Fourth NEON Observing School
Calar-Alto, August 7-20, 2005
This school was held at the Calar Alto
Spain, where the very first Neon school was held already in year 2000.
Sixteen students and 8 tutors and lecturers, from 12 different
nationalities, gathered in this nice location for a two weeks,
intensive session devoted to all the "tricks" of an observating run,
from the preparation of the observations, to observations themselves,
data reductions and presentation of the scientific results on the last
The fundamentals of observing techniques were delivered in a series of
introductory lectures, which included:
Photometric techniques, by H.J. Roeser (Heidelberg)
Optical and near-IR detectors by M. Dennefeld (Paris)
Image quality analysis, and specifics of wide-field imaging, by E.
Spectroscopy by M. Dennefeld (Paris)
Further lectures during the school dealt with:
The use of Virtual Observatories and large databases (J. Taylor,
Novel instrumentation for VLT's (R. Gredel, Heidelberg)
For the research topics and observations at the telescope, students
were divided into three groups, each of them having its specific topics
The first group, under
the direction of A. Bik, made near-IR
observations of high-mass Star Formation regions.
Such ultra-compact regions are not seen in the visible (absorption by
dust, and sometimes screening by the surrounding gaz of
the HII region) , but are detected in radio.
Observations in the near-IR allow then to detect their "visible"
counterpart, and study it both in imaging and spectroscopy.
Among the various sources studied, a very high-mass star has been found
in one of them, brighter than the most massive (O3) star,
with possible extra emisison from an accretion disk.
The second group, under
the direction of S. Pedraz, studied a series of
elliptical galaxies to determine their mass and stellar populations.
Imaging/photometry provided brightness profiles and masses, while
spectroscopy provided line indices which, by comparison with various
templates of standard stars, provided metallicity indexes and allowed
to break the age-metallicity degeneracy. As expected, elliptical
show rather old stellar population, whose velocity dispersion could be
The third group, under
the direction of S. Sanchez, studied a number of
Luminous IR galaxies (LIRG's), through multi-colour imaging, including
narrow-band filters in characteristic emission lines like Halpha or
Once the line ratios are calibrated through spectroscopy, the images
directly provide the star formation rate from the Halpha flux,
and an indication of the metallicity through the SII line. It was then
shown (not unexpectedly...) that the LIRG's experience episodes of much
stronger Star Formation then "standard" galaxies.
In addition, two Targets of
Opportunity, which happened to be available
at the appropriate moment, could also be observed!
This was the optical counterpart of the Gamma-ray burst 050714A;
and the new Nova Aquila 2005, which appears to be rather peculiar:
indeed, combined visible and
near-IR observations showed that this object, being effectively a Nova,
suffers however a substantial reddening, which is rather unusual for
The presentations of the scientific results at the end of the
school gave opportunity to each of the students, without exception,
to make an oral presentation, sometimes their first one in english!
This is a necessary step for future scientists.
A general discussion at the end of the school, led by M. Dennefeld and
R. Gredel, allowed the presentation
of various career opportunities in Europe, including those
sponsored by the EU,
as well as a glance of the various observing facilities available to
The students unanimously agreed that the school was "fantastic"
although tiring, because so much had to be done in so little time!
Fortunately, a short break in the middle of the school, and
relaxation on the terrasse during diner time gave also opportunities to
enjoy the nice scenery and tackle other topics of wide european