ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world's most productive astronomical observatory. It operates three sites in Chile — La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor — on behalf of its fifteen member states. It builds ALMA together with international partners, and designs the European Extremely Large Telescope.
A group of astronomers has been able to follow stardust being made in real time — during the aftermath of a supernova explosion. For the first time they show that these cosmic dust factories make their grains in a two-stage process, starting soon after the explosion, but continuing for years afterwards. The team used ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in northern Chile to analyse the light from the supernova SN2010jl as it slowly faded. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 9 July 2014.
The little-known cloud of cosmic gas and dust called Gum 15 is the birthplace and home of hot young stars. Beautiful and deadly, these stars mould the appearance of the nebula from which they formed and, as they progress into adulthood, will eventually also destroy it.
Groundbreaking for the E-ELT — Ceremony marks next major step forward for the world’s largest optical/infrared telescope
Today a groundbreaking ceremony took place to mark the next major milestone towards ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Part of the 3000-metre peak of Cerro Armazones was blasted away as a step towards levelling the summit in preparation for the construction of the largest optical/infrared telescope in the world.
Observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have for the first time directly mapped out the molecular gas and dust in the host galaxies of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) — the biggest explosions in the Universe. In a complete surprise, less gas was observed than expected, and correspondingly much more dust, making some GRBs appear as “dark GRBs”. This work will appear in the journal Nature on 12 June 2014 and is the first ALMA science result on GRBs to appear. It shows ALMA’s potential to help us to better understand these objects.
SPHERE — the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument — has been installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile and has achieved first light. This powerful new facility for finding and studying exoplanets uses multiple advanced techniques in combination. It offers dramatically better performance than existing instruments and has produced impressive views of dust discs around nearby stars and other targets during the very first days of observations. SPHERE was developed and built by a consortium of many European institutes, led by the Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble, France, working in partnership with ESO. It is expected to revolutionise the detailed study of exoplanets and circumstellar discs.