Category Archives: Observatory life

Between dusk and dawn with the northern twin of HARPS

By Zaira M. Berdiñas, Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC)

Observatories are the astronomers’ lab, or rather, they are our spy-holes to observe the Universe—the vastest lab of all.

Do you know someone who, when looking up at the sky, says: “Bah!, I don’t like it”? I really don’t, however, living in bright cities doesn’t give us many chances of testing such reactions; and maybe this is also the reason why the huge Universe is not something we use to think about every day. That’s why, when we meet someone and they want to know about our “starry profession”, they ask—with a mixture of curiosity and oddness—“How did you decide to become an astrophysicist?”. How life is in an observatory can cause the same feeling, sometimes I think even my mother doesn’t know what I’m doing up there—don’t be angry mom!—so in this article I’ll describe a bit of the daily routine on the mountain.

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Starting the trip in Granada’s airport. Credits: Zaira M. Berdiñas.

As with many other trips, this one starts at the airport. But wait, that’s not fair, because before starting the journey to the observatory a lot of work was already done. Twice a year, telescopes offer their nights through the so-called “call for proposals”. This starts a period in which astronomers have to squeeze their brains and compete for writing the best science projects. Telescope time is expensive, and only those who prove that they will make the best use of it will be awarded with the opportunity of using it. “Time allocation committees” which are also formed by astronomers, decide who pass and who don’t. So, I’m at the airport, and this implies that our science project made the cut (hooray!). After a 3-hour flight I land at the island of La Palma; you may think I’m almost there, but hundreds of curves still separate me from the Observatory of Roque de los Muchachos. Carlos the driver, and after this winding road my friend, leaves me in the Residencia. This is the core of observatory life: here astronomers have late breakfasts and early dinners, sleep in the daytime, and even play ping-pong in their free time. But my watch shows it’s 4 PM and I have no time to lose before dusk. I take a car and I drive up to the Telescope Nazionale Galileo (TNG), where Vania, my support astronomer, is waiting in the telescope control room to explain to me how to set up the instrument I’ll use to collect my data: HARPS-N.

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Left: Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (TNG). Right: Control room sited in the ground floor of the telescope building. Screens on the right are used by the telescope operator to monitor the weather and the telescope parameters, screens on the left correspond to HARPS-N. Credits: Zaira M. Berdiñas.

In the same way that Pale Red Dot is using HARPS, settled at ESO’s La Silla Observatory (Chile), to collect the radial velocities of Proxima Centauri, tonight I’ll use HARPS-N, his twin in the northern hemisphere, to search for other planets orbiting other red stars. Once Vania has finished the training and we have initialized and calibrated the instrument response, I’m just in time for coming back to the Residencia, having dinner, picking up my “super-snack” for the night, reading some emails from my team wishing me clear skies, and coming back to the telescope with the dusk right on my tail. On my way up, the open dome tells me that Daniele, the telescope operator, may be ready to start observations. Roughly one hour after twilight, sky is dark enough to start the telescope focus procedure: the night has started.

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Telescopio Nazionale Galileo with its dome open in my way up from the Residence. Credits: Zaira M. Berdiñas

I spend the rest of the night observing my targets. That means sending the observation blocks to point the telescope and trigger the exposure, while I make sure that the spectra I’m collecting are good. Daniele, who is by my side, monitors the weather conditions and telescope parameters from almost 9 screens. It’s almost 2 AM and it’s the turn of the faintest star on my list. It requires a longer exposure and gives me the opportunity to go outside and enjoy one of the most astonishing skies that you can stare at and, why not, take some pics.

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Photograph of the Milky Way  and the Telescope Nazionale Galileo taken whilst a long exposure is being acquired. Credits: Zaira M. Berdiñas.

After almost 10 hours and more than one coffee, the new day dawns. After having closed all the systems, we drive all the way down to the Residencia, always with no lights to avoid bothering our colleagues in case they were still doing some final tests. And we are done, data will be analysed over the next few months but now it’s 7 AM and the night is officially over, the only thing awaiting for me is my bed. Good day!

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Zaira M. Berdiñas

About the author.

