Very Large Telescope (VLT)

Once upon a time …. the members of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) decided to build a Very Large Telescope in Chile. It’sthe start of a great story.

There are 4 telescopes (Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun) who work together imaging astronomic phenomenons 25 times better than with the individual telescopes. They’re huge. The mirrors have a diameter of 8.2 m!!! The telescopes are situated in Chile,  high in the mountains, with the clearest skies on our planet.

A lot of research is already done with the VLT. You may find more information on the ESO website, which contains a couple of very useful links (especially about the science with the telescopes). http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/vlt/

Tours are available under certain conditions: http://www.eso.org/public/about-eso/visitors/paranal/

Now I leave you with some of the most beautiful pictures of the VLT (credit ESO website)

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Epic Social Media Gathering at the VLT and ALMA in Chile

ann16010aThe European Southern Observatory organizes a social gathering for 8 lucky people to witness the Mercury transit from Chile. The places were it is held is like a dream. In the middle of the desert with the clearest skies on this planet. A real bucket list place and event for astronomy fans.

Of course I applied. Would be a dream come true for this would be astronomer.

Time to tell something more about my dream of becoming an astronomer. My first presentation at primary school was about the solar system. I must have been 9 or 10 years old and already knew that I wanted to be an astronomer. The planets and stars were fascinating and so much to learn about them. And so much new discoveries in our lifetime. I held onto that dream until I was 18 and had to choose which university I would attend. I graduated high school with a beta orientation (math, physics, chemistry and biology). And then I started to doubt if I was good enough for this program. I was at that moment really unsure of my capabilities and skills (like any other teenagers) and ended up choosing safe. I studied business economics instead. After all this years I’m still sad that I made the wrong choice. But I try to compensate by studying astronomy in my free time.

Going to Chile would be the highlight of my astronomy dream. So pick me!!!

Here you can find more info of this social gathering and you can apply yourself.

http://www.eso.org/public/announcements/ann16010/

 

Einstein was right: gravitational waves detected

2.5 years ago I already wrote about gravitational waves and the role of the LIGO and the Virgo detectors. On the first day that the two LIGO detectors started a gravitational wave from the merger of two black holes was detected. That’s how it got its name btw: GW150914 (Gravitational Wave 14 September 2015). 

Both black holes weighed 30 times the mass of the sun. The distance to Earth was a mere 1.3 billion light-years. Enormous amounts of energy were released when they merged. This energy changed the fabric of space and time and caused ripples. 

The two LIGO detectors spotted the wave at the same time confirming it was a real discovery. Whole new research lines will appear. Such a triumph for science, the theory of relativity and astronomy.  

Here the figure from the paper: 

 

TedXESA: Science beyond fiction

I love attending TEDx events. It’s all about Ideas Worth Spreading. After a TEDx event you return full of stories, ideas, inspiration and energy. In the Netherlands almost every city has its own TEDx event.

So when TEDxESA was announced I had to be there. Fortunately I was selected as one of the 300 people. It was held at ESA’s technologic heart ESTEC in Noordwijk (NL). One of my favorite places. A perfect place for a TEDx event.

The list with speakers was also amazing. Astronauts, an Apollo engineer, a cook, writer, entrepeneur were among them. The complete list is here: http://tedx.esa.int/speakers-2015

My definite highlight was Scott Millican. An engineer who worked on several Apollo missions in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He also trained the astronauts. In the break he talked to a small crowd and showed us the original Apollo 12 checklist with notes scribbled on them. He helped putting men on the moon.

Opening by Dutch astronaut André Kuipers:

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Danish chef cook Thorsten Schmidt. He cooked an excellent meal for Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen who stayed at the ISS in September. The Space Rock with a nice surprise inside was delicious.

With Apollo Engineer Scott Millican:

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Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti talking about her 200-day stay at the ISS:

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You can watch all talks at: http://tedx.esa.int/videos

 

The next TEDxESA will take place at another favorite place, the European Astronaut Center in Cologne somewhere in 2016. Follow TEDxESA on Twitter or Facebook for updates on this event.

SpaceUP Cologne

On 20 and 21 March 2015 the first SpaceUP Cologne took place. In a magnificient setting The European Astronaut Centre in Cologne http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Astronauts/The_European_Astronaut_Centre

I was only able to attend the first interesting day. The most difficult part is which talk to choose.

Great to see so many friends and new people with the same interest. That´s one of the strong points of SpaceUP´s. There are many to choose from, even in Europe. See for furhter info and events http://spaceup.org/

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TDLR 2015

Once every 2 year the German Aerospace Day (TDLR) takes place. 2 years ago I visited it for the first time, just weeks before my Zero G flight. See for my blogpost of TDLR 2013 https://linda043.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/tdlr13/

It took place on 20 September in Cologne, near the airport. This time I tried to see different things than last time. A visit to the Rosetta Lander Control Center of DLR was high on my wish list. You can read more about it at: http://www.dlr.de/rb/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-4539/

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There were also scientists who explained the audience about the boldest mission of ESA and there were also maquettes of the Lander and Comet 67P.

Next we visited the training hall at EAC: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Astronauts/The_European_Astronaut_Centre

The last time we only got to see the Colombus training module and this time we saw the rest.

Hereafter we went to the airstrip where a couple of planes are on display. The waiting line for the new Airbus of Emirates was too long. Maybe next time. It’s great to wander around and see the new Zero G airplane on display.

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We were just in time back at the stage to see a lot of astronauts on stage. Great talks by a couple of them like Andreas Mogensen who had just returned from a short stay at the ISS.

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A new Zero G aircraft 

Air Zero G has retired their old plane (almost 40 years old) and replaced it with an Airbus A320, the former plane  

 of Angela Merkel. They’ve tested it and it’s ready for the first scientific flights. The first commercial flight will be in June. A lot of familiar faces on this picture.