Telescopes and Instruments

ESO 50th aniversary web-stream libe now!
Published 10/5/2012 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
A Day in the Life of ESO is live now! Watch it at: I will be giving a talk at 14:17 CEST. See you there.     read more ❯

Lost a chance, maybe forever
Published 8/31/2011 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
Yesterday, while digging into more than 800 emails (already excluding spam) received during my summer vacation, I realized I have lost one of THE chances of my life. Scrolling down the list, searching for the most urgent things, I stumbled upon a message with a strange subject: From the Dark Side of the Moon to Paranal The sender is my colleague astronomer and good, old friend  Martino Romaniello, who is well aware of some of my passions. I open the message. It starts with !!!! followed by a web link. I click on it and I see the picture you can also see here: That... read more ❯

Una serata assurda - An absurd evening
Published 8/29/2011 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
Just back from holidays. Many things happened, and maybe I'll find the time to report about a few of them. But the funniest, and at the same time the most frustrating one was a public talk I gave together with Margherita Hack. She is the most famous Italian popularizer of astronomy, and she appears quite often on national TV channels, newspapers and magazines. The day after I wrote a short novel about this evening. As I really needed to use many words, and my English is not good enough for that, I had to write... read more ❯

A completely new experience
Published 5/25/2011 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
Many things happened since my last post here. One of them is that I got a new job. Well, yes, I'm still an astronomer, but after ten years of work as support astronomer in the Users Support Dept., I now moved to the Observing Programmes Office of ESO, which I am now leading. What? Those of you who know me might indeed wonder how this can possibly be. Well, not sure... As a consequence, I changed office, building, collaborators and so on. But I'm still at the European Southern Observatory, my alma mater. [caption id="attachment_1284" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Panel Scientific Assistants (a.k.a.... read more ❯

A walk into the desert
Published 9/1/2010 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
A view of the desert from Paranal's residencia This is now the 8th night of this run at the Very Large Telescope. I have been observing at Kueyen, the second 8.2m unit telescope (UT2 for friends). At the moment it is equipped with three spectrographs, UVES, FLAMES, and X-Shooter. All nights where good, very stable and quiet. But tonight the wind is blowing strong, from the north. So strong that we had to close down after some hours of operations. The unit telescopes are huge, 400 tons,  earthquake-proof metallic structures, but still you can move them... read more ❯

Light Pollution: professional astronomers give a very bad example
Published 5/14/2010 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
Light pollution is a serious issue, and it does not affect only astronomers. If you wish to get a nice introduction on the subject, visit the wikipedia page; it contains lots of useful links and references to literature and web sites. Usually, the two words "light pollution" bring to your mind images of densely populated areas, full of commercial, public and private outdoors lighting. In many cases just throwing light into the skies, either because of bad lamp design or (even worse) on purpose. This is the case for the building... read more ❯

The 42m E-ELT goes to Cerro Armazones - Chile!
Published 4/26/2010 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
ESO's Director General has just announced that the 42m E-ELT will be built on Cerro Armazones, Chile. For more details see the ESO press release.  This is some 30km away from Cerro Paranal. So, South America will host the largest optical/near-IR telescope on Earth. Great news!!! read more ❯

Early meetings. People who make things happen.
Published 1/21/2010 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
Like everyday, this morning I brought my little son to the kinder-garden. On the way I met Tim de Zeeuw, the Director General of ESO. From the window of my office I can see his and I had noticed he had been away for quite some time. I took advantage of this for briefly chatting with him about how jet-lag is annoying and so on. "Yes" - he said - "but sometimes interesting things happen". I was kind of guessing that something exceptional was coming and the conversation was going to turn into something much less trivial than jet-lag... [caption id="attachment_761"... read more ❯

My Grand Mother and Galileo
Published 12/3/2009 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
This is a somewhat unusual post when compared to my usual ones. In fact, today my Grand Mother Vittoria turns 100! She was born in Buia (Italy) on December 3rd, 1909. One hundred years ago, almost exactly 300 years after the Galilean Nights. She has seen two world wars, experienced invasion, bombing, forced emigration, destitution and earthquakes. Hundred years are a lot and almost nothing in the same time.  In 1909 the construction of Titanic was started, Herman Minkowski died, Guglielmo Marconi got the Nobel Prize, Rita Levi Montalcini (Nobel Prize in 1986) was born, Louis Bleriot was the first... read more ❯

November 30, 1609 - 2009
Published 11/30/2009 in Fernando Patat Author Ferdinando
At last the memorable night has come. If the weather in Bavaria stays as is now, we might have the chance of repeating the observations of the moon exactly 400 years after Galileo's. Although Galileo has almost certainly observed the moon before November 30, 1609 (have a look for instance here) and this date might only be a symbolic one, yet it is a good one to celebrate. To avoid the risk of sounding rhetoric, let me quote what Johannes Kepler wrote in his Dioptrice: Oh telescope omniscient and more precious than a sceptre, who holds thee in his right hand... read more ❯