Bild der Woche 2010

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The Long and Winding Road*
27. Dezember 2010: This splendid picture shows the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) on Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama desert. The mountaintop, 120 km south of the town of Antofagasta, is a remote haven for scientific exploration.Its distance from populated areas means that light pollution is essentially non-existent, which helps to guarantee clear views for the telescopes. It also ensures that activity is not disturbed by other human activities, such as traffic on nearby roads or dusty air from mines. The desert location means that moisture in the atmosphere is at a very low level, which contributes to the excellent atmospheric conditions. As well as the VLT, Paranal Observatory is also home to the VISTA telescope on an adjacent peak, from which this photograph was taken. The road which links the two peaks can be seen in the centre of the image, winding through the desert landscape.The two distinct bright ...
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Monuments of Science*
20. Dezember 2010: On a remote mountaintop, 2600 metres above sea level in the Chilean Atacama Desert, lies the world’s most advanced visible-light observatory. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) is not only a window on the Universe; it is also a celebration of modern science and technology. This photograph shows two of the four Unit Telescopes that make up the VLT. With its giant 8.2-metre diameter mirrors, sensitive detectors, and state-of-the art adaptive optics system, the VLT uses cutting-edge technology at every opportunity. Even the telescope enclosures — the domes — are highly advanced, being thermally controlled to reduce air turbulence in the telescope structure. Every night the VLT studies the sky to make discoveries about the Universe. Visible in this photo, sweeping between the two Unit Telescopes, is the plane of the Milky Way. Containing billions of stars, it is our own corner of the cosmos, but the VLT's ...
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Collecting Precious Starlight*
13. Dezember 2010: As soon as the Sun sets over the Chilean Atacama Desert, ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) begins catching light from the far reaches of the Universe. The VLT has four 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes such as the one shown in the photograph. Many of the photons — particles of light — that are collected have travelled through space for billions of years before reaching the telescope’s primary mirror. The giant mirror acts like a high-tech “light bucket”, gathering as many photons as possible and sending them to sensitive detectors. Careful analysis of the data from these instruments allows astronomers to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos. The telescopes have a variety of instruments, which allow them to observe in a range of wavelengths from near-ultraviolet to mid-infrared. The VLT also boasts advanced adaptive optics systems, which counteract the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere, producing images so sharp that they could ...
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Up Close and Personal with the Very Large Telescope
6. Dezember 2010: Imagine being a fly on the wall of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the world's most advanced optical observatory. You could have a view a little like this. Fish-eye photography gives this unusual view of the 8.2-metre diameter telescope, poised and ready to begin gathering light from the deep recesses of the Universe as soon as the dome opens and starlight pours in. The VLT has four of these 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes, called Antu, Kueyen, Melipal and Yepun. These are the Mapuche names for the Sun, Moon, Southern Cross and Venus. This photograph shows Yepun. The names are from the native language of the indigenous people who live mostly in the area south of the Bio-Bio River, some 500 km south of Santiago de Chile. The VLT is so powerful that it allows us to see objects four thousand million times fainter than those that can be seen with ...
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Crash of the Titans
29. November 2010: NGC 520 — also known as Arp 157 — looks like a galaxy in the midst of exploding. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. Two enormous spiral galaxies are crashing into each other, melding and forming a new conglomerate. This happens slowly, over millions of years — the whole process started some 300 million years ago. The object, about 100 000 light-years across, is now in the middle stage of the merging process, as the two nuclei haven’t merged yet, but the two discs have. The merger features a tail of stars and a prominent dust lane. NGC 520 is one of the brightest interacting galaxies in the sky and lies in the direction of Pisces (the Fish), approximately 100 million light-years from Earth. This image was taken by the ESO Faint Object Spectrograph and Camera attached to the 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla in Chile. It is based on ...
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Looking into the Milky Way’s Heart — ISAAC observes the Galactic Centre
22. November 2010: The centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is again in the sights of ESO telescopes. This time it’s the turn of ISAAC, the VLT’s near- and mid-infrared spectrometer and camera. From Chile’s Atacama Desert, site of the ESO observatories, the Milky Way offers magnificent views, particularly in the southern hemisphere winter, when the central region of our galaxy is most visible (see eso0934). However, the Galactic Centre itself, located about 27 000 light-years away in the constellation of Sagittarius, hides behind thick clouds of interstellar dust, which appear as dark obscuring lanes in visible light, but which are transparent at longer wavelengths such as the infrared. In this image, the infrared observations clearly reveal the dense clustering of stars in the galactic core. ESO telescopes have been tracking stars orbiting the centre of the Milky Way for more than 18 years, getting the highest resolution images of this ...
