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Astron. Astrophys. 343, L1-L4 (1999)

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1. Introduction

Early in the construction of the VLT it was decided to include a brief period of scientific observations during the commissioning phase of the first VLT Unit Telescope (VLT-UT1). These Science Verification (SV) observations for the VLT-UT1 were effectively performed from August 17 through September 1, 1998. All the data obtained during SV were then released to the ESO astronomy community on October 2, 1998. This special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters collects the first papers resulting from the investigations of these data.

The original SV observing plans and an outline of the programs were presented before the actual observations (Leibundgut, de Marchi, & Renzini 1998). Information on the observations and the data can also be accessed through the ESO Web pages (http://www.eso.org). A brief, early, summary of the observations was presented by the SV team in the September 1998 issue of The Messenger (No. 93, 1). All SV data are available in raw or flat-fielded form from the ESO archive. In October 1998 a CD-ROM set was also distributed to all astronomical institutes within ESO member states and Chile. The data on the Hubble Deep Field South were made available world-wide.

In this article we briefly outline the concept and policy of VLT Science Verification (Sect. 2), give a description of the VLT telescope status during SV (Sect. 3) and the Test Camera, which was the instrument used for the observations (Sect. 4), and report the actual observations and conditions during the SV period and the preparation of the data for the public release (Sect. 5). Finally, a brief outlook is given over the future plans of VLT Science Verifications.

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: March 1, 1999