The European Southern Observatory is a 16-nation intergovernmental research organisation for astronomy. Created in 1962, ESO has provided astronomers with state-of-the-art research facilities and access to the southern sky. The organisation employs about 730 staff members and receives annual member state contributions of approximately €131 million. Its observatories are located in northern Chile.ESO has built and operated some of the largest and most technologically-advanced telescopes. These include the New Technology Telescope, an early pioneer in the use of active optics, and the Very Large Telescope , which consists of four individual telescopes, each with a primary mirror 8.2 metre across, and four smaller auxiliary telescopes. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array observes the universe in the millimetre and submillimetre wavelength ranges, and is the world's largest ground-based astronomy project to date. It was completed in March 2013 in an international collaboration by Europe , North America, East Asia and Chile.Currently under construction is the European Extremely Large Telescope. It will use a 39.3-metre-diameter segmented mirror, and become the world's largest optical reflecting telescope when operational in 2024. Its light-gathering power will allow detailed studies of planets around other stars, the first objects in the universe, supermassive black holes, and the nature and distribution of the dark matter and dark energy which dominate the universe.ESO's observing facilities have made astronomical discoveries and produced several astronomical catalogues. Its findings include the discovery of the most distant gamma-ray burst and evidence for a black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. In 2004, the VLT allowed astronomers to obtain the first picture of an extrasolar planet orbiting a brown dwarf 173 light-years away. The High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher instrument installed in another ESO telescope led to the discovery of extrasolar planets, including Gliese 581c—one of the smallest planets seen outside the solar system. Wikipedia.
News Article | May 29, 2017
Construction began in Chile on Friday on the European Extremely Large Telescope, which when completed will be the world's largest optical telescope, some five times larger than the top observing instruments in use today. The size of the ELT has the potential to transform our understanding of the universe, say its backers, with its main mirror that will measure some 39 m (43 yards) across. Located on a 3 000-m-high mountain in the middle of the Atacama desert, it is due to begin operating in 2024. Among other capabilities, it will add to and refine astronomers' burgeoning discoveries of planets orbiting other stars, with the ability to find more smaller planets, image larger ones, and possibly characterise their atmospheres, a key step in understanding if life is present. "What is being raised here is more than a telescope. Here we see one of the greatest examples of the possibilities of science," said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in a speech to mark the beginning of construction at the site. The dry atmosphere of the Atacama provides as near perfect observing conditions as it is possible to find on Earth, with some 70% of the world's astronomical infrastructure slated to be located in the region by the 2020s. The ELT is being funded by the European Southern Observatory, an organisation consisting of European and southern hemisphere nations. Construction costs were not available but the ESO has said previously that the ELT would cost around €1-billion ($1.12-billion) at 2012 prices.
News Article | May 29, 2017
Construction of the Extremely Large Telescope started on Friday, May 26. Once completed, the instrument will be the world's largest optical and infrared telescope. The E-ELT, which is funded by the European Southern Observatory, an organization consisting of researchers from European and southern hemisphere nations, will be about five times larger compared with the top observing instruments currently used today. It's big enough that scientists look forward to its significant contributions in the field of astronomy. With its main mirror measuring about 39 meters across, scientists hope that the instrument can find more smaller planets and image larger ones. With its size, the telescope's main mirror will be able to gather unprecedented amount of light to image objects deemed too dark and distant for current observatories. The telescope is deemed powerful enough to play a crucial role in mankind's hunt for alien life as it can directly image extraterrestrial planets the size of Earth, allowing astronomers to gather vital information such as the composition of the atmosphere and surfaces of extraterrestrial worlds. These data could then be used to identify the most probable places in the cosmos to find alien life. "The ELT will tackle the biggest scientific challenges of our time, and aim for a number of notable firsts, including tracking down Earth-like planets around other stars in the 'habitable zones' where life could exist — one of the Holy Grails of modern observational astronomy," the ESO website reads. Simone Zaggia, of the Inaf Observatory of Padua, has said that the telescope will play an important role in the search for exoplanets, particularly Earth-like worlds that can support life. He explained that the biggest telescopes today can only spot big exoplanets as big as Saturn and Jupiter. "We really want to know about the smaller worlds that make up the solar systems in our galaxy," Zaggia said. "We want to find out if there are many Earth-like planets in our part of the universe. More importantly we want to find out if their atmospheres contain levels of oxygen or carbon dioxide or methane or other substances that suggest there is life there. To do that, we need a giant telescope like the E-ELT." Gerry Gilmore, from Cambridge University, explained that while scientists are able to see exoplanets, they cannot study them in detail since these worlds appear very close to their host stars from a distant perspective. The magnification that the E-ELT will give though will allow researchers to look at these worlds directly and clearly. In the future, researchers could get a picture of planets around another star with color changes that are similar to what happens with season changes on Earth. This may indicate the presence of vegetation in these worlds which could mean the existence of alien life. The telescope, which will be located on a 3,000-meter-high mountain of the Atacama desert, is expected to start its operation by 2024. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | May 10, 2017