Zaira M. Berdiñas is a last year PhD student, working in the CARMENES spectrograph group at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía. Her research is mainly focused on searching for compact exoplanets and pulsations on M dwarfs by using radial velocity fiber-fed spectrographs. Specifically, she currently leads the HARPS-N observing campaigns of the project Cool Tiny Beats from which the Pale Red Dot was born, and she is also an editor of the palereddot.org website. Zaira is also actively involved in instrumentation development. In particular she is part of the team which is developing the Radial Velocity Corrector (RVC), an alternative to the scrambling methods for fiber-fed high-precision RV spectrographs which are non-thermally stabilized.

Equator crossing! Live acquisition of 30-th spectrum with HARPS

We acquired the 30th spectrum with HARPS on February 27th at 8.40 UTC from La Silla. James Silverster was the observer at La Silla and he send life updates of the moment. His team is using HARPS in polarimetric mode to make measurements on stellar magnetic fields. We will have an article at palereddot.org from them soon, so you can see how stellar magnetic fields can be measured in practice.

Here is an extract of the twitter and Facebook live feeds of the event:

08:30 UTC :All green lights at ESO Astronomy La Silla. One more spectrum and we will reach 30/60! Standing by!

LaSillaDimm
Meteo monitor information. Image quality looks really good, seeing <1" (bottom right panel, the seeing tells you how 'point-like' a star would look through a telescope). 1" arcsecond would be awesome in any decent observatory. For the high chilean observatories (La Silla, Paranal, Las Campanas, Gemini-S, etc.), <1" is routinely achieved, which is why the high Chilean mountains are such a good place for astronomy, besides being dry and mostly cloudless.[/caption] 08:45  UTC : @jimmysilvers > @Pale_red_dot Photons are being collected as we speak!

08:46 UTC : @Pale_red_dot > Cool! Send us a picture!!!

08:58 UTC : @jimmysilvers > here you go!

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08:50 UTC : @Pale_red_dot > Yesss, that’s a live image of Proxima’s photons being sucked by HARPS science fibre (dark central hole). Awesome

08:55 UTC :While we wait for the integration to end, how about a stroll and a look at the sky from La Silla? Thx @jimmysilvers

[caption id="attachment_1251" align="alignnone" width="474"]Southern sky at the end of February from La Silla observatory. Credits  : James Silvester Southern sky at the end of February from La Silla observatory. Credits : James Silvester

09:15 UTC : Integration complete. File saved, stored, and shipped to ESO’s HQ at Garching. Thanks James for sharing these moments.

The raw file reaching ESO's archive at Garching marks the end of a successful observation.
The raw file reaching ESO’s archive at Garching marks the end of a successful observation.

09:20 UTC : @Pale_red_dot > success! 50% data collection achieved! #palereddot

Status update Feb 27. One bonus spectrum was obtained on Feb 25.
Status update Feb 27. One bonus spectrum was obtained on Feb 25.

09:30 UTC : Bedtime for the observers. Really high success rate so far. Lots of updates and articles next week! thx for following

Inspiring the public with exoplanet discoveries

As astronomers we have a fantastic subject for sharing with a non-specialist audience. It is not only of wide-scale general appeal but there are regular discoveries which capture the public’s imagination. Over the last 20 years exoplanet research has delivered some of the most exciting and inspiring results.

In 1995 the first exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star was discovered, 51 Pegasi b. It was discovered just before I went to University to study a degree in Astrophysics, so I have a close attachment to it. It provided a fantastic starting point for me to talk about science in social settings (something which is often seen as anathema). My very first public talk was in 1996 about this new science of exoplanets.

Press Coverage

The first impression many of the public receive about a scientific discovery is through press coverage. This is a particularly important in keeping public interest about a long lasting or extended research project or even space mission.

NASA’s Kepler was highly successful in attracting media attention as was prolific at finding exoplanets. Their policy of releasing information about planetary candidates before they had confirmed if there really was the signature of an exoplanet in the data, may have helped this. In any case, Kepler is by far the most successful mission at finding exoplanets, boasting over 1000 discoveries (at time of writing).

Some of the most inspired exoplanet PR are the Exoplanet Tourist Bureau pictures produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (which is on the verge of brand advertising). This was a very clever piece of art which not only made visually appealing pictures but ones which very simply captured a key piece of science that was known about each planet. Although not strictly related to any mission, the Exoplanet Tourist Bureau’s first 2 picture-postcards were of Kepler planets.

