- Press Release
- Feb 8, 2023
Three Good Reasons for Celebrating at the ESO/ST-ECF Science Archive Facility
Due to a happy coincidence, the ESO/ST-ECF Science Archive
Facility is celebrating three different milestones at the same
This Archive contains over 8 Terabytes (1 Terabyte = 1
million million bytes) of valuable observational data from the
NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the ESO Very Large Telescope
(VLT) and other ESO telescopes.
Its success paves the way for the establishment of “Virtual
Observatories” from which first-class data can be obtained by
astronomers all over the world. This greatly enhances the
opportunities for more (young) scientists to participate in front-line
Just 10 years ago, on the 1st of January 1991, the ESO/ST-ECF (European Southern
Observatory/Space Telescope-European Coordinating Facility) Science
Archive Facility opened. It has since served the astronomical
community with gigabyte after gigabyte of high-quality astronomical
data from some of the world’s leading telescopes.
The Archive, which is located in Garching, just outside Munich
(Germany), contains data from the 2.4-m NASA/ESA Hubble Space
Telescope, as well as from several ESO telescopes: the four
8.2-m Unit Telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at
the Paranal Observatory, and the 3.5-m New
Technology Telescope (NTT), the 3.6-m
telescope and the MPG/ESO
2.2-m telescope at La
The Archive is a continuously developing project – in terms of
amounts of data stored, the number of users and in particular because
of the current dramatic development of innovative techniques for data
handling and storage.
In the year 2000 more than 2 Terabytes (2000 Gigabytes) of data
were distributed to users worldwide.
The archiving of VLT data has been described in ESO PR 10/99.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary
Due to a happy coincidence, the Archive passes two other milestones
almost exactly at the time of its ten-year anniversary: the
10,000th request for data has just arrived, and active user number
2000 has just signed up to start using the Archive.
Dataset number 10000 was requested by Danish astronomer
Søren Larsen who works at the University of California
(USA). He asked for images of galaxies taken with the Hubble Space
Telescope and expressed great satisfaction with the material: “The
extremely sharp images from Hubble have provided a quantum leap
forward in our ability to study star clusters in external galaxies. We
now know that some galaxies contain extremely bright young star
clusters. These might constitute a “link” between open and globular
clusters as we know them in the Milky Way galaxy in which we live. We
are now trying to understand whether all these clusters really form in
the same basic way.”
Active user number 2000 is Swiss astronomer
Frédéric Pont, working at the Universidad de
Chile: “We use observations from the ESO VLT Unit Telescopes to map
the chemical and star-formation history of dwarf galaxies in the Local
Group. The stars we are looking at are very faint and we simply need
the large size and excellent quality of VLT to observe them in
detail. With the new data, we can really move forward in this
fundamental research field.”
To celebrate this special occasion, a 4-page brochure has
been prepared that describes the Archive and its various services. The
brochure can be requested from ESO or ST-ECF and is now available in
on the web.
As a small token, the two astronomers will receive a commemorative
version of the photo that accompanies this release.
The ASTROVIRTEL initiative
One of the major new initiatives undertaken by ESO and ST-ECF in
connection with the ESO/ST-ECF Science Archive is ASTROVIRTEL (Accessing
Astronomical Archives as Virtual Telescopes), cf. ESO PR 09/00. It is a project aimed at
helping scientists to cope efficiently with the massive amounts of
data now becoming available from the world’s leading telescopes and so
to exploit the true potential of the Archive treasures.
ASTROVIRTEL represents the European effort in an area that
many astronomers considers one of the most important developments
within observing astronomy in the past decade.
The head of the ESO/ST-ECF Science Archive Facility,
Benoît Pirenne, believes that the future holds exciting
challenges: “Due to the many improvements of the ESO, NASA and ESA
telescopes and instruments expected in the coming years, we anticipate
a tremendous increase in the amount of data to be archived and
re-distributed. It will not be too long before we will have to start
counting storage space in Petabytes (1 Petabyte = 1,000 Terabytes).
We are now trying to figure out how to best prepare for this new
But he is also concerned with maintaining and further enhancing the
astronomical value of the data that are made available to the users:
“Apart from improving the data storage, we need to invest much
effort in building automatic software that will help users with the
tedious pre-processing and ‘cleaning’ of the data, thereby allowing
them to focus more on scientific than technical problems.”
10-year anniversary of the Archive: 1.1.2001
10,000th data request: 17.11.2000
2000th active user: 10.12.2000
Head of ESO/ST-ECF Science Archive
e-mail: [email protected]
Lars Lindberg Christensen
Hubble European Space Agency
Information Centre (Garching, Germany)
Cellular (24 hr): +49-(0)173-38-72-621
e-mail: [email protected]
ESO Education and PR Dept.
e-mail: [email protected]