European Radio Astronomy Consortium

Newsletter Issue 08/2023

Record-breaking cold gas discovery in the early Universe

Record-breaking cold gas discovery in the early Universe

Using the transnational access funded by the EC granted Opticon RadioNet Pilot project, astronomers have detected cold molecular gas in the form of carbon monoxide in the host galaxy of a supermassive black hole at an early epoch in cosmic history, corresponding to when the Universe was only seven hundred million years old. The discovery was made by an international team led by researchers from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) using the NOEMA observatory in the French Alps. The results are published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters under the title First Constraints on Dense Molecular Gas at z = 7.5149 from the Quasar Pōniuā'ena. Read here the IRAM news release.

Image: © IRAM/NOEMA/C. Feruglio (INAF); Map of the molecular gas (carbon monoxide) emission from the Poniua‘ena quasar, obtained with NOEMA. In the lower part of the image, the emission line detection.

New ALMA receivers will probe cosmic origins

New ALMA receivers that will probe cosmic origins successfully tested

An international team of astronomers and engineers at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have made the first measurements using new receivers installed on multiple ALMA antennas. This so-called “Band 2” opens a new window into cosmic origins, allowing measurements that reveal how distant stars and galaxies form, all the way down to the origins of planets and the building blocks of life. Read more.

Image: © S. Otarola - ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); shows the cryostat of an ALMA antenna populated with 10 receivers for the first time. The receivers pick up the signals from outer space at specific frequency bands, covering a window from 950 to 35 GHz, and are stored in a cryostat that cools them down to temperatures as low as -269°C. The installation of the "Band 2" receivers, initiated in 2023, means ALMA antennas can observe within the final frequency range (67 to 116 GHs) for which the array was designed. 

Mysterious Neptune dark spot detected from Earth for the first time

Mysterious Neptune dark spot detected from Earth for the first time

Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have observed a large dark spot in Neptune’s atmosphere, with an unexpected smaller bright spot adjacent to it. This is the first time a dark spot on the planet has ever been observed with a telescope on Earth. Read more in the ESO press release here.


Image: © ESO/P. Irwin et al.; This image shows Neptune observed with the MUSE instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). At each pixel within Neptune, MUSE splits the incoming light into its constituent colours or wavelengths. This is similar to obtaining images at thousands of different wavelengths all at once, which provides a wealth of valuable information to astronomers.

The image to the right combines all colours captured by MUSE into a “natural” view of Neptune, where a dark spot can be seen to the upper-right. Then we see images at specific wavelengths: 551 nanometres (blue), 831 nm (green), and 848 nm (red); note that the colours are only indicative, for display purposes.

The dark spot is most prominent at shorter (bluer) wavelengths. Right next to this dark spot MUSE also captured a small bright one, seen here only in the middle image at 831 nm and located deep in the atmosphere. This type of deep bright cloud had never been identified before on the planet. The images also show several other shallower bright spots towards the bottom-left edge of Neptune, seen at long wavelengths.

Imaging Neptune’s dark spot from the ground was only possible thanks to the VLT’s Adaptive Optics Facility, which corrects the blur caused by atmospheric turbulence and allows MUSE to obtain crystal clear images. To better highlight the subtle dark and bright features on the planet, the astronomers carefully processed the MUSE data, obtaining what you see here.


New type of star gives clues to mysterious origin of magnetars

New type of star gives clues to mysterious origin of magnetars

Using multiple telescopes around the world, including European Southern Observatory (ESO) facilities, researchers have uncovered a living star that is likely to become a magnetar. This finding marks the discovery of a new type of astronomical object — massive magnetic helium stars — and sheds light on the origin of magnetars.

This research was presented in a paper to appear in Science (doi). Read here the ESO science release from 7 August 2023.


Image: © ESO/L. Calçada; this artist impression shows HD 45166, a massive star recently discovered to have a powerful magnetic field of 43 000 gauss, the strongest magnetic field ever found in a massive star. Intense winds of particles blowing away from the star are trapped by this magnetic field, enshrouding the star in a gaseous shell as illustrated here.

Astronomers believe that this star will end its life as a magnetar, a compact and highly magnetic stellar corpse. As HD 45166 collapses under its own gravity, its magnetic field will strengthen, and the star will eventually become a very compact core with a magnetic field of around 100 trillion gauss — the most powerful type of magnet in the Universe.

HD 45166 is part of a binary system. In the background, we get a glimpse of HD 45166’s companion, a normal blue star that has been found to orbit at a far larger distance than previously reported.

