Press Releases 2009

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eso0950-en-au — Science Release
Astronomers Find World with Thick, Inhospitable Atmosphere and an Icy Heart
16 December 2009: Astronomers have discovered the second super-Earth exoplanet [1] for which they have determined the mass and radius, giving vital clues about its structure. It is also the first super-Earth where an atmosphere has been found. The exoplanet, orbiting a small star only 40 light-years away from us, opens up dramatic new perspectives in the quest for habitable worlds. The planet, GJ1214b, has a mass about six times that of Earth and its interior is likely to be mostly made of water ice. Its surface appears to be fairly hot and the planet is surrounded by a thick atmosphere, which makes it inhospitable for life as we know it on Earth.
eso0949-en-au — Organisation Release
VISTA: Pioneering New Survey Telescope Starts Work
11 December 2009: A new telescope — VISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) — has just started work at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and has made its first release of pictures. VISTA is a survey telescope working at infrared wavelengths and is the world’s largest telescope dedicated to mapping the sky. Its large mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors will reveal a completely new view of the southern sky. Spectacular new images of the Flame Nebula, the centre of our Milky Way galaxy and the Fornax Galaxy Cluster show that it is working extremely well.
eso0948-en-au — Science Release
Brightness Variations of Sun-like Stars: The Mystery Deepens
7 December 2009: An extensive study made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope deepens a long-standing mystery in the study of stars similar to the Sun. Unusual year-long variations in the brightness of about one third of all Sun-like stars during the latter stages of their lives still remain unexplained. Over the past few decades, astronomers have offered many possible explanations, but the new, painstaking observations contradict them all and only deepen the mystery. The search for a suitable interpretation is on.
eso0947-en-au — Science Release
Stellar Family Portrait Takes Imaging Technique to New Extremes
3 December 2009: The young star cluster Trumpler 14 is revealed in another stunning ESO image. The amount of exquisite detail seen in this portrait, which beautifully reveals the life of a large family of stars, is due to the Multi-conjugate Adaptive optics Demonstrator (MAD) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Never before has such a large patch of sky been imaged using adaptive optics [1], a technique by which astronomers are able to remove most of the atmosphere's blurring effects.
eso0946-en-au — Science Release
Black Hole Caught Zapping Galaxy into Existence?
30 November 2009: Which come first, the supermassive black holes that frantically devour matter or the enormous galaxies where they reside? A brand new scenario has emerged from a recent set of outstanding observations of a black hole without a home: black holes may be “building” their own host galaxy. This could be the long-sought missing link to understanding why the masses of black holes are larger in galaxies that contain more stars.
eso0945-en-au — Science Release
Cosmic "Dig" Reveals Vestiges of the Milky Way's Building Blocks
25 November 2009: Peering through the thick dust clouds of our galaxy’s "bulge" (the myriads of stars surrounding its centre), and revealing an amazing amount of detail, a team of astronomers has unveiled an unusual mix of stars in the stellar grouping known as Terzan 5. Never observed anywhere in the bulge before, this peculiar "cocktail" of stars suggests that Terzan 5 is in fact one of the bulge's primordial building blocks, most likely the relic of a proto-galaxy that merged with the Milky Way during its very early days.
eso0944-en-au — Photo Release
Watching a Cannibal Galaxy Dine
20 November 2009: A new technique using near-infrared images, obtained with ESO’s 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT), allows astronomers to see through the opaque dust lanes of the giant cannibal galaxy Centaurus A, unveiling its “last meal” in unprecedented detail — a smaller spiral galaxy, currently twisted and warped. This amazing image also shows thousands of star clusters, strewn like glittering gems, churning inside Centaurus A.
eso0943-en-au — Science Release
Ticking Stellar Time Bomb Identified
17 November 2009: Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope and its ability to obtain images as sharp as if taken from space, astronomers have made the first time-lapse movie of a rather unusual shell ejected by a “vampire star”, which in November 2000 underwent an outburst after gulping down part of its companion’s matter. This enabled astronomers to determine the distance and intrinsic brightness of the outbursting object. It appears that this double star system is a prime candidate to be one of the long-sought progenitors of the exploding stars known as Type Ia supernovae, critical for studies of dark energy.
eso0942-en-au — Science Release
Exoplanets Clue to Sun's Curious Chemistry
11 November 2009: A ground-breaking census of 500 stars, 70 of which are known to host planets, has successfully linked the long-standing “lithium mystery” observed in the Sun to the presence of planetary systems. Using ESO’s successful HARPS spectrograph, a team of astronomers has found that Sun-like stars that host planets have destroyed their lithium much more efficiently than “planet-free” stars. This finding does not only shed light on the lack of lithium in our star, but also provides astronomers with a very efficient way of finding stars with planetary systems.
eso0941-en-au — Science Release
Shedding Light on the Cosmic Skeleton
3 November 2009: Astronomers have tracked down a gigantic, previously unknown assembly of galaxies located almost seven billion light-years away from us. The discovery, made possible by combining two of the most powerful ground-based telescopes in the world, is the first observation of such a prominent galaxy structure in the distant Universe, providing further insight into the cosmic web and how it formed.
