Searching the sources of mysterious particles from the universe

September 28, 2004

This release is also available in German.

A new system of large telescopes, dedicated to the search of the sources of high energetic particles with energies of more than 100 GeV, like supernova remnants and other exotic objects, will be opened on September 28, 2004 by the prime minister of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab. Numerous high-ranking guests from Namibia, South Africa, France and Germany will attend the ceremony on the Farm Goellschau in Namibia. The international project, which is coordinated by the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, is based on technologies from particle physics. It provides a powerful instrument for the young research field of TeV-astronomy, and may for the first time allow the detection of "dark matter" in the universe. The inauguration of the four telescopes marks the completion of the installation of the first phase of H.E.S.S. The telescope system can start its work for the benefit of the worldwide astronomical community.

H.E.S.S., the "High Energy Stereoscopic System" [1], is designed to search the electromagnetic spectrum of the sky in the Southern Hemisphere for the sources of extremely high energy particles and enables fundamental research in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics. H.E.S.S. is a collaboration between many European and African institutions.

The H.E.S.S. telescope system was realized in close cooperation with the University of Namibia. It supports the international cooperation in fundamental research as well as the education of young scientists and technicians in southern Africa. The project was initiated by the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg. Major components of the telescopes and the infrastructure were provided by the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in close collaboration with research groups from the universities of Hamburg and Bochum, the Humboldt-University of Berlin and from the Landessternwarte Heidelberg, with support from the Federal German Ministry für Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)) within the funding framework "Astroteilchenphysik". Important technical contributions came from the French collaboration partners. The other international partners from Europe and southern Africa provided valuable additional contributions to the project.

The new research instrument consists in its first phase of a cluster of 4 optical telescopes, which are coupled to a system and which can be extended in a later stage. The experiment is designed to operate initially for about 10 to 15 years. Namibian companies, like NEC and Seelenbinder Consulting Engineers, have realized the technical infrastructure in close cooperation to the highest technical level.

First observations with H.E.S.S. have been performed during the stepwise commissioning of the individual telescopes in 2002 and 2003. From these measurements important results have already been obtained and which marked scientific highlights at conferences on astroparticle physics in 2004. Among these results is the discovery of a source of high-energy gamma rays at the center of our Galaxy, which is probably a remnant of a supernova that exploded about 10,000 years ago.

The inauguration of H.E.S.S. [3] takes place on Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 10.30 am local time at the location of H.E.S.S. on the Farm Goellschau in Namibia. Journalists are cordially welcome (RSVP: Deutsche Botschaft Windhoek, Namibia)

Program: Tuesday, September 28, 2004

10:30 Arrival of guests

11:00 Beginning of the inauguration

Presentation of the H.E.S.S.-Project
by Prof. Heinrich J. Völk, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg, and Chair of the H.E.S.S. Collaboration Board

Prof. Lazarus Hangula, Vice Chancellor UNAM
Dr. Khotso Mokhele, President of the National Research Foundation, South Africa
Dr. Michel Spiro, Director of the National Institute of Nuclear Physics and Particle Physics (IN2P3), France
Prof. Reimar Lüst, Former President of the Max Planck Society, Germany
Dr. Elisabeth Giacobino, Director of Research at the French Ministry of Youth, Education and Research and at the Ministry of Research and New Technologies, France
Dr. Hermann-Friedrich Wagner, Deputy Director General, Head of Directorate 41: Basic Research, Federal Ministry of Education and Research
H.E. Philippe Perrier de la Bâthie, French Ambassador H.E. Dr. Wolfgang Massing, German Ambassador

The Right Honourable Theo-Ben Gurirab, Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia

12:00 Demonstration of the telescopes and sightseeing of the H.E.S.S. research station

13:00 Reception
Further Events

1. H.E.S.S. Open Workshop

In addition to the official inauguration, there will be a scientific workshop on astronomical and technical aspects ot the H.E.S.S. experiment in its regional and global context. The workshop takes place on Monday, September 27, 2004 at the Heja Lodge Conference Centre , located on the half way between Windhoek and the international airport. It is open anyone interested in understanding the experiment and its scientific goals.

Program: Monday, September 27, 2004

09:15 Opening statements

The H.E.S.S. Experiment

09:30 The making of H.E.S.S. (G. Fontaine)

10:15 First physics with H.E.S.S. (C. Masterson)

11:00 Coffee break

Physics Overview

11:40 High energy gamma ray sources: present and future challenges (J. Silk)

12:30 Lunch

Partners of H.E.S.S. observing the Southern Sky

14:00 Fishing for neutrinos - science, technology and politics (U. Katz)

14:50 Designing and building the world's largest cosmic-ray experiment (A. Watson)

15:40 Coffee break

16.20 The square kilometre array radio telescope in South Africa (J. Jonas)

Science in Namibia

17:10 Science and Technology in Namibia (A. van Kent)

2. Public Lecture

On Friday, October 1, 2004, 6 pm Prof. Werner Hofmann, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, will give a public lecture at the Gemeindezentrum Foundation, Windhoek with the title "Black Holes and Exploding Stars: Observing the Universe with H.E.S.S."

3. Open Day

On Saturday, October 2, 2004 there will be the opportunity for the public to visit the H.E.S.S. experiment between 10 am and 4 pm. Scientists will give guided tours through the experiment.

Related links:

[1] HESS-Website at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, Heidelberg

[2] MPG-Presseinformation "Supernova nahe dem Zentrum unserer Milchstraße" from September 15, 2004

[3] Additional information concerning the inauguration in Namibia

[4] H.E.S.S. - The New Window on the High-Energy Universe, Präsentation zur Einweihung des HESS-Teleskops am 28. September 2004, PDF-File (low resolution)

[5] H.E.S.S. - The New Window on the High-Energy Universe, Präsentation zur Einweihung des HESS-Teleskops am 28. September 2004, PPT-File (high resolution)


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