The ESO and ESO-ALMA Users Committee (UC) mid-term meeting took place on 10 November 2020.

National representatives met via video conference.

The most relevant points treated during this ESO and ESO-ALMA UC mid-term meeting are presented below. Detailed and specific announcements on some of these issues will be made by ESO in the coming weeks. Stay tuned !

ESO warns that all the information detailed below might be affected if the second wave of the pandemic hits Chile. Things may evolve quickly as we all experienced in the past months and current plans might change depending on the state of the pandemic.

These are some highlights of the UC meeting 44 (UC44) that ESO and ESO-ALMA users should be aware of:

  • ESO is currently operating with 3 astronomers for all telescopes and instruments under current restrictions due to the pandemic. We should all appreciate the current situation.
  • All instruments on VLT, VISTA, VST, and VLTI should be up and running in December or at worst by the end of this year 2020 depending on technical issues that may delay the ramp up of the instruments.
  • ALMA should be ready in January with a start of science observations planned in March after a regular shut-down planned in February. Cycle 8 should go ahead as original planned.
  • All P105 A-rank and visitor mode programmes will be carried over by ESO as much as possible and on the best effort basis.
  • P106 is the current semester. P106 is also accumulating significant carry-over, technical activities are currently postponed but will be reconsidered in the future depending on the evolution of the situation
  • P107 has been cancelled by ESO. A proposal for complementary channel to request time has been designed by ESO and is pending acceptance by the ESO Council who will meet early December. The main aspects currently envisioned include three possibilities to request observing time accounting up to 15% of the available time on ESO telescopes:
    (i) a fast-processing channel that already exists,
    (ii) a DDT option for transient science cases requiring urgent consideration, and
    (iii) non transient high-risk pilot programmes and highly competitive science case require urgent observations and reviewed by an external committee drawn from community for a maximum of 25h (maximum limit to be agreed)
  • Visitor mode observations are not allowed. Chilean borders remain closed. ESO has put in place designated visitor mode observations and the Eavesdropping mode is available for La Silla and will remain in place in the future. ESO will consider having visitors again as soon as possible to ensure collaborations and interactions between astronomers and ESO scientists. Nonetheless, the modes allowing astronomers to connect without travelling will remain in place in the future.
  • Next ESO UC meeting is foreseen in April 2021.