ESO Science Newsletter August 2018
30 Aug 2018
Testing General Relativity using black hole at the centre of the Milky Way (Gravity Collaboration et al. 2018 & image credit: ESO/Calcada/

This newsletter is a summary of recent ESO Science Announcement items. Follow the links or visit ESO Science Announcements to read more.

Science announcements

Call for Proposals for Period 103

30 Aug 2018:

The Call for Proposals for observations at ESO telescopes in Period 103 (1 April 2019 – 30 September 2019) has been released. Please consult the Period 103 document for the main news items and policies related to applying for time on ESO telescopes. All technical information about the offered instruments and facilities is contained on ESO webpages that are linked from the Call. The proposal submission deadline is 12:00 CEST 27 September 2018.

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Volunteers Needed to Test a Distributed Peer Review System at ESO

29 Aug 2018:

Distributed peer review is an increasingly popular method used for science evaluations. By distributing the review load among many peers (as opposed to burdening a single panel or committee) reviewers have a lower workload (i.e. more time to spend per proposal) while investing significantly less time overall, hence allowing more opinions per proposal and a faster proposal evaluation process. ESO is now aiming to add "distributed peer review" as a new method for the future evaluation of proposals in certain categories, while retaining the Observing Programmes Committee (OPC) to oversee the whole process.  

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Changed Format for ESO proposals: Principal Investigator Information Removed During Peer Review

29 Aug 2018:

In an effort to mitigate the effects of unconscious bias inherent in any evaluation process, in Period 103, the email address, affiliation and country of the Principal Investigator (PI) of each proposal will no longer be available to the reviewers in the Observing Programmes Committee. In addition, the names of the PI and co-investigators will be listed alphabetically on the last page of the proposal, in such a way that the identity of the PI is unknown. These changes to every proposal are made immediately after submission when the proposal reaches the ESO system, and are already in effect for Director's Discretionary Time proposals.

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Call for ESO Public Spectroscopic Surveys with ARO Telescopes - New Backend Available

24 Aug 2018:

The Arizona Radio Observatory has announced the successful commissioning of the new ARO Wideband Spectrometer (AROWS) spectrometer on the 12-metre ALMA Prototype antenna. AROWS covers two 4-GHz wide intermediate frequencies, and is planned to be upgraded to cover four 4 GHz wide intermediate frequencies. It is used with the sideband-separating receiver covering 82.5 to 116 GHz, and replaces the old MAC and filterbanks.

The deadline for ESO Public Spectroscopic Surveys with ARO is 27 September 2018 at 12:00 CEST, as announced in July. Full details are available via the web page of the call for public survey proposals.

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ALMA Cycle 6 Programmes & Phase 2 Deadline

23 Aug 2018:


A record number of 1836 proposals were submitted in response to the ALMA Cycle 6 Call for Proposals. The proposals were reviewed during a meeting in Tokyo from 18-23 June 2018. The review committee consisted of 146 Science Assessors grouped into 18 ALMA Review Panels (ARP) covering five scientific categories. The global oversubscription rate for Cycle 6 was 4.9, for European PIs it was 6.2. Of the submitted proposals, 100 received the highest priority of Grade A, 269 received Grade B, and 292 received Grade C. In addition, four new Large Programmes were selected for Cycle 6. The list of all Grade A and B proposals can be found on the ALMA science portal. A detailed report of the Cycle 6 review process is also available. Cycle 6 programmes will be scheduled for observation from 1 October 2018 until 30 September 30 2019.

We remind all Principal Investigators of approved Cycle 6 projects to submit their Phase 2 Science Goals by September 6, 2018 at 1500 UT. The corresponding scheduling blocks (SBs) will be generated by the observatory shortly after the Phase 2 submission deadline.


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Welcoming the European ALMA Programme Scientist: Francisca Kemper

22 Aug 2018:

ESO is very pleased to introduce Francisca Kemper as the next European ALMA Programme Scientist. Ciska will join ESO on 1 November 2018, and will act as the primary contact between the ALMA Observatory, the ESO ALMA Support Centre and the European astronomical community with respect to the scientific capabilities, mission and exploitation of the ALMA facility.

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ALMA Band 5 Enables the Discovery of Radioactive Molecules

20 Aug 2018:

Earlier this year, ALMA saw its receiver complement extended with the installation of the last Band 5 receivers. These receivers were built by a European consortium consisting of the Nederlandse Onderzoekschool voor Astronomie (NOVA) and the Group for Advanced Receiver Development (GARD). The first science results with this brand new receiver are already starting to appear. One exciting result is the detection of a radioactive molecule in CK Vulpeculae, which heavily relied on ALMA Band 5, as well as the discovery with the prototype Band 5 receiver at APEX.

