Press Releases 2010

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eso1030-en-ie — Science Release
Stars Just Got Bigger
21 July 2010: Using a combination of instruments on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have discovered the most massive stars to date, one weighing at birth more than 300 times the mass of the Sun, or twice as much as the currently accepted limit of 150 solar masses. The existence of these monsters — millions of times more luminous than the Sun, losing weight through very powerful winds — may provide an answer to the question “how massive can stars be?”
eso1029-en-ie — Science Release
Unravelling the Mystery of Massive Star Birth
14 July 2010: Astronomers have obtained the first image of a dusty disc closely encircling a massive baby star, providing direct evidence that massive stars form in the same way as their smaller brethren. This discovery, made thanks to a combination of ESO’s telescopes, is described in an article in this week’s issue of Nature.
eso1028-en-ie — Science Release
Black Hole Blows Big Bubble
7 July 2010: Combining observations made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have uncovered the most powerful pair of jets ever seen from a stellar black hole. This object, also known as a microquasar, blows a huge bubble of hot gas, 1000 light-years across, twice as large and tens of times more powerful than other known microquasars. The discovery is reported this week in the journal Nature.
eso1027-en-ie — Photo Release
R Coronae Australis: A Cosmic Watercolour
30 June 2010: This magnificent view of the region around the star R Coronae Australis was created from images taken with the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. R Coronae Australis lies at the heart of a nearby star-forming region and is surrounded by a delicate bluish reflection nebula embedded in a huge dust cloud. The image reveals surprising new details in this dramatic area of sky.
eso1026-en-ie — Science Release
VLT Detects First Superstorm on Exoplanet
23 June 2010: Astronomers have measured a superstorm for the first time in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, the well-studied “hot Jupiter” HD209458b. The very high-precision observations of carbon monoxide gas show that it is streaming at enormous speed from the extremely hot day side to the cooler night side of the planet. The observations also allow another exciting “first” — measuring the orbital speed of the exoplanet itself, providing a direct determination of its mass.
eso1025-en-ie — Photo Release
VISTA Views the Sculptor Galaxy
16 June 2010: A spectacular new image of the Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253) has been taken with the ESO VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile as part of one of its first major observational campaigns. By observing in infrared light VISTA’s view is less affected by dust and reveals a myriad of cooler stars as well as a prominent bar of stars across the central region. The VISTA image provides much new information on the history and development of the galaxy.
eso1024-en-ie — Science Release
Exoplanet Caught on the Move
10 June 2010: For the first time, astronomers have been able to directly follow the motion of an exoplanet as it moves from one side of its host star to the other. The planet has the smallest orbit so far of all directly imaged exoplanets, lying almost as close to its parent star as Saturn is to the Sun. Scientists believe that it may have formed in a similar way to the giant planets in the Solar System. Because the star is so young, this discovery proves that gas giant planets can form within discs in only a few million years, a short time in cosmic terms.
eso1023-en-ie — Organisation Release
New National Telescope at La Silla
8 June 2010: A new robotic telescope has had first light at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, in Chile. TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) is devoted to the study of planetary systems through two approaches: the detection and characterisation of planets located outside the Solar System (exoplanets) and the study of comets orbiting around the Sun. The 60-cm telescope is operated from a control room in Liège, Belgium, 12 000 km away.
eso1022-en-ie — Organisation Release
ESO Telescope Designer Raymond Wilson Wins Prestigious Kavli Award for Astrophysics
4 June 2010: Raymond Wilson, whose pioneering optics research at ESO made today’s giant telescopes possible thanks to “active optics” technology, has been awarded the 2010 Kavli Prize in astrophysics. The founder and original leader of the Optics and Telescopes Group at ESO, Wilson shares the million-dollar prize with two American scientists, Jerry Nelson and Roger Angel.
eso1021-en-ie — Photo Release
A Cosmic Zoo in the Large Magellanic Cloud
1 June 2010: Astronomers often turn their telescopes to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of the closest galaxies to our own Milky Way, in their quest to understand the Universe. In this spectacular new image from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, a celestial menagerie of different objects and phenomena in part of the LMC is on display, ranging from vast globular clusters to the remains left by brilliant supernovae explosions. This fascinating observation provides data for a wide variety of research projects unravelling the life and death of stars and the evolution of galaxies.
eso1020-en-ie — Photo Release
Clear New View of a Classic Spiral
19 May 2010: ESO is releasing a beautiful image of the nearby galaxy Messier 83 taken by the HAWK-I instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The picture shows the galaxy in infrared light and demonstrates the impressive power of the camera to create one of the sharpest and most detailed pictures of Messier 83 ever taken from the ground.
