A more sustainable observatory: Calar Alto will be converted into an “energy island”


March 6th 2020

Calar Alto Observatory starts its energy transition thanks to a ERDF (European Regional Development Fund)-supported project.

Using biomass and solar energy will considerably reduce the ecological imprint of the observatory, as well as the costs associated to its energy needs.

The Calar Alto Observatory, the largest optical observatory in mainland Europe, has been, since its establishment in 1973, one of the motors of the development of Spanish astrophysics. Located in the Sierra de los Filabres (Almería), at an altitude of over two thousand and one hundred meters, the observatory faces considerable needs in energy derived from its situation in a high mountain range and its technological features. In the next months, thanks to a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF/FEDER), the observatory will partially replace its energy sources to reduce its ecological footprint.

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Solar Orbiter spotted with the Schmidt two days after launch

Solar Orbiter image

February 12th 2020

Using the Calar Alto Schmidt telescope remotely from Italy, a team from the Planetary Defence Office of the European Spatial Agency (ESA) managed to observe the Solar Orbiter satellite and booster two days after launch from Cape Canaveral. The observations were obtained in coordination with ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC).

Despite a very bright (nearly Full) Moon these days, the quality of the sky and of the telescopes at Calar Alto has allowed Marco Micheli, an astronomer at ESA, to recover Solar Orbiter -- a joint ESA/NASA mission -- well after its launch in the morning of February 10, 2020 with an Atlas V rocket. After the ESOC's Mission Analysis team computed an accurate post-launch trajectory, Micheli pointed the Schmidt telescope to the expected position, and Solar Orbiter was indeed recovered in the field.

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Storms in Jupiter cause a cyclone to split


January 7th 2020

A group from the Basque Country University has followed-up for one year a series of convective storms inside a cyclone on Jupiter and, by means of simulations, found that storms of this size could only have been generated by water condensation.

In February 2018, a series of convective storms occurred on Jupiter. They were storms with strong vertical movements and great precipitation development that were so powerful that they completely changed the region where they took place: a cyclone 28,000 km long, called a ghost cyclone -- owing to its weak contrast which renders it difficult to make out in observations from the Earth, although it could be observed from Calar Alto.

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Possible satellite detected around the Trans-Neptunian object Varuna


December 11th 2019

Astronomers have detected hints of a satellite orbiting Varuna, an object located beyond Neptune, after observing it for nearly 15 years, in particular from Calar Alto.

Beyond Neptune, the eighth and last planet in the Solar System, orbit many Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). Lying at large distances (more than 30 times the one of the Earth to the Sun), TNOs preserve
fossil records of the nebula that gave birth to the Solar System. To date, about 2,500 TNOs have been discovered; among them, Varuna, a large TNO of nearly 1000 km in its longest (elongated) shape.

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