Recent art poster from the 'Exoplanet travel Bureau', an outreach campaign by NASA's JPL. In this poster, all planets contending to be the first ever detected exoplanet are featured. Credits : NASA/JPL
Recent art poster from the ‘Exoplanet travel Bureau’, an outreach campaign by NASA’s JPL. In this poster, all planets contending to be the first ever detected exoplanet are featured. Credits : NASA/JPL

Pitching your story to the press is tricky, as the discovery of the very first exoplanet shows. Many people think the first exoplanet was 51 Peg b but it was actually a planet orbiting around a neutron star (a dense, invisible object left over from the violent death of massive star and quite unlike our Sun), discovered in 1992. Perhaps this was too much uncertainty in the discovery, maybe the physics was not presented in a tangible way, or maybe even the name of the planet, PSR B1257+12 B, was just too obscure. For whatever reason this mysterious heavenly body is rarely attributed with the title of First Exoplanet Discovered.

Recently the International Astronomical Union (which has, amongst other things, responsibility of the naming of heavenly bodies) launched a competition to give many exoplanets and exoplanetary systems new names – Name ExoWorlds. The public could make proposals for renaming of selected exoplanets. The results were announced in December 2015 and PSR B1257+12 B has been renamed Poltergeist – an invisible entity which creates physical disturbances (representing the effect the planet has on it’s host star).

Citizen Science

After attracting some attention from the public, what happens next? As a scientist who is passionate about education and engagement, I want that audience to take their new-found interest further.

The rise of citizen science has lowered the barriers for involving anyone in scientific discovery. The approach usually requires participants to do a repetitive task which a computer finds difficult but the human brain finds easy. Crowd sourcing scientific measurement taking in this way has been pioneered by The Zooniverse, who have a project where participants are invited to search through Kepler data which had been rejected by the automatic NASA planet finding software.

During the BBC Stargazing Live TV programmes in January of 2012, the value of this method was spectacularly proved. Zooniverse partnered with BBC to launch a public campaign which resulted in over a million independent measurements and the discovery of an exoplanet – PH1b or its formal, canonical name – Kepler-64b.

Personally, I define “citizen science” slightly differently as “a large scale remotely accessible science investigation performed by non-specialists, which trains them in data analysis and also the subject area”. My definition gives citizen science more of an educational angle. This was the thinking behind a citizen science project I made, along with my then colleague at LCOGT, Stuart Lowe, called Agent Exoplanet.

'Agent exoplanet' is an example of a citizen science effort. http://lcogt.net/agentexoplanet/
‘Agent exoplanet’ is an example of a citizen science effort. http://lcogt.net/agentexoplanet/

The primary aims of Agent Exoplanet are to analyse real scientific data taken with the LCOGT network, combine your measurements with other citizen scientists, display this result and understand the science it is showing. We wanted to provide a self-contained, easily accessible platform, to maximise participation by a non-specialist audience. All of the analysis tools are built into it, from graphing data points, model fitting and make the measurements directly on the astronomical data files. While the participants will not discover new exoplanets with Agent Exoplanet, they will have a better understanding of the scientific process and about exoplanet research. You can try it yourself too!

Visualising the data

An important component of an sharing any scientific discovery is to make the information easily understandable. One of the most powerful ways to do that is with well thought out graphics.

Example for infographic for exoplanet visualization. Detection methods of all known exoplanets was made by Stuart Lowe. Source : The infographic book of space, http://cosmos-book.github.io/
Example for infographic for exoplanet visualization. Detection methods of all known exoplanets was made by Stuart Lowe. Source : The infographic book of space, http://cosmos-book.github.io/

An eye-catching and interactive visualisation of the sizes and detection methods of all known exoplanets was made by Stuart Lowe and Chris North for Cosmos: the infographic book of space. The different detection methods are colour coded and the you can explore some basic properties of each exoplanet by clicking on them.

One of the most beautiful and poetic visualisations of exoplanets I have seen was made by Alex Parker. It shows what all the currently known exoplanets would look like (nearly 2300 – many of these were just candidates when Alex made the video) orbiting around the same star, in this case the Sun. All the planets and orbits are scaled so their relative sizes and distances are appropriate for this model. They range in size from 1/3 to 83 times the radius of Earth. It is quite mesmerising.