eso1019-en-ie — Photo Release
A Cluster and a Sea of Galaxies
5 May 2010: A new wide-field image released today by ESO displays many thousands of distant galaxies, and more particularly a large group belonging to the massive galaxy cluster known as Abell 315. As crowded as it may appear, this assembly of galaxies is only the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”, as Abell 315 — like most galaxy clusters — is dominated by dark matter. The huge mass of this cluster deflects light from background galaxies, distorting their observed shapes slightly.
eso1018-en-ie — Organisation Release
E-ELT Site Chosen
26 April 2010: On 26 April 2010, the ESO Council selected Cerro Armazones as the baseline site for the planned 42-metre European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Cerro Armazones is a mountain at an altitude of 3060 metres in the central part of Chile’s Atacama Desert, some 130 kilometres south of the town of Antofagasta and about 20 kilometres from Cerro Paranal, home of ESO’s Very Large Telescope.
eso1017-en-ie — Photo Release
VISTA Captures Celestial Cat’s Hidden Secrets
21 April 2010: The Cat’s Paw Nebula, NGC 6334, is a huge stellar nursery, the birthplace of hundreds of massive stars. In a magnificent new ESO image taken with the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, the glowing gas and dust clouds obscuring the view are penetrated by infrared light and some of the Cat’s hidden young stars are revealed.
eso1016-en-ie — Science Release
Turning Planetary Theory Upside Down
13 April 2010: The discovery of nine new transiting exoplanets is announced today at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM2010). When these new results were combined with earlier observations of transiting exoplanets astronomers were surprised to find that six out of a larger sample of 27 were found to be orbiting in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host star — the exact reverse of what is seen in our own Solar System. The new discoveries provide an unexpected and serious challenge to current theories of planet formation. They also suggest that systems with exoplanets of the type known as hot Jupiters are unlikely to contain Earth-like planets.
eso1015-en-ie — Science Release
Triton’s Summer Sky of Methane and Carbon Monoxide
7 April 2010: According to the first ever infrared analysis of the atmosphere of Neptune's moon Triton, summer is in full swing in its southern hemisphere. The European observing team used ESO's Very Large Telescope and discovered carbon monoxide and made the first ground-based detection of methane in Triton's thin atmosphere. These observations revealed that the thin atmosphere varies seasonally, thickening when warmed.
eso1014-en-ie — Photo Release
The Light and Dark Face of a Star-Forming Nebula
31 March 2010: Today, ESO is unveiling an image of the little known Gum 19, a faint nebula that, in the infrared, appears dark on one half and bright on the other. On one side hot hydrogen gas is illuminated by a supergiant blue star called V391 Velorum. New star formation is taking place within the ribbon of luminous and dark material that brackets V391 Velorum’s left in this perspective. After many millennia, these fledgling stars, coupled with the explosive demise of V391 Velorum as a supernova, will likely alter Gum 19’s present Janus-like appearance.
eso1013-en-ie — Science Release
Explained: Why many surveys of distant galaxies miss 90% of their targets
24 March 2010: Astronomers have long known that in many surveys of the very distant Universe, a large fraction of the total intrinsic light was not being observed. Now, thanks to an extremely deep survey using two of the four giant 8.2-metre telescopes that make up ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and a unique custom-built filter, astronomers have determined that a large fraction of galaxies whose light took 10 billion years to reach us have gone undiscovered. The survey also helped uncover some of the faintest galaxies ever found at this early stage of the Universe.
eso1012-en-ie — Science Release
APEX Snaps First Close-up of Star Factories in Distant Universe
21 March 2010: For the first time, astronomers have made direct measurements of the size and brightness of regions of star-birth in a very distant galaxy, thanks to a chance discovery with the APEX telescope. The galaxy is so distant, and its light has taken so long to reach us, that we see it as it was 10 billion years ago. A cosmic “gravitational lens” is magnifying the galaxy, giving us a close-up view that would otherwise be impossible. This lucky break reveals a hectic and vigorous star-forming life for galaxies in the early Universe, with stellar nurseries forming one hundred times faster than in more recent galaxies. The research is published online today in the journal Nature.
eso1011-en-ie — Science Release
First Temperate Exoplanet Sized Up
17 March 2010: Combining observations from the CoRoT satellite and the ESO HARPS instrument, astronomers have discovered the first “normal” exoplanet that can be studied in great detail. Designated Corot-9b, the planet regularly passes in front of a star similar to the Sun located 1500 light-years away from Earth towards the constellation of Serpens (the Snake).
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