Reduction Software Packages

16 Apr 2020:

The annual public release of ESO VLT/VLTI instruments data reduction software packages is scheduled for the beginning of June 2020. Please note that the new pipeline packages will be released for the following operating systems: Fedora 28-31, CentOS 7 and macOS 10.11–10.14. For macOS version 10.15 we recommend using MacPorts. We expect pipelines will build and install from source in macOS 10.15, thus installations will take a bit longer than for those OS versions that are supported with binary packages. We are working toward full support for macOS 10.15, but for the time being we cannot say when we will provide MacPorts packages for the pipelines on 10.15.

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Upcoming ESO or ESO-Related Workshops

  • Summer Research Programme
    Online, 2 July-11 August 2020

    The very successful ESO Summer Research Programme continues in 2020. This programme provides a unique opportunity to students not yet enrolled in PhD programmes to carry out a six-week research project with ESO Fellows and staff. Students can choose between a wide range of research projects, covering many areas of astronomy from exo-planets to cosmology. The programme also provides opportunities beyond research, including lectures, a mini-workshop, and many social activities. This year the workshop will be conducted online.

Pitch your research for an ESO Press Release for a chance to make the news.
ESO produces press releases based on research done with ESO telescopes or instruments, including those where ESO is a partner or that are hosted at an ESO site. At the Department of Communication, we are always searching for exciting and important research to feature in ESO press releases. If you have an interesting story of your own you'd like to pitch for an ESO press release, please send your paper to ESO's Public Information Officer Barbara Ferreira via e-mail at

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