Worlds: The Kepler Planet Candidates from Alex Parker on Vimeo.

In a week where astronomy has been in the news so much, with the momentous discovery of gravitational waves, it has shown to me that there is a huge public appetite for accessible science stories. Fortunately, for the last 20 years, exoplanets have provided a steady and varied diet of exciting discoveries, from Earth 2.0, to a diamond planet to the discovery of Tatooine. For a long time to come, I believed we will be surprised by the continued variety of exoplanets and strange solar systems the Universe provides us to study.

Eduard Gomez inside the TARDIS. It is a device from the BBC's 'Dr. Who' TV show which is both a time-machine and a starship; but it looks like a classic British telephone booth from the outside.
Eduard Gomez inside the TARDIS. It is a device from the BBC’s ‘Dr. Who’ TV show which is both a time-machine and a starship; but it looks like a classic British telephone booth from the outside.

About the author.  Edward Gomez is a professional astronomer and Education Director of LCOGT.net and honourary lecturer/adjunct faculty in the School of Physics and Astronomy. As part of his role with LCOGT he investigates novel ways to engage the public in astronomy. This has taken the form of creating citizen science projects like Agent Exoplanet, interactive educational web apps like Star in a Box, and online community events like Show Me Stars. The global education hub for LCOGT is based in Cardiff University In addition, he is part of the Schools Engagement Team and assist with the outreach of the Universit, which is funded by the Welsh Government‘s National Science Academy to run the programme Universe in the Classroom, inspiring children and teachers with Universe in a Box kits and stellar role models, across Wales. Universe in the Classrom is run in partnership with the international project Universe Awareness. Eduard is co-chair the IAU task force for children and schools, under the guidance of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). Our aim is to help people in astronomically developing countries to engage with and inspire children and teachers. He also regularly appears on the BBC radio wales programmes, Science Cafe and Eleri Sion Show. He have served as guest judge for the national Debating Matters competition Currently he is working at how we make the LCOGT network accessible to the general public and what tools we need to make the most of its potential, and using the power of astronomical images to inspire people who would not normally be interested in science. He loves music and plays the lute.

The Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network

by Wayne Rosing, LCOGT Founder and Chief Technologist

I founded and incorporated Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network in 1992, but the notion of a global ring of telescopes, connected with the internet and using CCD detectors, first occurred to me in 1983. Others were discussing similar ideas. The plan was to build a global telescope (singular) dedicated to time domain astronomy. With six observing sites spread around the world, such an instrument could observe any single target continuously over many days,and could also interrupt planned operations to take data on new interesting transient objects, no matter where they might appear in the night sky.

My old world atlas has circles dating back as far as 1984, marking roughly where the LCOGT telescopes are located today. The aim was to have uniform sky coverage, pole to pole. That implied placing telescopes at roughly plus and minus thirty degrees latitude. In the South, the placement of continents pretty much determined the longitude choices. In the North, the objective was to be four hours East or West of each of the Southern sites. Then the result would be that for some periods of the year, provided the weather is clear, three sites would simultaneously be in the dark and able to image astronomical targets in the equatorial plane.

The LCOGT network

From the beginning of the project a key element was the notion of a near real-time scheduling process that would optimize the system’s choice of targets to achieve the best possible science at any given time while taking into account local conditions at the sites and scientific constraints. An additional requirement was that the entire system had to be robotic, not requiring human night assistants or remote real-time observers.

In 2005 LCOGT set about implementing this vision. By the end of 2005, LCOGT had acquired the two 2-meter Faulkes Telescopes (the FTs), located in Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii, and at Siding Spring, Australia. Although these are larger than the 1-meter telescopes that form the bulk of the current network, they add the capability of doing daily followup of fainter objects from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Fading sunlight, a young crescent Moon, and brilliant Venus shared the western sky in this view of 2005’s final sunset from the top of Mount Haleakala, on Maui, Hawaii. Also known as the Sacred House of the Sun, Haleakala, is Maui’s dormant volcano. At 10,000 feet the summit is an ideal site for astronomical observatories, and this scene also features the silhouette of the northern hemisphere Faulkes Telescope. – image Credit & Copyright: Rob Ratkowski

During the next two years the foundation was developed for the global network we have today; Efforts were concentrated on upgrading the FTs, developing a software system to tie the network together, and on engineering two rings of telescopes, one on each hemisphere. LCOGT has since deployed nine 1-meter telescopes at four sites (in Chile, South Africa, Australia, and Texas), and plans to add another pair of telescopes in Tibet early in 2017. We still have the possibility of deploying three more 1-meter facilities if funding permits. In addition, seven 0.4-meter telescopes have been deployed at four sites (including the Canary Islands).

