The European Very Large Telescope (VLT), one of the most powerful and productive ground-based astronomical facilities in existence, has just turned 15 years old.
Built on top of Cerro Paranal in Chile, the VLT is one of the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) main astronomical facilities.
It was indeed 15 years ago, on 25 May 1998, that the first of the VLT Unit Telescopes saw its ‘first light’. Since then, the four original giant telescopes (each 8.2 metres in diameter) have been joined by four small Auxiliary Telescopes (1.8 metres) that form part of the VLT Interferometer (VLTI).
Here is a short gallery of beautiful images collected over the last few years by the famous observatory. These, though, are just appetisers for astronomers compared to what will be available in the future… The ESO, an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to astronomy supported by 15 countries, plans soon to build a fourth observatory in the Southern Hemisphere.
It is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become ‘the world’s biggest eye on the sky’. This new giant should commence operation in early 2020.
From droughts and forest fires to floods and big freezes, extreme weather events are on the rise. But to what extent are these linked to climate change? Just months before the world’s first wind monitoring satellite enters orbit, scientists have finalised a climate model with exceptional resolution, and the new tools will help identify how climate change impacts weather-related natural disasters like storm surges, hurricanes and heatwaves.
A theory developed with the late Professor Stephen Hawking stating that the universe is more simple and uniform than current models suggest was so shocking that it had to be sat on for a while before it was released to the world, according to co-author Professor Thomas Hertog from KU Leuven in Belgium.
In 1984, after HIV was identified as the cause of AIDS, the US secretary of health, Margaret Heckler, declared a vaccine would be found within two years. Reports of a mysterious virus predominantly affecting gay men had been growing across the US and, with awareness rising, the World Health Organization had held its first conference to address the global situation earlier that year. But there was still little understanding of how the disease evolved and spread.
Aviation is one of the most environmentally harmful forms of transportation, accounting for 3% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions. But new aircraft designs inspired by the work of an early 20th-century aviation engineer and natural substances such as honeycomb and grass could help to cut the environmental footprint of flying.
Two teams of scientists are racing to develop effective prevention.
Scientists are exploring the link between severe weather and climate change.
Co-author of Stephen Hawking's final paper talks about how their work goes beyond Einstein.