SPHERE, the extreme adaptive optics facility, high contrast imager spectrograph and polarimeter of the Very Large Telescope, is now offered to the community for P95 (April-Sept 2015, please look at the Call for Proposals). It has unique capabilities that make it a fantastic high-resolution, high-contrast disk imager with a field of view up to 11″ (much bigger than most of its main competitors). Material is available online to help you write your proposals.
SPHERE can lock its AO on fainter stars than GPI, up to R=11 for service mode and up to R~15 in visitor mode (with degraded AO performances of course). This is interesting for low-mass stars! Nevertheless, and unlike for NACO or SINFONI, the AO star must always be on-axis.
SPHERE can also observe in visible light thanks to its imager/polarimeter ZIMPOL and access resolution of the order of 20 milliarcseconds thanks to its high order (over 1300 actuators deformable mirror) adaptive optics system SAXO.
Let’s congratulate the whole SPHERE consortium and ESO staff involved since many years with such a novel, complex but working instrument!
As some would say: “the Winter is coming…”
This is unusual to get such dark and threatening clouds above one of the driest place on Earth. But it’s been so for two days and we just hope that no drops of rain will fall down because the Observatory is not made for rain and that’s just more hassle for the staff and of course for the occasional visitors who are not getting their projects done.
Tonight it got worse, the wind is blowing over 20 meters/second (45 miles/hour) and the humidity rose above 50% due to the proximity of the clouds.
In the morning it did look promising though… I really like this metallic light and feeling we get just before sunrise (not much sun today). The horizon was so clear, we could see the snow on the Cordillera a few hundred km away as well as on the 6739m (21,300 ft) Llullaillaco Volcano which is in Argentina.
But the Observatory routine (and life!) does not stop. The cleaning ladies walk towards the residencia…
At night, after a rough day of work taking care of all the instruments and facilities some French engineers play with their “toys for boys”: they fly helicopters in the gym!
At the end of the night, the scenery is impressive. Here’s a long exposure shot above the Residencia at 6:00am. we can see the Southern Cross making its way through the moving clouds and the important airglow. The night isn’t completely lost, at least for me!
You can see more photos about the past 48 hours of cloudy Paranal on this Flickr Photo Set.
CNRS (the main French research agency) put up a very nice video about December 21st 2012 and the Mayans. Even if you don’t speak French, give it a look!
I hope it get translated/subtitled in other languages soon.
We are safe
(click on “Visionner”)
Les Mayas, le calendrier et le 21-12-2012 is also accessible on DailyMotion.
As one can see (I put notes on the flickr image, click on it) this 25-second exposure taken on October 20, 2011 contains a lot of things (the Earth’s zodiacal light, the “Kiwi”, the galactic center, the VLT observatory, a big heart in light painting, etc.) and it is a tribute to my wife who came to live in Chile with me so I could pursue my dream with astronomy. I stood behind my camera setup on a small tripod and fired the timer, then I drew a heart in the air using my ESO tiny key-chain Maglite®. It took me quite a few tried to get it like that especially not having a press-button flash light. Pressed against my fingers the heart was pink/red naturally and I just accentuated the pink.