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An Ancient Cluster of Stars Against a Stunning Background
15. November 2010: Among the myriad of stars in this image shines NGC 2257, a collection of cosmic gems bound tightly by gravity. Many billions of years old, but still sparkling brightly, it is an eye-catching astronomical object. NGC 2257 is a globular cluster, the name given to the roughly spherical concentrations of stars that orbit galactic cores, but are often found far out from the centres in the halo areas of galaxies. Globular clusters contain very old stars, being typically over 10 billion years old, and can therefore be used like a "fossil record" to learn more about the Universe’s past. They are densely packed, with tens to hundreds of thousands of stars gathered within a diameter of just a few tens of light-years. NGC 2257 lies on the outskirts of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. It is one of 15 very old globular ...
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Shooting a Laser at the Galactic Centre
8. November 2010: This impressive image, taken on 10 May 2010 by ESO astronomer Yuri Beletsky, beautifully depicts the sky above Paranal. One of the 8.2-metre telescopes of ESO's Very Large Telescope, Yepun, Unit Telescope 4, is seen against the wonderful backdrop of the myriad of stars and dust that makes up the Milky Way. A laser beam is coming out of Yepun, aiming perfectly at the Galactic Centre. When used with the adaptive optics system the artificial star created by the beam allows the telescope to obtain images and spectra that are free from the blurring effect of the atmosphere. When this image was taken, astronomers Stefan Gillessen and Hauke Enkel were using the SINFONI instrument, together with the laser guide star facility, to study the centre of our Milky Way, where a supermassive black hole is lurking. The field of view of the image is very wide, about 180 degrees. One ...
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Das Very Large Telescope der ESO blickt tief in einen fernen Nebel
1. November 2010: Mit dem Very Large Telescope (VLT), das die ESO am Paranal-Observatorium in Chile betreibt, haben Astronomen ein beeindruckendes Bild von Messier 17aufgenommen, der uch Omega- oder Schwanennebel genannt wird. Das beinahe an ein Gemälde erinnernde Bild zeigt riesige Wolken aus Gas und Staub, die von der intensiven Strahlung junger Sterne beleuchtet werden. Abgebildet ist hier die etwa 15 Lichtjahre durchmessende Zentralregion des Nebels. Insgesamt erstreckt sich Messier 17, der etwa 6000 Lichtjahre von uns entfernt im Sternbild Sagittarius (der Schütze) liegt, über etwa 40 Lichtjahre. Der Nebel ist ein beliebtes Beobachtungsobjekt für Amateurastronomen, die bereits mit kleinen Teleskopen sehr schöne Bilder von Messier 17 aufnehmen können. Die hier gezeigten tiefen VLT-Beobachtungen wurden im nahen Infrarotlicht mit dem ISAAC-Instrument durchgeführt. Verwendet wurden dazu die Filter J (1,25 µm, blau dargestellt), H (1,6 µm, grün), und K (2,2 µm, rot). In der Bildmitte befindet sich ein Haufen massereicher junger Sterne, deren Strahlung ...
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Der Sternhimmel über La Silla
25. Oktober 2010: Die Sterne rotieren während einer Nacht um den südlichen Himmelspol am La Silla-Observatorium der ESO im Norden Chiles. Die diffusen Bereiche auf der rechten Seite des Bildes die Magellanschen Wolken, zwei kleinen Begleitgalaxien unserer Milchstraße. Die im Vordergrund sichtbare Kuppel beherbergt das 3,6-Meter-Teleskop mit dem HARPS-Instrument, dass dem zur Zeit erfolgreichsten Exoplanetenjäger der Welt. Das kastenförmige Gebäude unten rechts beherbergt das 0,25-Meter-TAROT-Teleskop, das so konstruiert ist, dass es besonders schnell auf Gammastrahlenausbrüche reagieren kann. Weitere Teleskope auf La Silla sind das 2,2-Meter-MPG/ESO Teleskop und das 3,6-Meter-New Technology Telescope, das erste Teleskop an dem aktive Optik zum Einsatz kam und somit Vorläufer aller modernen Großteleskope. La Silla war das erste Observatorium der ESO und ist nach wie vor eines der führenden Observatorien auf der Südhalbkugel.