Three domes at night. Chile.

A side effect of this distributed and redundant capability is that, each year, LCOGT has tens of thousands of hours of observing time on its instrument. LCOGT scientists and partners can plan long-term key projects which may require telescope-years of observing time. There are three basic types of measurements LCOGT telescopes acquire: First, images of small patches of the sky. From these images one can derive celestial coordinates, relative brightness, and sometimes the rate of motion for stars, asteroids, near-earth objects, satellites and galaxies. Second, by taking images in multiple color bands astronomers can do photometric data reductions to classify each object based on general color characteristics. For example, blue stars are hotter than red ones. Third, spectroscopic measurements spread incoming starlight out into detailed color bins — from about 1000 colors over the visual spectrum to as many as 50000 resolved colors. Emission and absorption by specific atomic elements can be measured; chemical element abundances, stellar temperature and even local gravity can then be determined.

Current key projects on the network include:

1) The Next Generation Sample of Supernovae (PI: Andy Howell) – Using photometric and spectroscopic observations of both Type Ia and core collapse supernovae we can learn about their characteristics in a statistically significant sample. These types of exploding stars are used as astronomical ‘standard candles’, a way of measuring the distance to the far edge of the visible Universe.

2) Exploring Cool Planets beyond the Snowline (PI: Rachel Street) – Follow-up observations of microlensing events are employed to detect and study planets in the outer parts of planetary systems around distant stars. This project relies on the Einstein deflection of light by the gravity of one star to magnify, or ‘lens’, a star-planet combination found near the center of our galaxy 20,000 light years away.

3) Echo Mapping of AGN Accretion Flows (PI: Keith Horne) – By monitoring photometrically and spectroscopically a diverse sample of active galactic nuclei we can determine their physical characteristics using the reverberation mapping technique. Basically as matter falls into a large central black hole, energy is emitted and then is reflected in outer areas of the galaxy. Reconstruction of this data can give insight into the structure of galaxies.

As the first science projects matured, we complemented our imaging capabilities with low-resolution high-throughput spectrometers for the two FTs. Thanks to an NSF grant we are also building a network of high-resolution spectrometers which will be deployed as a global ring, each instrument being coupled to a pair of 1-meter telescopes. This capability will be used to validate and characterize new extrasolar planets found by space- and ground-based survey telescopes, and to advance astrophysics by studying pulsations, rotation, and the magnetic activity of stars.

NRES Prototype in the LCOGT lab

It has been a decade-long effort to build LCOGT into what it is today. The vast majority of the funding to do so has come from private sources. We are grateful for support for various parts of the effort from the University of St. Andrews on behalf of Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) on behalf of Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, and the Dill Faulkes Educational Trust. Our site partners are the Australian National University, the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Institute for Astronomy in Hawaii (IfA), the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), the University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, the Ali Astronomical Observatory of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), and the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO).

We are grateful too for the dedicated effort provided by over 150 individuals who have built LCOGT from a dream into a scientific institution of which we can all be proud.

Wayne Rosing, January 2016.

Wayne Rosing

About the author. Rosing was an engineering manager at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Data General in the 1970s. He became a director of engineering at Apple Computer in 1980. There he led the Apple Lisa project, the forerunner to the Macintosh. He then went on to work at Sun Microsystems in 1985. After managing hardware development for products such as the SPARCstation, he became manager of Sun Microsystems Laboratories in 1990.[1] From 1992 through 1996 he headed the spin-off First Person, which developed the Java Platform. He was then chief technology officer at Caere Corporation, which developed the optical character recognition product OmniPage.

Rosing served as vice president of engineering at Google from January 2001 to May 2005. In May 2005 he was appointed a senior fellow in mathematical and physical sciences at the University of California, Davis, and continued to serve as an advisor to Google.

As a hobby throughout his career, Rosing built telescopes, telescope control systems, and ground telescope mirrors. At Davis, Rosing consulted on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project.

