Awareness Conference 2015 in Brno (Czech
"An ESO/OPTICON/IAU summer school on Modern
Instruments, their Science Case,
and practical Data reduction"
The Czech Republic, being a relatively young member of the ESO
community, felt the necessity of making her astronomers
aware of the ESO facilities and their performances, and wanted
thus to organise a training workshop on ESO instruments.
Having been made aware of this intention (thanks to Roland
Gredel), OPTICON decided to join forces, and make the
whole EU community benefit of this training.
At the same time, we proposed to enlarge the topic to include also
other European Telescopes, namely those accessible through
the OPTICON ACCESS program. So started the organisation of that
But why not enlarge even a bit more the attendance, as the
facilities made available by the Mazaryk University in Brno
could host more than the usual ~20 participants of the NEON
Many astronomers, at the border of Europe, are also keen to use
and thus would benefit from such a training. The IAU was
thus sollicited to contribute to the school,
and thanks to the support of the ISYA program (now sponsored by
the Norvegian Academy of Sciences and Letters),
7 non-EU students could also participate (from Armenia, Egypt,
Iran and Ukraine), plus 3 from Turkey (sponsored by Opticon)
In total, thus 39 students participated in the first
ESO/OTPICON/IAU school, representing 18 different nationalities.
The majority of them was at the PhD level but some Master students
from the Czech Republic were also selected,
and, for the first time, a few more senior astronomers attended
too, attracted by the quality of the facilities presented.
The many major optical/IR telescopes and instruments available to
European astronomers were presented
by expert astronomers from those observatories, a large fraction
of them coming from ESO.
This was completed by some science lectures on Hot Topics in
Astrophysics, the details of which can be found on the program
But, as usual in those schools, the most important part was the
practical work on archive data from many of those instruments,
led by experienced and enthousiastic tutors, which each conducted
a group of 4 students into a real research program.
These were: K. Music (ESO Chile), G. Beccari (ESO Garching), J.C.
Munoz (ESO Chile), D. Jones (IAC Tenerife), A. Herve (CZ Academy
of Sciences), R. Cabanac (U. of Toulouse), H. Rahmani
(LAM-Marseille), and E. Paunzen, M. Netopil and M. Starka from the
Mazarik University in Brno.
In addition, the group working on spectro-polarimetry under the
direction of R. Cabanac, director of the Pic du Midi Observatory,
had the chance to perform observations in real time with the
Bernard Lyot 2m telescope of this observatory.
All the results were presented by the students on the last day of
Finally, to prepare future activities, lectures and practical work
were also given on "How to write a proposal", complemented
by an "OPC simulation exercise" were the students were sitting on
"the other side of the barrer" and had to evaluate real (past)
Adding to this, interactive sessions on "Career prospects" or on
how the various evaluation panels were acting,
made of this school a very lively and international gathering.
This nice ambiance was reinforced by the warm hospitality of our
hosts in Brno, which not only organised visits of local industry
linked to Astronomy (e.g. Moravia Instruments) but also introduced
us to the historical aspects of the old town,
and its culinary specialities, which extend far beyond beer,
including New Wine and Knoedel.
The questionnaires handed out to the participants returned a high
level of satisfaction, encouraging us to pursue such events in the