In terms of the impact on science, the Australian budget, released 9 May, is “very bland,” says Les Field, science policy secretary at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra, the nation’s leading scientific association. “There are no big spending initiatives but no major cuts,” he adds. It’s a “business-as-usual budget for science and technology,” agrees Kylie Walker, CEO of Science and Technology Australia in Canberra, which represents scientists. Overall spending on science for the fiscal year beginning 1 July and in later years, called the forward estimates, is not yet clear because support is spread across several ministries. But the plan does reveal some winners and losers. Field notes that there will be “small decreases” in years to come for the publicly funded science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), which in recent years has been hit with massive cuts that resulted in extensive job losses. “I’m profoundly disappointed at the missed opportunities” to restore support, says Kim Carr, the opposition Australian Labor Party’s shadow minister for innovation, industry, science, and research. And the government is making it difficult for the private sector to pick up the slack. The budget cuts an R&D tax incentive by $810 million over the next 3 years, Carr notes. The incentive is one of the government’s biggest programs to stimulate business investment in research and development. But the budget also includes an outlay of $74 million to promote innovation in Australia’s manufacturing sector, something Field welcomes. Higher education is also suffering, says Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, an advocacy group based in Canberra. She was referring to $2 billion in cuts to higher education announced separately from the federal budget last Monday. Large numbers of overseas students make higher education the nation’s third-largest export sector. “Universities contribute more than they receive,” she says. And although the government plans to invest heavily in air, road, and rail transport infrastructure, it has cut a program designed to support big national research facilities at universities. Astronomy, meanwhile, was a real “policy win,” Field says. The budget includes $19 million to support an Australian partnership with the European Southern Observatory, meaning “Australian astronomers will be involved in the major astronomy initiatives around the world.” The commitment also includes ongoing funding of $9 million a year over the next decade.
News Article | May 11, 2017
Flash Physics is our daily pick of the latest need-to-know developments from the global physics community selected by Physics World's team of editors and reporters An unexplained excess in the number of antiprotons detected by the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) is related to the annihilation of dark-matter particles, according to two independent studies. Dark matter is a mysterious substance that appears to account for most of the matter in the universe. While its existence can be inferred indirectly from a number of different astronomical phenomena, dark-matter particles have never been detected directly. Writing in Physical Review Letters, Alessandro Cuoco and colleagues at RWTH Aachen University in Germany describe how they analysed antiproton, proton and helium cosmic-ray detection rates by AMS – which is located on the International Space Station – and other experiments. They found that the creation of antiprotons by the annihilation of dark-matter particles with masses of about 80 GeV/C2 provided the best explanation for why AMS has detected more antiprotons than expected to be created by conventional astrophysical process. In the same issue of the journal, Ming-Yang Cui of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues describe an independent analysis of the antiproton excess, which suggests that it is the result of annihilating dark-matter particles with masses in the 40–60 GeV/C2. Science-related extracurricular activities do not encourage students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) subjects at high school, according to a study by Pallavi Amitava Banerjee from the University of Exeter in the UK. Banerjee tracked the educational progress of 600,000 teenagers from the start of secondary school (age 11–12) to A-level examinations (age 18). By using data from the National Pupil Database and activity providers, she examined whether students were more likely to choose STEM subjects for their A-levels if they had taken part in engagement activities such as trips to labs, special practical lessons or visits to STEM centres. Presented in Review of Education, Banerjee highlights that there is little evidence linking the two. For example, the number of students taking physics A-level was 5% for students that had taken part in enrichment activities, compared with 4.3% if they had not. On the other hand, extra activities were slightly more beneficial for children ages 11–14 rather than ages 14–16. "Of course there are many factors which can affect the decisions young people make about the subjects they choose to continue studying at age 16," says Banerjee. "It is essential for policymakers to consider if whether, if these schemes are not working, perhaps the money could be spent elsewhere. Given the