Pea Hunting preamble
Greetings from the ESO Guest House, in Santiago de Chile! As I described in a blog post) a while ago, I am here on a mission to hunt for more distant counterparts to the ‘Peas’) which were first identified by Galaxy Zoo participants.
This is the first Galaxy Zoo initiated observing project to use an ESO telescope, so I thought I would take the opportunity to give you a bit more of an insight in to an ESO observing trip. ESO is the European Southern Observatory, which operates observatories in Chile in order to provide European astronomers with access to the Southern sky. These are among the most technologically advanced and scientifically productive observatories in the world. ESO’s premier facility is the, imaginatively named, Very Large Telescope (VLT), located at Paranal observatory in the middle of the Atacama desert. The VLT actually comprises four massive telescopes which are usually used separately, although their light can be combined for special observations.
For our observations we don’t need quite so much light-collecting power, so will be using the smaller, but still very capable, New Technology Telescope (NTT) at La Silla observatory, also in the Atacama, but in its slightly more hospitable Southern outskirts.
I, and my observing colleague Seb Foucaud, arrived in Santiago earlier today after long journeys from the UK and Taiwan, respectively. ESO is an extremely well organised operation and really looks after visiting astronomers. We were met at the airport by an ESO representative and driven to the Guest House in the affluent Las Condes suburb of Santiago. The Guest House is renowned for its hospitality, friendly staff, good food and the traditional Pisco Sour cocktail before dinner. Most visiting astronomers stay here for one night before and after their observing run. Tomorrow morning we fly to North to La Serena and then drive to La Silla observatory to begin the preparations for our run, which starts on Thursday night. Right now I’d better get some much needed sleep. I’ll give you an update when we get to the observatory.