Calar Alto housed the eighth edition of the NEON School of Observational Astronomy from the 17th to the 27th of June 2010. Sixteen astronomy students from different countries have shared ten days of intense work during which they have had hands-on experience about the observational techniques of modern astronomy, data handling and their scientific exploitation.
NEON stands for Network of European Observatories in the North. This consortium organises a school of observational astronomy, on an almost yearly basis since 2001. Calar Alto received already this school once in the past (years 2000 and 2005), and has housed it again in June 2010.
These summer schools are oriented mainly towards PhD students and postdocs from countries members of, or associated to, the European Union. As in previous editions, this summer school has provided these young researchers the opportunity to gain practical experience in observational techniques, data reduction and analysis, data archival and mining, and the scientific exploitation of the results.
To this end, the participants have received a complete set of lectures by experienced professionals of observational astronomy, covering the main topics and the most relevant subjects: telescopes, detectors, basic image processing, spectroscopy, astronomical photometry, integral-field spectroscopy… Also, the students have had the chance to apply this knowledge on their own, performing their own observations at the forefront facilities of the German-Spanish Astronomical Centre at Calar Alto Observatory. The Zeiss 2.2 m and 1.23 m telescopes of this observatory have been devoted to this. The participants have performed these observations and, later, they have processed the data to extract relevant scientific conclusions, in the frame of specific research projects. To perform all these tasks, the students have been distributed into small groups. The practical activities have been directed by a team of tutors from Calar Alto Observatory and ESO.
The results have been extremely satisfactory. Beside the formative aspects of this experience, we want to stress the strong personal links established among the participants (students, lecturers, tutors) during these ten days shared at the summits of the Filabres mountain range, at a height of more than 2000 m and following the life style of modern practical astronomers.
The NEON consortium is composed by the following institutions: Asiago Observatory (Italy), Calar Alto Observatory (Germany-Spain), European Southern Observatory (ESO-Garching), Haute-Provence Observatory (France), and La Palma observatories (UK-Netherlands-Nordic Countries-Spain). The eighth NEON School has been celebrated under the auspices of Opticon.