range of schemes being run it is also crucial to understand if any work better than others. Knowing the answer to this could help ensure money is spent on only the highest quality activities." The CERN particle-physics lab near Geneva has built its first accelerator since the completion of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2008. Linear Accelerator 4 (Linac 4), which is around 90 m long and took a decade to construct, will be used to accelerate beams of negative hydrogen ions to 160 MeV. When Linac 4 is connected to CERN's accelerator complex at the end of 2019, the 160 MeV beam will then be sent to the Proton Synchrotron Booster, which will accelerate the ions and strip the electrons away, before the resulting protons enter the Proton Synchrotron, the Super Proton Synchrotron and finally the LHC. Linac 4 will now undergo "extensive" commissioning and is expected to replace Linac 2, which has been in operation since 1978. The new accelerator will be part of CERN's High Luminosity Upgrade, which will see the LHC's luminosity increase five-fold by 2025. Astronomers in Australia will gain access to European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes in Chile in 2018 under a new agreement involving an A$26m payment to the ESO. Australia has also committed to the ongoing funding of the telescopes until 2028 at an average annual rate of A$12m and Australian astronomers and companies will be involved in developing new technologies for the telescopes. Chris Tinney at the University of New South Wales Sydney says: "Australian astronomers have been seeking access to ESO for the past two decades.” Lisa Kewley, who chairs the Australian Academy of Science National Committee for Astronomy, adds: "This is great news for the future of Australian astronomy." Nobel laureate and Australian National University vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt says access to ESO's facilities and other infrastructure such as the next-generation Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope is critical to the future of Australian astronomy. Tim de Zeeuw, the ESO's director general, says: "The ESO community is well aware of Australia's outstanding instrumentation capability, including advanced adaptive optics and fibre-optic technology." He adds: "Australia's expertise is ideally matched to ESO's instrumentation programme, and ESO Member State institutions would be excited to collaborate with Australian institutions and their industrial partners in consortia developing the next generation of instruments."
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: INFRAIA-01-2016-2017 | Award Amount: 10.51M | Year: 2017
RadioNet is a consortium of 28 institutions in Europe, Republic of Korea and South Africa, integrating at European level world-class infrastructures for research in radio astronomy. These include radio telescopes, telescope arrays, data archives and the globally operating European Network for Very Long Baseline Interferometry (EVN). RadioNet is de facto widely regarded to represent the interests of radio astronomy in Europe. A comprehensive, innovative and ambitious suite of actions is proposed that fosters a sustainable research environment. Building on national investments and commitments to operate these facilities, this specific EC program leverages the capabilities on a European scale. The proposed actions include: - Merit-based trans-national access to the RadioNet facilities for European and for the first time also for third country users; and integrated and professional user support that fosters continued widening of the community of users. - Innovative R&D, substantially enhancing the RadioNet facilities and taking leaps forward towards harmonization, efficiency and quality of exploitation at lower overall cost; development and delivery of prototypes of specialized hardware, ready for production in SME industries. - Comprehensive networking measures for training, scientific exchange, industry cooperation, dissemination of scientific and technical results; and policy development to ensure long-term sustainability of excellence for European radio astronomy. RadioNet is relevant now, it enables cutting-edge science, top-level R&D and excellent training for its European facilities; with the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) and the ESFRI-listed Square Kilometre Array (SKA) defined as global radio telescopes, RadioNet assures that European radio astronomy maintains its leading role into the era of these next-generation facilities by involving scientists and engineers in the scientific use and innovation of the outstanding European facilities.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP-CSA-Infra | Phase: INFRA-2012-1.1.25. | Award Amount: 10.98M | Year: 2013
Optical-infrared astronomy in Europe is in a state of transition and opportunity, with the goal of a viable structured European scale community in sight. A strong astronomical community requires access to state of the art infrastructures (telescopes), equipped with the best possible instrumentation, and with that access being open to all on a basis of competitive excellence. Further, the community needs training in optimal use of those facilities to be available to all, Critically, it needs a viable operational model, with long-term support from the national agencies, to operate those infrastructures. The most important need for most astronomers is to have open access to a viable set of medium aperture telescopes, with excellent facilities, complemented by superb instrumentation on the extant large telescopes, while working towards next generation instrumentation on the future flagship, the European Extremely Large Telescope. OPTICON has made a substantial contribution to preparing the realisation of that ambition. OPTICON supported R&D has, and is developing critical next-generation technology, to enhance future instrumentation on all telescopes. The big immediate challenge is to retain a viable set of well-equipped medium aperture telescopes. The present project is to make the proof of principle that such a situation is possible - a situation developed by OPTICON under its previous contracts, in collaboration with the EC supported strategy network ASTRONET - and set the stage for the step to full implementation.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: INFRAIA-01-2016-2017 | Award Amount: 10.01M | Year: 2017
