eau lune vignetteThe moons of planets that have no parent star can possess an atmosphere and retain liquid water. Astrophysicists from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, University of Concepción in Chile, Lagrange Laboratory, and University of Tokyo have calculated that such systems could harbor sufficient water to make life possible – and sustain it.

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Mathias Nowak vignette

The 2021 Olivier Chesneau Prize has been awarded to Mathias Novak for his doctoral work entitled : «The 2017 conjunction of Beta Pictoris b: the Life and Death of PicSat, followed by a VLTI/GRAVITY observation of the re-emergence » that was successfully defended in 2019 at the Observatoire de Paris.

Vue d'artiste Beta Pictoris B © ESO L. Calçada/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)Undismayed by the loss of the PicSat satellite which was the centerpiece of his planned doctoral work, two years into the works, Mathias was able to switch gears, while keeping his objective. He started to work on the then newly commissioned GRAVITY instrument at the focus of ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer. Taking advantage of his practical experience with the problem of injection of light into single-mode fibers, acquired while working on PicSat, he was able in a very short time, to make technical contributions that led to improving the astrometric capability of GRAVITY. Building up from there, he joined the exoplanet program of GRAVITY, where his data processing skills contributed to the first GRAVITY observation of the exoplanet HR 8799e. He was eventually able to close the circle of his doctoral work by finally observing Beta Pictoris: he produced the first very high quality spectrum of Beta Pictoris b, and ultimately, led the first direct detection of Beta Pictoris c, a planet that had only been indirectly detected by radial velocity. Overall, this work has had a major technical and scientific impact in both the interferometry and the exoplanet communities.

These impressive achievements, owed to a deep understanding of technical issues and their consequences on astrophysical measurements, combined with resilience of face of adversity, are the hallmark of the spirit of the Olivier Chesneau Prize, which this year's board of judges is absolutely delighted to award to Dr. Mathias Novak.

Illustration : Vue d'artiste Beta Pictoris B - © ESO L. Calçada/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Apophis, an Earth-crossing asteroid, fascinates both scientists and public since it regularly encounters the Earth. It has passed at 16.8 millions km in March 2021, and in April 2029 it will come as close as 31000 km to the Earth surface (12 times closer than Moon). Its trajectory is thus under close surveillance since its discovery in 2004.

orp eu 6 vignetteTwo astronomy networks are coming together to form Europe’s largest ground-based astronomy collaborative network: the ORP. The ORP will provide scientists with access to a wide range of instruments, promote training for young astronomers, and open the way to new discoveries. The CNRS will be responsible for coordinating the ORP, which is supported by €15 million of funding from the H2020 programme.

Reaching new heights with 100 consortium publications including the early exoplanet demographics release.

Vortex credit J Varga et al vignetteAn international team of astronomers led by researchers from the Netherlands has discovered a whirlwind of dust and pebbles in orbit around a young star. It is possible that a planet is forming in the pebbles. The team of scientists made the discovery during the time that designers and developers of an astronomical instrument get as a reward for their work. They will soon publish their findings in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The week of December 19, 2020 was the last nights of the CHARA/VEGA instrument, nights animated by Olli, Fred and myself.

betelgeuse100ans vignetteThe COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the observations of the European Very Large Telescope (VLT) Observatory located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, with its 8m-large telescopes. The MATISSE instrumenthas been put into hibernation since early March 2020. It was built jointly by French, German and Dutch astrophysics laboratories, and was installed since 2018 at the VLT foyer. As soon as it was put back into service thanks to the hard work of the MATISSE team since the beginning of December, the flagship instrument of the Observatory of the Côte d'Azur in Nice is preparing to once again receive light from the largest telescopes in the world. But this date, as important as it is for the instrument itself and the scientific interest that results from it, is all the more so for the star that we observe this evening: Betelgeuse, the star of the stars .

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