Press Releases 2008

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eso0829-en-ie — Organisation Release
Future Looks Bright for Interferometry
18 September 2008: The PRIMA instrument [1] of the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) recently saw "first light" at its new home atop Cerro Paranal in Chile. When fully operational, PRIMA will boost the capabilities of the VLTI to see sources much fainter than any previous interferometers, and enable astrometric precision unmatched by any other existing astronomical facility. PRIMA will be a unique tool for the detection of exoplanets.
eso0828-en-ie — Science Release
The Double Firing Burst
10 September 2008: Astronomers from around the world combined data from ground- and space-based telescopes to paint a detailed portrait of the brightest explosion ever seen. The observations reveal that the jets of the gamma-ray burst called GRB 080319B were aimed almost directly at the Earth.
eso0827-en-ie — Science Release
Mind the Gap
8 September 2008: Astronomers have been able to study planet-forming discs around young Sun-like stars in unsurpassed detail, clearly revealing the motion and distribution of the gas in the inner parts of the disc. This result, which possibly implies the presence of giant planets, was made possible by the combination of a very clever method enabled by ESO's Very Large Telescope.
eso0826-en-ie — Organisation Release
A fine-tooth comb to measure the accelerating universe
4 September 2008: Astronomical instruments needed to answer crucial questions, such as the search for Earth-like planets or the way the Universe expands, have come a step closer with the first demonstration at the telescope of a new calibration system for precise spectrographs. The method uses a Nobel Prize-winning technology called a 'laser frequency comb', and is published in this week's issue of Science.
eso0825-en-ie — Photo Release
The Thousand-Ruby Galaxy
2 September 2008: ESO's Wide Field Imager has captured the intricate swirls of the spiral galaxy Messier 83, a smaller look-alike of our own Milky Way. Shining with the light of billions of stars and the ruby red glow of hydrogen gas, it is a beautiful example of a barred spiral galaxy, whose shape has led to it being nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel.
eso0824-en-ie — Science Release
How Do Galaxies Grow?
26 August 2008: Astronomers have caught multiple massive galaxies in the act of merging about 4 billion years ago. This discovery, made possible by combining the power of the best ground- and space-based telescopes, uniquely supports the favoured theory of how galaxies form.
eso0823-en-ie — Science Release
The Quiet Explosion
24 July 2008: A European-led team of astronomers are providing hints that a recent supernova may not be as normal as initially thought. Instead, the star that exploded is now understood to have collapsed into a black hole, producing a weak jet, typical of much more violent events, the so-called gamma-ray bursts. The object, SN 2008D, is thus probably among the weakest explosions that produce very fast moving jets. This discovery represents a crucial milestone in the understanding of the most violent phenomena observed in the Universe.
eso0822-en-ie — Science Release
Watching a 'New Star' Make the Universe Dusty
24 July 2008: Using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer, and its remarkable acuity, astronomers were able for the first time to witness the appearance of a shell of dusty gas around a star that had just erupted, and follow its evolution for more than 100 days. This provides the astronomers with a new way to estimate the distance of this object and obtain invaluable information on the operating mode of stellar vampires, dense stars that suck material from a companion.
eso0821-en-ie — Science Release
Accretion Discs Show Their True Colours
23 July 2008: Quasars are the brilliant cores of remote galaxies, at the hearts of which lie supermassive black holes that can generate enough power to outshine the Sun a trillion times. These mighty power sources are fuelled by interstellar gas, thought to be sucked into the hole from a surrounding 'accretion disc'. A paper in this week's issue of the journal Nature, partly based on observations collected with ESO's Very Large Telescope, verifies a long-standing prediction about the intensely luminous radiation emitted by these accretion discs.
eso0820-en-ie — Organisation Release
Austria to join ESO on 1 July 2008
30 June 2008: Today, at a ceremony in Vienna, the Austrian Minister for Science and Research, Johannes Hahn and the ESO Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, signed the formal Accession Agreement between Austria and ESO, paving the way for Austria to join ESO as its 14th member state by 1 July this year.
