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.
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.
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.