Press Releases 2005

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eso0525-en-au — Photo Release
Midsummer's Dream Galaxies
10 August 2005: How does the Galaxy in which we live look like?

It is almost certain that we will never be able to send a probe out of our Milky Way to take a snapshot, in the same way as the first satellites could do to give us striking images of planet Earth. But astronomers do not need this to imagine what our bigger home resembles. And they have a pretty good idea of it.
eso0524-en-au — Science Release
Moving Closer to the Grand Spiral
1 August 2005: An international team of astronomers from Chile, Europe and North America [1] is announcing the most accurate distance yet measured to a galaxy beyond our Milky Way's close neighbours. The distance was determined using the brightness variation of a type of stars known as "Cepheid variables".
eso0523-en-au — Science Release
Comet Tempel 1 Went Back to Sleep
14 July 2005: Ten days after part of the Deep Impact spacecraft plunged onto Comet Tempel 1 with the aim to create a crater and expose pristine material from beneath the surface, astronomers are back in the ESO Offices in Santiago, after more than a week of observing at the ESO La Silla Paranal Observatory. In this unprecedented observing campaign - among the most ambitious ever conducted by a single observatory - the astronomers have collected a large amount of invaluable data on this comet.
eso0522-en-au — Organisation Release
New Sub-Millimetre Light in the Desert
14 July 2005: The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) project has just passed another major milestone by successfully commissioning its new technology 12-m telescope, located on the 5100m high Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama Desert (Chile). The APEX telescope, designed to work at sub-millimetre wavelengths, in the 0.2 to 1.5 mm range, has just performed its first scientific observations. This new front-line facility will provide access to the "Cold Universe" with unprecedented sensitivity and image quality.
eso0521-en-au — Photo Release
Einstein Ring in Distant Universe
30 June 2005: Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, Rémi Cabanac and his European colleagues have discovered an amazing cosmic mirage, known to scientists as an Einstein Ring. This cosmic mirage, dubbed FOR J0332-3557, is seen towards the southern constellation Fornax (the Furnace), and is remarkable on at least two counts. First, it is a bright, almost complete Einstein ring. Second, it is the farthest ever found.
eso0520-en-au — Organisation Release
Ultra-fast Movies of the Sky
9 June 2005: British scientists have opened a new window on the Universe with the recent commissioning of the Visitor Instrument ULTRACAM on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile.
eso0519-en-au — Organisation Release
ESO Receives Computerworld Honors Program 21st Century Achievement Award in Science Category
7 June 2005: In a ceremony held in Washington, D.C. (USA) on June 6, 2005, ESO, the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the southern Hemisphere, received the coveted 21st Century Achievement Award from the Computerworld Honors Program for its visionary use of information technology in the Science category. Sybase, a main database server vendor and member of the Chairmen's Committee, nominated ESO's Data Flow System in recognition of its contributions to the global information technology revolution and its positive impact on society.
eso0518-en-au — Science Release
Preparing for the Impact
30 May 2005: On July 4, 2005, the NASA Deep Impact spacecraft will visit Comet 9P/Tempel 1. It will launch a 360 kg impactor that should produce a crater on the surface of the comet and a plume of gas and dust.
eso0517-en-au — Organisation Release
Dutch Minister of Science Visits ESO Facilities in Chile
16 May 2005: Mrs. Maria van der Hoeven, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, who travelled to the Republic of Chile, arrived at the ESO Paranal Observatory on Friday afternoon, May 13, 2005.
eso0516-en-au — Organisation Release
Catherine Cesarsky Elected Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences
30 April 2005: Today, at the Annual Meeting of the US National Academy of Sciences, ESO's Director General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, is officially inducted into this highly prestigious society.
eso0515-en-au — Science Release
Yes, it is the Image of an Exoplanet
30 April 2005: An international team of astronomers reports today confirmation of the discovery of a giant planet, approximately five times the mass of Jupiter, that is gravitationally bound to a young brown dwarf. This puts an end to a year long discussion on the nature of this object, which started with the detection of a red object close to the brown dwarf.
eso0514-en-au — Organisation Release
Thousand Papers and Counting
27 April 2005: The ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) has just passed an impressive milestone with the publication of the 1,000th peer-reviewed scientific article based on data from the world's largest and most advanced optical and near-infrared telescope.
eso0513-en-au — Photo Release
The Blob, the Very Rare Massive Star and the Two Populations
22 April 2005: The nebula N214 [1] is a large region of gas and dust located in a remote part of our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. N214 is a quite remarkable site where massive stars are forming. In particular, its main component, N214C (also named NGC 2103 or DEM 293), is of special interest since it hosts a very rare massive star, known as Sk-71 51 [2] and belonging to a peculiar class with only a dozen known members in the whole sky. N214C thus provides an excellent opportunity for studying the formation site of such stars.
eso0512-en-au — Organisation Release
"Towards a Europe of Knowledge and Innovation", the EIROforum paper on science policy
20 April 2005: Brussels, April 20, 2005 - Today Europe's seven major intergovernmental research organisations, working together in the EIROforum partnership, presented their comprehensive paper on science policy, "Towards a Europe of Knowledge and Innovation", in the presence of the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Mr. Janez Potocnik and the Luxembourg Minister for Culture, Higher Education, Employment and Research, Mr. François Biltgen. Luxembourg currently holds the presidency of the European Union.
eso0511-en-au — Science Release
Is this a Brown Dwarf or an Exoplanet?