VLA Finds Megastorms on Saturn Disrupt Gas Giant’s Deep Atmosphere in Surprising Ways

VLA Finds Megastorms on Saturn Disrupt Gas Giant’s Deep Atmosphere in Surprising Ways

 A study of rare megastorms on Saturn using data from the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array has revealed disruptions in the distribution of ammonia gas in the planet’s deep atmosphere. The findings raise questions about just how different gas giants can be from each other, and challenge scientists’ understanding of how megastorms may form on planets other than Earth. The results of the study appear in Science Advances (Long lasting, deep effect of Saturn’s giant storms,” Li, C. et al, 2023. Science Advances, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.adg9419). Read more.


Image: © S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF), I. de Pater et al (Berkeley); This composite overlays VLA data on a Cassini image of Saturn to provide a comprehensive view of ammonia on the move in the gas giant’s atmosphere.

Prof A. Zensus elected to the KoWi Advisory Board

Prof A. Zensus elected to the KoWi Advisory Board

At the KoWi (The EU Liaison Office of the German Research Organisations) general meeting on 10 August 2023, Prof. Dr. Anton Zensus/Director of MPIfR, Scientific Coordinator of the running Opticon RadioNet Pilot project and Coordinator of the former RadioNet project was elected to the KoWi Advisory Board, with immediate effect.




Commission proposals for new candidate European Partnerships are now public

Preparations of new European Partnerships that will be launched during the second half of Horizon Europe have reached an important milestone this week, when the European Commission presented 10 proposals for new candidate partnerships to Member States and Associated Countries. 

The proposed portfolio will be discussed with Member States and Associated Countries in the coming months and may thus be subject to further changes.

Report “Cooperation of ESFRI Research Infrastructures (Landmarks) with Industry

The cooperation between Research Infrastructures (RIs) and industry plays a crucial role in achieving scientific excellence and fostering innovation potential. To address the definition and monitoring of the level of cooperation and its challenges, ESFRI conducted a report on RI cooperation.

The report highlights the need for polity actions to overcome several barriers like e.g. different mindsets, access rules, and intellectual property rights and it emphasizes ESFRI's role for increasing impact. Its recommendations serve as a valuable input for advancing the RI-Industry cooperation landscape. Read here the report.

Amendment of the European Innovation Council work programme 2023

On 11 August 2023,  the EC adopted the amendment of the EIC work programme 2023 including two coordination and support actions.

Next generation innovation talents scheme: The Next generation innovation talents scheme has been set up by EIC to allow eligible EU funded researchers to conduct an innovation internship in a hosting EIC or EIT funded company.

Financial support to access services from ecosystem partners: This coordination and support action aims to provide EIC beneficiaries with financial support to access specialised services from excellent ecosystem partners from Europe and beyond and meet their specific needs in terms of sectorial knowledge, networks, R&I infrastructure, access to markets or business development.

Both calls for proposals are open since 16 August 2023. Read more.

EC publication: New standards and tools for more attractive research careers in the Union

Read the publication “New standards and tools for more attractive research careers in the Union” here.

Third Report on the Application of Council Regulation (EC) No 723/2009 of 25 June 2009 on the Community legal framework for a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC)

This report has has been published on 14.8.2023 and it provides an overview of the state of play of the ERICs, identifies key opportunities for the ERICs and discusses remaining challenges and potential solutions for an effective financing and operation of the ERICs. Even though the ERIC does provide increased legal certainty and financial stability, as for many pan-European RIs, the scientific, financial, and operational sustainability of the ERICs remains a challenge. Read more.




Transnational Access CALLS:

IRAM Telescopes: Call for proposals open

IRAM Telescopes: Call for proposals open

The call is open for observing proposals on IRAM telescopes, both the NOEMA interferometer and the 30-meter telescope, for the winter semester 2023/2024.

Access/funding offered through the ORP (Opticon RadioNet Pilot) project.

Submission deadline: 14 September 2023, 17:00 CEST (UT + 2 hours).

European ALMA Regional Centre

The European ALMA Regional Centre (ARC) provides the interface between the ALMA project and the European science community. The ARC is staffed by scientists with expertise in radio astronomy and interferometry and it supports its users throughout the lifetime of a project, from proposal preparation to data analysis. Users that want to visit an ARC node for a face-to-face visit can apply for funding through the ORP project. 