Europe has become a global leader in optical-near infrared astronomy through excellence in space and ground-based experimental and theoretical research. While the major infrastructures are delivered through major national and multi-national agencies (ESO, ESA) their continuing scientific competitiveness requires a strong community of scientists and technologists distributed across Europes nations. OPTICON has a proven record supporting European astrophysical excellence through development of new technologies, through training of new people, through delivering open access to the best infrastructures, and through strategic planning for future requirements in technology, innovative research methodologies, and trans-national coordination. Europes scientific excellence depends on continuing effort developing and supporting the distributed expertise across Europe - this is essential to develop and implement new technologies and ensure instrumentation and infrastructures remain cutting edge. Excellence depends on continuing effort to strengthen and broaden the community, through networking initiatives to include and then consolidate European communities with more limited science expertise. Excellence builds on training actions to qualify scientists from European communities which lack national access to state of the art research infrastructures to compete successfully for use of the best available facilities. Excellence depends on access programmes which enable all European scientists to access the best infrastructures needs-blind, purely on competitive merit. Global competitiveness and the future of the community require early planning of long-term sustainability, awareness of potentially disruptive technologies, and new approaches to the use of national-scale infrastructures under remote or robotic control. OPTICON will continue to promote this excellence, global competitiveness and long-term strategic planning.
Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: ERC-SyG | Phase: ERC-2013-SyG | Award Amount: 13.98M | Year: 2014
Gravity is successfully described by Einsteins theory of general relativity (GR), governing the structure of our entire universe. Yet it remains the least understood of all forces in nature, resisting unification with quantum physics. One of the most fundamental predictions of GR are black holes (BHs). Their defining feature is the event horizon, the surface that light cannot escape and where time and space exchange their nature. However, while there are many convincing BH candidates in the universe, there is no experimental proof for the existence of an event horizon yet. So, does GR really hold in its most extreme limit? Do BHs exist or are alternatives needed? Here we propose to build a Black Hole Camera that for the first time will take an actual picture of a BH and image the shadow of its event horizon. We will do this by providing the equipment and software needed to turn a network of existing mm-wave radio telescopes into a global interferometer. This virtual telescope, when supplemented with the new Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), has the power to finally resolve the supermassive BH in the centre of our Milky Way the best-measured BH candidate we know of. In order to compare the image with the theoretical predictions we will need to perform numerical modelling and ray tracing in GR and alternative theories. In addition, we will need to determine accurately the two basic parameters of the BH: its mass and spin. This will become possible by precisely measuring orbits of stars with optical interferometry on ESOs VLTI. Moreover, our equipment at ALMA will allow for the first detection of pulsars around the BH. Already a single pulsar will independently determine the BHs mass to one part in a million and its spin to a few per cent. This unique combination will not only produce the first-ever image of a BH, but also turn our Galactic Centre into a fundamental-physics laboratory to measure the fabric of space and time with unprecedented precision.
Kennicutt Jr. R.C.,University of Cambridge |
Evans N.J.,University of Texas at Austin |
Evans N.J.,European Southern Observatory
Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2012
We review progress over the past decade in observations of large-scale star formation, with a focus on the interface between extragalactic and Galactic studies. Methods of measuring gas contents and star-formation rates are discussed, and updated prescriptions for calculating star-formation rates are provided. We review relations between star formation and gas on scales ranging from entire galaxies to individual molecular clouds. Copyright © 2012 by Annual Reviews.
Davies R.,Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics |
Kasper M.,European Southern Observatory
Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics | Year: 2012
Adaptive optics is a prime example of how progress in observational astronomy can be driven by technological developments. At many observatories it is now considered to be part of a standard instrumentation suite, enabling ground-based telescopes to reach the diffraction limit and, thus, providing spatial resolution erior to that achievable from space with current or planned satellites. In this review, we consider adaptive optics from the astrophysical perspective. We show that adaptive optics has led to important advances in our understanding of a multitude of astrophysical processes and describe how the requirements from science applications are now driving the development of the next generation of novel adaptive optics techniques. Copyright © 2012 by Annual Reviews.