December 28th 2020
On the 2020 winter solstice, Jupiter passed Saturn in a great conjunction in dusk. This apparent (line-of-sight only) encounter, easily visible to the naked eye as a bright “double star” in the evening sky, was caught with the smallest of the four main telescopes in Calar Alto: the 1-meter class Schmidt telescope.
This historical telescope (Großer Hamburger Schmidtspiegel) represents the culmination of the know-how of Bernhard Schmidt, a German optician who proposed, in 1930, a brand new and revolutionary concept for a wide-field but nearly perfect quality optics telescope. Despite the construction of a “great Schmidt”, of about one meter in diameter, was planned to start in 1937 inside the famous Carl Zeiss factory in Jena, World War II delayed its final commissioning to 1951.
Initially installed at Hamburg university observatory, near the village of Bergedorf, this site soon appeared to be hardly usable for serious astronomical research, due to the poor weather and growing light pollution in the Hamburg countryside. In the late 1970s, astronomers from Hamburg and MPIA Heidelberg thus decided to move the precious optical tube to Calar Alto; in 1980, the great Schmidt was commissioned again with a new, English made mount adapted to the lower Andalusian latitude of its new observatory.
December 14th 2020
CARMENES is an instrument designed to find small planets around cool dwarf stars, but it could also detect large satellites that is, moons, of exoplanets. Some of these exomoons may harbor seas of liquid water, favorable places for the development of life.
In Avatar’s universe, Pandora is the fifth moon of Polyphemus, a fictional giant planet around the nearby star Alpha Centauri A; in the Alien saga, Ellen Ripley fought xenomorphs in an infested colony on Acheron, one of the moons of Calpamos, another made-up planet around the real star zeta2 Reticuli; a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away the Rebel Alliance defeated the Galactic Empire in space battles in orbit of Yavin IV first and, finally, Endor, which were also habitable moons. But do habitable extrasolar moons, or exomoons, exist in reality? And how are they related to Calar Alto?
July 21st 2020
Three ambitious legacy surveys and next generation instrumentation projects define the Calar Alto Observatory science and technology horizon for the coming decade.
The Institute of Astrophysics in Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) co-leads the two designs pre-selected for the future instrument on the 3.5-m telescope.
CARMENES will be upgraded to extend its search for potentially habitable planets.
The Science Advisory Committee of the Calar Alto Observatory, composed of internationally recognized experts in various areas of astrophysics, has selected legacy projects and proposals for next generation instrumentation that define the scientific and technological lines of the observatory in the years to come.
April 14th 2020
The Carlos III health institute, from the Spanish Research and Innovation Ministry, provides half a million euros to create a prototype allowing a quick analysis without touching surfaces contaminated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, by combining image acquisition systems in the whole optical and terahertz (submillimetric) ranges and analyzing them with artificial intelligence.
Researchers participating in the project are from the higher technical school of engineering at Seville university, Virgen del Rocio university hospital, Seville biomedical institute, Andalusian network for the design and translation of advanced therapies, TEDAX (EOD) from the national police force, joint research center from the EU commission and technological corporation of Andalusia, and Calar Alto Observatory as well.
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