Westerbork Apertif Long Term Archive

ALTA offers to the world-wide astronomical community free virtual access to data and scientific products produced from all sky surveys of the Northern sky that will be conducted with the new Apertif frontend of the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT), as well as tools to query, further exploit and perform data mining of these products adaptable to diverse research goals. The access/funding offered through the ORP project.

LOFAR Long Term Archive

LTA is a long-established archive and access facility supporting the international LOFAR telescope. It is currently the largest radio astronomical archive in the world already exceeding 45 PB from LOFAR’s past 10 years of operations. The LTA provides a central and key resource for all observed LOFAR astronomical science programs where the data become public within 12 months of first creation. The access/funding is offered through the ORP project.



• CSIRO  – Deployment and Maintenance Manager/SKA-Low Telescope – position – deadline 03.09.2023

• University of Hertfordshire  – Research Fellow – position  – deadline 10.09.2023

• The University of Sydney  – Postgraduate Research Scholarship in Radio Transients and Variables– position  – deadline 12.09.2023

• University of Manchester – Research Software Engineer in Machine Learning for UK SKA Regional Centre – position, Technical Specialist (IT/ HPC) – position, 4 x Research Scientist/ Developer – position, 3 x Research Software Engineer – position, Data Transport Specialist – position, Data Management Specialist – position, 2 x Data Steward – position, deadline 17.09.2023

• ESO – Software Engineer for DevOps  position – deadline 09.09.2023, IT Specialist - Cyber Security – position – 10.09.2023, Head of the Facilities and Logistics Department – position - deadline 28.09.2023, Fellowship Programme Chile 2023/2024 – position – deadline 15.10.2023, Engineering Internship – position – deadline 31.12.2023, Internship: Science Communication – position – deadline 31.12.2023

• SARAO - Telescope Operator – position  – deadline 04.09.2023

• University of Bielefeld – Professorship in Astrophysics – position – deadline 30.09.2023

• University of California San Diego – Assistant Professor of Astronomy – position – deadline 30.06.2023

• MPIfR – M2FINDERS/postdoctoral position (m/f/x) in radio astronomy – position

Check also EURAXESS



• IAU Symposium 384: Planetary Nebulae: a Universal Toolbox in the Era of Precision Astrophysics – 04-08.09.2023 – Cracow/PL

• 15th DiFX Users and Developers Meeting – 11-15.09.2023 – Socorro-NM/US

• AG2023 – 11-15.09.2023 – Berlin/DE

• YERAC – 12-15.09.2023 – Jodrell Bank/UK

• Global Dimension and Sustainability of Research Infrastructures – 25-26.09.2023 – Tenerife/ES

• 2nd ESFRI Stakeholders Forum Meetup – 27.09.2023 – Tenerife/ES

• German Science Opportunities for the ngVLA Part II – 27-28.09.2023 – Leipzig/DE

• The 14th Gaia Science Alerts workshop – 02-05.10.2023 -– Valletta/MT

• IAU Symposium 385 - Astronomy and Satellite Constellations: Pathways Forward – 02-06.10.2023 – La Palma-Canary Islands/ES

• Horizon Europe Info Days - Cluster 4 (Digital, Industrie, Space) – 11-12.10.2023 – online

• ARGOS: Science Priorities for a European Wide-Field Radio Interferometer – 24-27.10.2023 – Heraklion/GR

• IAU Symposium 386 - Dark Sky and Astronomical Heritage in Boosting Astro-tourism around the Globe – 13-17.11.2023 – Addis Abeba/ET

• Radio 2023 – 14-17.11.2023 – Bochum/DE

• ISYA2023 – 19.11.-09.12.2023 – Cape Town/ZA

• XVII Latin American Regional IAU Meeting – 27.11-01.12.2023 – Montevideo/UY

• ALMA at 10 years: Past, Present, and Future – 04-08.12.2023Puerto Varas/CL

• 9. Annual Science at Low Frequencies (SALF) conference – 11-15.12.2023 – Amsterdam/NL & online

• Meerkat @ 5 conference – 20-23.02.2024 – Stellenbosch/ZA

• IVS 2024 General Meeting – 4-9.3.2024 – Tsukuba/JP

• 7th LOFAR Data School – 15-19.04.2024 – Dwingeloo/NL

• CAP 24 – 24-28.06.2024 – Toulouse/FR & online

• EAS2024 – 01-05.07.2024- Padova/IT

• European ALMA school – 10-12.09.2024 – Manchester/UK

• IAU General Assembly – 06-15.08.2024 – Cape Town/ZA

 See also the Calendar




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