7 April 2005: Since the discovery in 1995 of the first planet orbiting a normal star other than the Sun, there are now more than 150 candidates of these so-called exoplanets known. Most of them are detected by indirect methods, based either on variations of the radial velocity or the dimming of the star as the planet passes in front of it.
eso0510-en-au — Science Release
Young and Exotic Stellar Zoo
22 March 2005: Super star clusters are groups of hundreds of thousands of very young stars packed into an unbelievably small volume. They represent the most extreme environments in which stars and planets can form. Until now, super star clusters were only known to exist very far away, mostly in pairs or groups of interacting galaxies. Now, however, a team of European astronomers [1] have used ESO's telescopes to uncover such a monster object within our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, almost, but not quite, in our own backyard! The newly found massive structure is hidden behind a large cloud of dust and gas and this is why it took so long to unveil its true nature. It is known as "Westerlund 1" and is a thousand times closer than any other super star cluster known so far. It is close enough that astronomers may now probe its structure in some detail. Westerlund 1 contains hundreds of very massive stars, some shining with a brilliance of almost one million suns and some two-thousand times larger than the Sun (as large as the orbit of Saturn)! Indeed, if the Sun were located at the heart of this remarkable cluster, our sky would be full of hundreds of stars as bright as the full Moon. Westerlund 1 is a most unique natural laboratory for the study of extreme stellar physics, helping astronomers to find out how the most massive stars in our Galaxy live and die. From their observations, the astronomers conclude that this extreme cluster most probably contains no less than 100,000 times the mass of the Sun, and all of its stars are located within a region less than 6 light-years across. Westerlund 1 thus appears to be the most massive compact young cluster yet identified in the Milky Way Galaxy.
eso0509-en-au — Science Release
A Tale of Two Populations
15 March 2005: On the basis of stellar spectra totalling more than 200 hours of effective exposure time with the 8.2-m VLT Kueyen telescope at Paranal (Chile), a team of astronomers [1] has made a surprising discovery about the stars in the giant southern globular cluster Omega Centauri. It has been known for some time that, contrary to other clusters of this type, this stellar cluster harbours two different populations of stars that still burn hydrogen in their centres. One population, accounting for one quarter of its stars, is bluer than the other. Using the FLAMES multi-object spectrograph that is particularly well suited to this kind of work, the astronomers found that the bluer stars contain more heavy elements than those of the redder population. This was exactly opposite to the expectation and they are led to the conclusion that the bluer stars have an overabundance of the light element helium of more than 50%. They are in fact the most helium rich stars ever found. But why is this so? The team suggests that this puzzle may be explained in the following way. First, a great burst of star formation took place during which all the stars of the red population were produced. As other normal stars, these stars transformed their hydrogen into helium by nuclear burning. Some of them, with masses of 10-12 times the mass of the Sun, soon thereafter exploded as supernovae, thereby enriching the interstellar medium in the globular cluster with helium. Next, the blue population stars formed from this helium-rich medium. This unexpected discovery provides important new insights into the way stars may form in larger stellar systems.
eso0508-en-au — Organisation Release
VLTI First Fringes with Two Auxiliary Telescopes at Paranal
14 March 2005: The Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) at Paranal Observatory has just seen another extension of its already impressive capabilities by combining interferometrically the light from two relocatable 1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes. Following the installation of the first Auxiliary Telescope (AT) in January 2004, the second AT arrived at the VLT platform by the end of 2004. Shortly thereafter, during the night of February 2 to 3, 2005, the two high-tech telescopes teamed up and quickly succeeded in performing interferometric observations. This achievement heralds an era of new scientific discoveries. Both Auxiliary Telescopes will be offered from October 1, 2005 to the community of astronomers for routine observations, together with the MIDI instrument. By the end of 2006, Paranal will be home to four operational ATs that may be placed at 30 different positions and thus be combined in a very large number of ways ("baselines"). This will enable the VLTI to operate with enormous flexibility and, in particular, to obtain extremely detailed (sharp) images of celestial objects - ultimately with a resolution that corresponds to detecting an astronaut on the Moon.
eso0507-en-au — Science Release
Undercover Stars Among Exoplanet Candidates
3 March 2005: An international team of astronomers have accurately determined the radius and mass of the smallest core-burning star known until now. The observations were performed in March 2004 with the FLAMES multi-fibre spectrograph on the 8.2-m VLT Kueyen telescope at the ESO Paranal Observatory (Chile). They are part of a large programme aimed at measuring accurate radial velocities for sixty stars for which a temporary brightness "dip" has been detected during the OGLE survey. The astronomers find that the dip seen in the light curve of the star known as OGLE-TR-122 is caused by a very small stellar companion, eclipsing this solar-like star once every 7.3 days. This companion is 96 times heavier than planet Jupiter but only 16% larger. It is the first time that direct observations demonstrate that stars less massive than 1/10th of the solar mass are of nearly the same size as giant planets. This fact will obviously have to be taken into account during the current search for transiting exoplanets. In addition, the observations with the Very Large Telescope have led to the discovery of seven new eclipsing binaries, that harbour stars with masses below one-third the mass of the Sun, a real bonanza for the astronomers.
eso0506-en-au — Science Release
Surprise Discovery of Highly Developed Structure in the Young Universe
2 March 2005: Combining observations with ESO's Very Large Telescope and ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, astronomers have discovered the most distant, very massive structure in the Universe known so far. It is a remote cluster of galaxies that is found to weigh as much as several thousand galaxies like our own Milky Way and is located no less than 9,000 million light-years away. The VLT images reveal that it contains reddish and elliptical, i.e. old, galaxies. Interestingly, the cluster itself appears to be in a very advanced state of development. It must therefore have formed when the Universe was less than one third of its present age. The discovery of such a complex and mature structure so early in the history of the Universe is highly surprising. Indeed, until recently it would even have been deemed impossible.
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