First spectrum with HARPS. Live from La Silla

Last image of the all sky camera. Sun is rising. See you tomorrow #palereddot !
Last image of the all sky camera. Sun is rising. See you tomorrow #palereddot !

[09:21:45] Alexandre Santerne: Thanks for following us ! End of the night. Time for astronomers observing #PaleRedDot to sleep.

[09:21:03] Guillem Anglada Escudé: anything you want to add to your audience?

[09:18:18] Guillem Anglada Escudé: ok. Yes. I’ll prepare a clean timeline later. Hopefully twitter comes back online so I can pull your text as well

[09:16:05] Alexandre Santerne: seeing during the observation: 1.3” – 1.4″

And the first spectrum!

First spectrum of PaleRedDot from HARPS. Looks promising!
First spectrum of PaleRedDot from HARPS. Looks promising!
Light going into HARPS as measured by its exposuremeter
Light going into HARPS as measured by its exposuremeter

[09:08:14] Guillem Anglada Escudé: yeah. Its good!

[09:08:04] Alexandre Santerne: snr@650nm = 65.3[09:07:46] Alexandre Santerne: exposition ended

The image on the right is Proxima on top of the optical fibre at the telescope focus. The same fibre goes all the way down to the spectrometer, which sits in the basement on top of the bedrock and lots of concrete

Integrating…

Control screen. The image on the right is Proxima centered on the optical fibre at the telescope.
Control screen. The image on the right is Proxima centered on the optical fibre at the telescope.

(not much to do for next 20 min, which is the exposure time…)

[08:49:51] Alexandre Santerne: flux level ~ 30%

[08:49:48] Guillem Anglada Escudé: cool

[08:46:41] Alexandre Santerne: exposure started

[08:46:36] Alexandre Santerne: focus ok

[08:43:07] Alexandre Santerne: checking focus

[08:39:31] Alexandre Santerne: pointing telescope …

UTC 08:38 Ambient of the ESO3.6m control room a few minutes before pointing #PaleRedDot

UTC 08:37. Two minutes to start pointing

UTC 08:32. Twitter is down (?!#@!) but we are still live on website! First spectrum in short. Go Alex!

Follow Alexandre Santerne @eso La Silla as the first spectrum of Proxima out of 60 is obtained.

Proxima rising at the end of the night

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Sunset of Jan 18th from la Silla

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Observing at ESO I. The ESO guesthouse

By Alexandre Santerne, ESO Photo Ambassador & exoplanet researcher at Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (Portugal)

General view of the gardens of ESO's guesthouse
General view of the gardens of ESO’s Guesthouse. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO

The La Silla and Paranal observatories in Chile are two of ESO’s sites where astronomical observations are carried out. They are like our working place, but located about 11 000 km from Europe and require a few days to reach them. When going to Chile as a visiting astronomer[1], the first place we arrive to is the ESO Guesthouse. Located in Santiago de Chile, this is a very quiet and peaceful house where we stay one night to recover between the long flight from Europe (about 14 hours long and 5 hours of jet lag) and the night life at the observatories.

 inner garden at ESO's guest house
View of the inner garden at ESO’s Guesthouse. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO

The Guesthouse has a dozen of rooms with a beautiful botanical garden and a private swimming pool. The most important place is however the living room where we share breakfast / lunch / dinner or even the pisco sour time[2] with other visiting astronomers from the ESO Member States[3].

ESO guest house living room. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO
ESO Guesthouse living room. Image credits : Alexandre Santerne/ESO

The discussions mostly focus on science, astronomical observations, and weather conditions as well as the upcoming new facilities developed by ESO, in particular the next generation instruments for the Very Large Telescope[4] and the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope[5]. Besides providing fantastic ground-based facilities for observations, ESO is also a great place to meet other astronomers working with ESO’s telescopes.

Notes:
[1]- To decrease mission costs, most observations are carried out in service mode and are performed by ESO staff. However, some observations require to be performed by the astronomers themselves. In this case, we are called “visiting astronomers”.
[2]- The pisco sour is the famous Chilean and Bolivian cocktail, composed mostly of Pisco (a kind of brandy) with lemon juice.
[3]- The ESO member states are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom http://www.eso.org/public/about-eso/memberstates/
[4]- see http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/vlt/vlt-instr/
[5]- see http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/e-elt/