eso0940-en-au — Photo Release
Opening up a Colourful Cosmic Jewel Box
29 October 2009: The combination of images taken by three exceptional telescopes, the ESO Very Large Telescope on Cerro Paranal , the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla observatory and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, has allowed the stunning Jewel Box star cluster to be seen in a whole new light.
eso0939-en-au — Science Release
32 New Exoplanets Found
19 October 2009: Today, at an international ESO/CAUP exoplanet conference in Porto, the team who built the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, better known as HARPS, the spectrograph for ESO's 3.6-metre telescope, reports on the incredible discovery of some 32 new exoplanets, cementing HARPS's position as the world’s foremost exoplanet hunter. This result also increases the number of known low-mass planets by an impressive 30%. Over the past five years HARPS has spotted more than 75 of the roughly 400 or so exoplanets now known.
eso0938-en-au — Photo Release
The Milky Way's Tiny but Tough Galactic Neighbour
14 October 2009: Today ESO announces the release of a stunning new image of one of our nearest galactic neighbours, Barnard's Galaxy, also known as NGC 6822. The galaxy contains regions of rich star formation and curious nebulae, such as the bubble clearly visible in the upper left of this remarkable vista. Astronomers classify NGC 6822 as an irregular dwarf galaxy because of its odd shape and relatively diminutive size by galactic standards. The strange shapes of these cosmic misfits help researchers understand how galaxies interact, evolve and occasionally "cannibalise" each other, leaving behind radiant, star-filled scraps.
eso0937-en-au — Organisation Release
The GalileoMobile starts its South American voyage
5 October 2009: Today marks the beginning of the GalileoMobile Project, a two-month expedition to bring the wonder and excitement of astronomy to young people in Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Supported by ESO and partners, a group of astronomers and educators will travel through a region of the Andes Mountains aboard the GalileoMobile, offering astronomical activities, such as workshops for students and star parties for the general public. Professional filmmakers on the trip will produce a multilingual documentary capturing the thrill of discovery through science, culture and travel.
eso0936-en-au — Photo Release
The Trilogy is Complete
28 September 2009: The third image of ESO’s GigaGalaxy Zoom project has just been released online, completing this eye-opening dive into our galactic home in outstanding fashion. The latest image follows on from views, released over the last two weeks, of the sky as seen with the unaided eye and through an amateur telescope. This third instalment provides another breathtaking vista of an astronomical object, this time a 370-million-pixel view of the Lagoon Nebula of the quality and depth needed by professional astronomers in their quest to understand our Universe.
eso0935-en-au — Organisation Release
ALMA telescope reaches new heights
23 September 2009: The ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) astronomical observatory has taken another step forward — and upwards. One of its state-of-the-art antennas was carried for the first time to the 5000m plateau of Chajnantor, in the Chilean Andes, on the back of a custom-built giant transporter. The antenna, which weighs about 100 tons and has a diameter of 12 metres, was transported up to the high-altitude Array Operations Site, where the extremely dry and rarefied air is ideal for ALMA’s observations of the Universe.
eso0934-en-au — Photo Release
Zooming to the centre of the Milky Way
21 September 2009: The second of three images of ESO's GigaGalaxy Zoom project has just been released online. It is a new and wonderful 340-million-pixel vista of the central parts of our home galaxy as seen from ESO's Paranal Observatory with an amateur telescope.
eso0933-en-au — Science Release
First Solid Evidence for a Rocky Exoplanet
16 September 2009: The longest set of HARPS measurements ever made has firmly established the nature of the smallest and fastest-orbiting exoplanet known, CoRoT-7b, revealing its mass as five times that of Earth's. Combined with CoRoT-7b's known radius, which is less than twice that of our terrestrial home, this tells us that the exoplanet's density is quite similar to the Earth's, suggesting a solid, rocky world. The extensive dataset also reveals the presence of another so-called super-Earth in this alien solar system.
eso0932-en-au — Photo Release
ESO unveils an amazing, interactive, 360-degree panoramic view of the entire night sky
14 September 2009: The first of three images of ESO's GigaGalaxy Zoom project — a new magnificent 800-million-pixel panorama of the entire sky as seen from ESO’s observing sites in Chile — has just been released online. The project allows stargazers to explore and experience the Universe as it is seen with the unaided eye from the darkest and best viewing locations in the world.
eso0931-en-au — Photo Release
NGC 4945: The Milky Way's not-so-distant Cousin
2 September 2009: ESO has released a striking new image of a nearby galaxy that many astronomers think closely resembles our own Milky Way. Though the galaxy is seen edge-on, observations of NGC 4945 suggest that this hive of stars is a spiral galaxy much like our own, with swirling, luminous arms and a bar-shaped central region. These resemblances aside, NGC 4945 has a brighter centre that likely harbours a supermassive black hole, which is devouring reams of matter and blasting energy out into space.
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