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SEPIA Reinstalled at APEX with an Upgraded Band 9 Receiver

19 Aug 2018:

The Swedish-ESO PI Instrument (SEPIA) was successfully reinstalled at APEX last August. The instrument contains a dual polarization sideband-separating ALMA band 5 receiver (covering 159 to 211 GHz), and a new dual-polarization sideband-separating Band 9 receiver, replacing the previous double sideband receiver. This new facility receiver has an excellent sideband rejection ratio exceeding 15 dB at all frequencies, which is particularly important in Band 9 where there are many atmospheric absorption lines. In addition, the new receiver covers an extended tuning range from 578 to 738 GHz, adding 24 GHz on the lower edge and 18 GHz on the upper edge. Both receivers are offered in ESO Period 103 (see the Call for Proposals).

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Invitation to Participate in Global Survey of Mathematical, Computing and Natural Scientists

11 Jun 2018:

You are cordially invited to participate in the 2018 Global Survey of Mathematical, Computing, and Natural Scientists, recently launched by the project “A Global Approach to the Gender Gap in Mathematical and Natural Sciences: How to Measure It, How to Reduce It?”. This is an interdisciplinary collaboration led by the International Mathematical Union (IMU) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), supported by the International Council for Science (ICSU) over the triennium 2017–2019, and endorsed by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), one of the main partners in the project.

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Upcoming ESO or ESO-Related Workshops

  • A Revolution in Stellar Physics with Gaia and Large Surveys
    Warsaw University Library, Warsaw, Poland, 3–7 September, 2018

    The era of Gaia-enabled revolutions in almost all areas of astrophysics has started. In particular, and crucially, Gaia's exquisite astrometry and photometry combined with data from other large stellar surveys (ground- and space-based) will allow major progress in our understanding of stellar physics. The workshop will focus on the advances in our understanding of stellar physical processes made possible by combining the astrometry and photometry of Gaia with data from other large photometric, spectroscopic, and asteroseismic stellar surveys. Asteroseismology, in particular, has been essential to probe the interiors of stars. These combined data will permit detailed studies of stellar physics to a level that is unprecedented in the history of stellar astrophysics.  
  • Take a Closer Look – The Innermost Region of Protoplanetary Discs and its Connection to the Origin of Planets
    ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany, 15–19 October, 2018

    Recent discoveries of close-in planets around main sequence and even pre-main sequence stars raise a number of questions about the formation of planetary systems. Their formation and migration history must be directly linked to the conditions within the inner regions of their progenitor protoplanetary discs. These sites also play a key role in star-disc interactions. Studies probing this important region require the use of innovative techniques and a wide range of instruments.
    This workshop will address a number of topics related to the inner disc, including the morphology and composition of the innermost disc regions, star-disc interaction, and theories that describe the evolution of the innermost disc regions and the formation of close-in planets.

  • KMOS@5: Star and Galaxy Formation in 3D – Challenges at KMOS 5th Year
    ESO Headquarters, Garching, Germany, 3–6 December, 2018

    KMOS is one of the second generation instruments at the ESO-VLT and has been operating for five years, over which it has provided new insights into a variety of scientific topics.This workshop will bring together scientists working on all areas of star and galaxy formation using near-infrared IFU spectroscopy, including results from complementary instruments. The five years milestone of KMOS offers a perfect opportunity to assess the impact of this instrument on its core science cases and to look forward to develop new strategies and programs, also in light of future IFU instruments. Science topics include probing galaxy formation, stellar populations, active galactic nuclei and their relation with the host galaxy. 

  • The Galactic Bulge at the Crossroads
    Pucón, Chile, 10–14 December, 2018

    The bulge is a primary component of the Milky Way, comprising ∼25% of its mass. All major Galactic stellar populations intersect there, reaching their highest densities. Exploring the bulge is fundamental to understanding Galactic formation, structure and evolution. With the advent of multiplexed spectrographs on 8-metre class telescopes, and the availability of wide-field near-infrared photometry, our knowledge of the structural, chemical and kinematical properties of the Galactic bulge has improved dramatically in the last few years. At the same time, the interpretation of the data is not straightforward, and many fundamental questions remain. In this context, a host of exciting new results are expected in 2018. This conference aims to gather the international astronomical community to discuss these developments, and to begin to establish a consensus on their interpretation.