eso0819-en-ie — Science Release
A Trio of Super-Earths
16 June 2008: Today, at an international conference, a team of European astronomers announced a remarkable breakthrough in the field of extra-solar planets. Using the HARPS instrument at the ESO La Silla Observatory, they have found a triple system of super-Earths around the star HD 40307. Moreover, looking at their entire sample studied with HARPS, the astronomers count a total of 45 candidate planets with a mass below 30 Earth masses and an orbital period shorter than 50 days. This implies that one solar-like star out of three harbours such planets.
eso0818-en-ie — Organisation Release
Shaw Prize Goes to Reinhard Genzel
10 June 2008: The Shaw Prize in Astronomy for 2008 is awarded to Professor Reinhard Genzel, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), in recognition of his outstanding contribution in demonstrating that the Milky Way contains a supermassive black hole at its centre, a result largely obtained with the help of ESO's telescopes.
eso0817-en-ie — Photo Release
The Little Man and the Cosmic Cauldron
27 May 2008: On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Very Large Telescope's First Light, ESO is releasing two stunning images of different kinds of nebulae, located towards the Carina constellation. The first one, Eta Carinae, has the shape of a 'little man' and surrounds a star doomed to explode within the next 100000 years. The second image features a much larger nebula, whose internal turmoil is created by a cluster of young, massive stars.
eso0816-en-ie — Organisation Release
The Perfect Science Machine
27 May 2008: Today marks the 10th anniversary since First Light with ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), the most advanced optical telescope in the world. Since then, the VLT has evolved into a unique suite of four 8.2-m Unit Telescopes (UTs) equipped with no fewer than 13 state-of-the-art instruments, and four 1.8-m moveable Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs). The telescopes can work individually, and they can also be linked together in groups of two or three to form a giant 'interferometer' (VLTI), allowing astronomers to see details corresponding to those from a much larger telescope.
eso0815-en-ie — Science Release
The Behemoth Has a Thick Belt
27 May 2008: Talk about a diet! By resolving, for the first time, features of an individual star in a neighbouring galaxy, ESO's VLT has allowed astronomers to determine that it weighs almost half of what was previously thought, thereby solving the mystery of its existence. The behemoth star is found to be surrounded by a massive and thick torus of gas and dust, and is most likely experiencing unstable, violent mass loss.
eso0814-en-ie — Organisation Release
Stellar students win fantastic prizes in "Catch a Star" astronomical competition
23 May 2008: School students and teachers across Europe and around the world are discovering today who has won fantastic prizes in "Catch a Star", the international astronomical competition run by ESO and the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE).
eso0813-en-ie — Science Release
A Molecular Thermometer for the Distant Universe
13 May 2008: Astronomers have made use of ESO's Very Large Telescope to detect for the first time in the ultraviolet the carbon monoxide molecule in a galaxy located almost 11 billion light-years away, a feat that had remained elusive for 25 years. This detection allows them to obtain the most precise measurement of the cosmic temperature at such a remote epoch.
eso0812-en-ie — Photo Release
Solar Games at Paranal
2 May 2008: Cerro Paranal, home of ESO's Very Large Telescope, is certainly one of the best astronomical sites on the planet. Stunning images, obtained by ESO staff at Paranal, of the green and blue flashes, as well as of the so-called 'Gegenschein', are real cases in point.
eso0811-en-ie — Organisation Release
Austria Declares Intent To Join ESO
24 April 2008: At a press conference today at the University of Vienna's Observatory, the Austrian Science Minister Johannes Hahn announced the decision by the Austrian Government to seek membership of ESO from 1 July this year.
eso0810-en-ie — Organisation Release
Paranal Receives New Mirror
16 April 2008: A 4.1-metre diameter primary mirror, a vital part of the world's newest and fastest survey telescope, VISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) has been delivered to its new mountaintop home at Cerro Paranal, Chile. The mirror will now be coupled with a small camera for initial testing prior to installing the main camera in June. Full scientific operations are due to start early next year. VISTA will form part of ESO's Very Large Telescope facility.
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