The 1. Neon School at Calar Alto Observatory (Spain)

The 1. Neon school took place in Calar Alto from July 10 to 22, 2000. Fifteen participants from eight nationalities have shared seven observing nights at each of two telescopes, the 1.2m and the 2.2m, to execute various programs under direct supervision by experienced tutors.

Sixty-seven (67) applications had been received from 18 different countries. Selected participants for  the first school were:

Students: D. Apai (Budapest), A. Garcia-Perez (Uppsala), N. Huelamo (Garching), E. de Filippis (Liverpool), M.C. Galvez-Ortiz (Madrid), G. Rodighiero (Padova), B. Lopez-Marti (Tautenburg), J. Patris (Paris), S. Benlloch (Tuebingen), V. Stanishev (Sofia), I. Pascucci (Jena), V. LaParola (Palermo), M. Markoulaki (Athens), A. Stankov (Vienna), A. Budovicova (Prag).

The tutors were: F. Comeron (Eso), P. Leisy (Eso), A. Pasquali (Eso), S. Pedraz (Calar Alto), A. Pizzella (Padova), F. Prada (Calar Alto).

and the lecturers: C. Barbieri (Padova), M. Dennefeld (Paris), R. Gredel (Calar Alto), H. Roeser (Heidelberg)

A tour of the observatory, under the guidance of its director, R. Gredel, gave the general scope and showed the quality of available instrumentation. Of special interest was the detailed description of the 3.5m telescope, with its adaptative optics system and laser guide star, even if it left the students (and tutors!) with a bit of regret not to have this telescope available too...

Several introductory lectures gave the basics needed for future successfull observations. C.Barbieri (Padova) presented the general optical layout of telescopes and the improvements in optical image quality due to active and adaptive optics. H. Roeser (Heidelberg) showed the complexity to obtain reliable photometry and all the side-steps necessary to achieve a good accuracy. M.Dennefeld (Paris) described classical slit spectroscopy and its calibration, and the higher efficiency obtained with focal reducers and multi-object spectroscopic techniques.

All these explanations were followed attentively, and later completed by additionnal explanations and lectures, on detectors (M.Dennefeld), adaptive optics (R.Gredel) or data reductions (P.Leisy). Some prospective conferences were also given on the VLT (F.Comeron) and HST facilities (A.Pasquali), as all the students are expected to become future users of these international instruments.

But obviously the central part of the school was devoted to the observations at the telescope and reduction of the data. Groups of 3 students worked on specific projects under direct supervision of a dedicated tutor.
A. Pizzella (Padova) guided his group into "Tracing the dark matter in spiral galaxies", by measuring rotation curves and deriving photometric profiles in galaxies of various spiral types. S. Pedraz (Calar Alto) looked with his students into the radial variation of the stellar content in dwarf galaxies and compared it with model predictions. P. Prada (Calar Alto) searched for substructures in the halo of nearby galaxies, using on-off interference filter imaging in prominent emission-lines to detect PNe or regions of star-formation. A. Pasquali (ST-ECF) and F.Comeron (ESO) joined their forces (and their groups!) to investigate a star-forming region in Cygnus OB2, making a systematic IR map and following the most interesting objects in spectroscopy.

In addition to these programs, carefully prepared by the tutors, it was also shown to the students that scientific actuality was sometimes commanding, specially at the telescope! During the first official observing night of the school, the 2.2m was enterily used to follow spectroscopically the transit of an extrasolar planet in front of HD209459. Several tens of spectra have been obtained and accumulated, in the hope to show a change in spectral shape of the parent star. During several nights, Asteroid 140 SIWA was monitored photometrically to add points to the light curve and try to figure out what was the rotation period of this asteroid target of the Rosetta mission. And, finally, the last night, the discovery of SN2000cw by the Lick SN search group gave an opportunity to the Neon school to observe spectroscopically this target of opportunity and to announce in an IAU circular that it was a SNIa close to maximum.

All these results were presented the last day by all the students, like in a conference. But obviously time was limited to finish all the work required, and it is clearly sometimes easier to show with hands how elliptical a galaxy can be...

But the results were very interesting, and of excellent quality, even if sometimes scepticism seems to remain, about the nature of a black hole or other mystery of the universe...

As a whole, the school was a success, thanks to the enthousiasm of all the participants, to the dedication of the tutors, to the efficient help of the staff (particular thanks to the Director, for having ordered (and provided!) good wheather) and to many small details which have ensured a good ambiance, fixed on many other photographs which will not be displayed here. Many thanks to all participants! The organisers are looking forward with great expectations to the next edition in 2001 (at Haute-Provence Observatory)...

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