A not so borealis aurora
April 26th 2023
The cameras that monitor permanently the Calar Alto sky have been able to record an aurora borealis on the night of Sunday, April 23, 2023, an exceptional sighting in Andalusia. The visibility of the phenomenon at the latitude of the observatory confirms the power of the solar eruption that took place a couple of days before and the exquisite transparency of the skies over Calar Alto.
During an aurora borealis (and australis), the night sky gets illuminated from red to blue and green colors. This is due to the solar wind, a variable stream of charged particles (protons and electrons) emitted by our star, which interacts with the upper atmosphere following Earth's magnetic field lines that pass through the poles.
CARMENES boosts the number of known exoplanets in the Solar Neighborhood
February 22nd 2023
Twenty thousand observations made with the CARMENES instrument are published today. CARMENES is the "planet hunter" spectrograph of the 3.5-meter telescope at Calar Alto. CARMENES was co-developed by the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC), and it has already discovered 59 planets, some of them lying in the habitable zone around red dwarf stars in the vicinity of the Sun.
The consortium of the CARMENES project has just published the data for about twenty thousand observations of a sample of 362 nearby, cool dwarf stars, taken between 2016 and 2020. The instrument, which operates at the 3.5-meter telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory, focuses on the search for Earth-like exoplanets (rocky and temperate), with the possibility of having liquid water on the surface if they are in the habitable zone around their star. Among the many data released now are those that have lead to the discovery of 59 exoplanets, a dozen being potentially habitable. The results are being published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
A long lasting and unexpected stellar explosion
Almeria (Spain), December 7th, 2022
Calar Alto has participated in the follow-up observations of a stellar explosion which lasted more than a minute and which cannot be explained with the current theoretical models of such bursts.
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the most energetic phenomena in the Universe, detectable even if they occur in galaxies millions of light-years away. They are classified as short or long GRBs, whether they last less or more than two seconds. Their duration is associated with their origin: long outbursts happen when very massive stars die, while short outbursts are related to the merger of two compact objects, such as neutron stars, black holes, or both.
Calar Alto joins the “dark side” of the Spanish national network of optical fibre
February 17th 2023
The Calar Alto observatory will be integrated into RedIRIS-NOVA, the Spanish RedIRIS network of high-capacity dark fibre. This EU investment with MRR funds, worth about €2 million, will allow a better accessibility to the various datasets generated each night of observation by the multiple instruments of its telescopes, as well as open the possibility to access future research projects that require high bandwidth.
Calar Alto, like all large contemporaneous astronomical observatories, is located on top of a mountain, in the Sierra de los Filabres at 2168 meters above sea level. The site was chosen more than half a century ago, thanks to the quality of its sky, by German scientists who were searching the best place to observe stars and distant galaxies from the Old Continent.
TARSIS: construction starts for the future instrument of the largest Calar Alto telescope.
Almeria (Spain), 26 October 2022
TARSIS will be the next instrument to be installed on the 3.5-meter telescope at Calar Alto observatory. It is an integral field spectrograph with unique characteristics, capable of observing very wide fields in the near ultraviolet. TARSIS will make it possible to complete CATARSIS, a large survey of galaxy clusters, keeping Calar Alto at the forefront of astrophysical research.
On October 27-28th, 2022, the TARSIS kick-off meeting will take place at the University of Almería, marking the start of the development of the TARSIS instrument for the 3.5-meter telescope at Calar Alto observatory. This project is co-led by the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), in close collaboration with the Calar Alto Observatory (Hispanic Astronomical Center in Andalusia, CAHA), three Andalusian universities (Almería, Granada and Seville), the Astrobiology Center (CAB, CSIC-INTA), the industrial partner FRACTAL S.L.N.E. and the Mexican INAOE.
Two exoearths detected in the habitable zone of the red dwarf star GJ 1002
12 de diciembre de 2022
Using data from the Calar Alto CARMENES and VLT (ESO Chile) ESPRESSO spectrographs, an international team of astronomers has discovered two Earth-mass planets orbiting the GJ 1002 star, a red dwarf about 16 light-years away from the Sun. Both planets lie in the habitable zone of GJ 1002, like the two exoearths of another nearby red dwarf, Teegarden’s star, found by CARMENES in 2019.
“Nature seems determined to prove that Earth-like exoplanets are very common. With these two, we already know seven of them in nearby systems”, explains Alejandro Suárez Mascareño, researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and lead author of the article, accepted for publication in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal.
A bubble in the interstellar medium
August 9th 2022
Observations with Calar Alto instruments are helping to unveil the content and history of W40, a ‘hidden’ region in our galactic neighbourhood where massive stars have been forming in the past few million years.
Only 1,600 light-years away, but hidden by dark patches of dust in the Milky Way in the constellation of Aquila (the Eagle), lies the W40 nebula. Although poorly known, W40 is a splendid example of a bipolar HII region, a type of nebula formed when newly born massive stars begin to heat up and ionize the clouds out of which they formed. The high pressures generated around those stars produce an expansion of the gas which eventually breaks out of the parental cloud, producing spectacular expanding bubbles, as shown by the picture of W40 obtained by the Spitzer Space Observatory at wavelengths between 3.6 and 24 microns.