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Reflecting on the VLT
18. Oktober 2010: The Sun sets at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in this image. Taken at the observatory on Cerro Paranal in the dry Atacama Desert of Chile, the observatory’s four 8.2-metre telescopes can be seen preparing for the night ahead. Three of the VLT’s four Auxiliary 1.8-metre Telescopes (AT), used for interferometry, are also visible. The telescopes are seen reflected in the protection cover of one of the AT stations. The ATs are mounted on tracks and can be moved between precisely defined observing positions from where the beams of collected light are combined in the interferometric laboratory. The ATs are very unusual telescopes, as they are self-contained in their own ultra-compact protective domes, and travel with their own electronics, ventilation, hydraulics and cooling systems. Each AT has a transporter that lifts the telescope and moves it from one position to the other. At 2600 metres above sea level, the observing ...
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New Temporary Offices at ESO Headquarters
11. Oktober 2010: ESO has grown significantly since 1980, when its European staff originally moved from offices at CERN to a dedicated headquarters building in Garching, near Munich, Germany. In the intervening three decades the number of ESO’s member states has increased from six to fourteen, and the organisation has achieved milestones such as the First Light of the New Technology Telescope at La Silla and of the Very Large Telescope at Paranal, becoming in the process the most productive observatory in the world. Today, ESO is constructing the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array at Chajnantor in collaboration with international partners, and is in the detailed design phase of a 40-metre-class European Extremely Large Telescope, which will be “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”. Over the years, the number of ESO staff working in Garching has increased from about 100 to about 450, as the organisation has grown and tackled these exciting new ...
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ALMA Antennas on Chajnantor
4. Oktober 2010: Two of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) 12-metre antennas gaze at the sky at the observatory’s Array Operations Site (AOS), high on the Chajnantor plateau at an altitude of 5000 metres in the Chilean Andes. Eight antennas have been installed at the AOS since November 2009. More antennas will be installed on the Chajnantor plateau during the next months and beyond, allowing astronomers to start producing early scientific results with the ALMA system around late 2011. After this, the interferometer will steadily grow to reach its full scientific potential, with at least 66 antennas. ALMA is the largest ground-based astronomy project in existence, and will comprise a giant array of 12-metre submillimetre quality antennas, with baselines of up to about 16 kilometres. An additional, compact array of 7-metre and 12-metre antennas will complement the main array. The ALMA project is an international collaboration between Europe, East Asia and North ...
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A Solargraph taken from APEX at Chajnantor
27. September 2010: This unusual and artistic image, made using a technique known as "solargraphy" in which a pinhole camera captures the movement of the Sun in the sky over many months, was taken from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope on the plateau of Chajnantor. The plateau is also where ESO, together with international partners, is building the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The solar trails in the image were recorded over half a year and clearly show the quality of the 5000-metre altitude site, high in the Chilean Andes, for astronomical observations. The idea for creating the solargraphs at ESO's telescopes came from Bob Fosbury, an astronomer based at ESO Headquarters in Germany, after learning about the technique from Finnish artist Tarja Trygg. Trygg provided the cameras, known as "cans". The cans are constructed from small black plastic canisters used for storing 35 mm film cassettes. A pinhole in a sheet ...
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Die Sterne leuchten hell über dem Paranal
20. September 2010: Nach Sonnenuntergang senkt sich die Dunkelheit über dem Paranal-Observatorium der ESO herab. Die Schwärze der Nacht ist jedoch durchsetzt mit unzähligen, glitzernden Sternen. Diese 15 Sekunden lang belichtete Aufnahme zeigt, wie eindrucksvoll der Nachthimmel über dem Paranal ist. Hoch in der chilenischen Atacamawüste, fern von aller Lichtverschmutzung, ist es sogar möglich, in einer mondlosen Nacht den eigenen Schatten zu sehen, der nur vom schwachen Schein der Milchstraße geworfen wird. ESO-Fotobotschafter José Francisco Salgado berichtet: „Der Paranal gehört zu den Orten mit dem dunkelsten und beständigsten Nachthimmel, unter dem ich bisher fotografieren konnte. Ich liebe es, Sternwarten zu abzubilden, und es ist sehr faszinierend wie man auf dem Paranal alleine durch die Sterne und das Zodiakallicht noch seine Umgebung sehen kann!” Im Bild scheinen die Sterne der Milchstraße geradezu aus der offenen Teleskopkuppel zu strömen. Der helle Fleck nahe am Teleskop ist der Carinanebel (NGC 3372), in dem sich einige der ...
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The Great Barred Spiral Galaxy
13. September 2010: Spiralling around, 61 million light-years away in the constellation Fornax (the Furnace), NGC 1365 is enormous. At 200000 light-years across, it is one of the largest galaxies known to astronomers. This, plus the sharply defined bar of old stars across its structure is why it is also known as the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy. Astronomers think that the Milky Way may look very similar to this galaxy, but at half the size. The bright centre of the galaxy is thought to be due to huge amounts of superhot gas ejected from the ring of material circling a central black hole. Young luminous hot stars, born out of the interstellar clouds, give the arms a prominent appearance and a blue colour. The bar and spiral pattern rotates, with one full turn taking about 350 million years. This image combines observations performed through three different filters (B, V, R) with the 1.5-metre ...
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Ein Laserstrahl zum Zentrum der Milchstraße
6. September 2010: Mitte August 2010 konnte ESO-Fotobotschafter Yuri Beletsky dieses beeindruckende Foto des Paranal-Observatoriums der ESO aufnehmen. Eine Gruppe von Astronomen beobachtete zu diesem Zeitpunkt das Zentrum der Milchstrasse mit Unterstützung der Laserleitsternsystems von Yepun, einem der vier Hauptteleskope am Very Large Telescope (VLT). Yepuns Laserstrahl durchquert den majestätischen Nachthimmel und erzeugt in 90 km Höhe einen künstlichen Stern in der Mesosphäre der Erde. Das Laserleitsternsystem (engl. Laser Guide Star oder kurz LGS) ist Teil des Systems adaptiver Optik am VLT und wird als Refezen verwendet um den Einfluß der Erdatmosphäre auf die Bildqualität zu korrigieren. Die Farbe des lasers ist exakt so eingestellt, dass damit Natriumatome in einer der der hochgelegenen Schichten der Atmosphäre zum leuchten angeregt werden können - das Laserlicht hat dieselbe Farbe wie Straßenlaternen, die mit Natriumdampflampen betrieben werden. Man geht davon aus, dass die Natriumschicht ein Überbleibsel von Meteoriten ist, die in die Erdatmosphäre eintreten und verglühen. ...
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Arp 271 — Galaxies Drawn Together*
30. August 2010: NGC 5426 and NGC 5427 are two spiral galaxies of similar sizes engaged in a dramatic dance. It is not certain that this interaction will end in a collision and ultimately a merging of the two galaxies, although the galaxies have already been affected. Together known as Arp 271, this dance will last for tens of millions of years, creating new stars as a result of the mutual gravitational attraction between the galaxies, a pull seen in the bridge of stars already connecting the two. Located 90 million light-years away towards the constellation of Virgo (the Virgin), the Arp 271 pair is about 130 000 light-years across. It was originally discovered in 1785 by William Herschel. Quite possibly, our own Milky Way will undergo a similar collision in about five billion years with the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy, which is now located about 2.6 million light-years away from the Milky Way. ...
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Starry Night at Paranal*
23. August 2010: During a night at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the stars seem to rotate around the southern celestial pole. The skies over Paranal provide splendid observing opportunities for the astronomers below. At the observatory on Cerro Paranal in the dry Atacama Desert of Chile, one of the observatory’s four 8.2-metre telescopes can be seen on the right performing its nightly task of looking at the heavens. Two of the four 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes are also seen in the picture. The dry, high environment at 2600 metres above sea level, and the extraordinarily advanced equipment makes observing time at the VLT highly sought after by astronomers around the world.
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The 2010 Perseids over the VLT
16. August 2010: Every year in mid-August the Perseid meteor shower has its peak. Meteors, colloquially known as “shooting stars”, are caused by pieces of cosmic debris entering Earth’s atmosphere at high velocity, leaving a trail of glowing gases. Most of the particles that cause meteors are smaller than a grain of sand and usually disintegrate in the atmosphere, only rarely reaching the Earth’s surface as a meteorite. The Perseid shower takes place as the Earth moves through the stream of debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. In 2010 the peak was predicted to take place between 12–13 August 2010. Despite the Perseids being best visible in the northern hemisphere, due to the path of Comet Swift-Tuttle's orbit, the shower was also spotted from the exceptionally dark skies over ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. In order not to miss any meteors in the display, ESO Photo Ambassador Stéphane Guisard set up 3 cameras ...
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