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eso0317 — Science Release
Curtain-Lifting Winds Allow Rare Glimpse into Massive Star Factory
16 June 2003: Based on a vast observational effort with different telescopes and instruments, ESO-astronomer Dieter Nürnberger has obtained a first glimpse of the very first stages in the formation of heavy stars. These critical phases of stellar evolution are normally hidden from the view, because massive protostars are deeply embedded in their native clouds of dust and gas, impenetrable barriers to observations at all but the longest wavelengths. In particular, no visual or infrared observations have yet "caught" nascent heavy stars in the act and little is therefore known so far about the related processes. Profiting from the cloud-ripping effect of strong stellar winds from adjacent, hot stars in a young stellar cluster at the center of the NGC 3603 complex, several objects located near a giant molecular cloud were found to be bona-fide massive protostars, only about 100,000 years old and still growing. Three of these objects, designated IRS 9A-C, could be studied in more detail. They are very luminous (IRS 9A is about 100,000 times intrinsically brighter than the Sun), massive (more than 10 times the mass of the Sun) and hot (about 20,000 degrees). They are surrounded by relative cold dust (about 0°C), probably partly arranged in disks around these very young objects. Two possible scenarios for the formation of massive stars are currently proposed, by accretion of large amounts of circumstellar material or by collision (coalescence) of protostars of intermediate masses. The new observations favour accretion, i.e. the same process that is active during the formation of stars of smaller masses.
eso0131 — Organisation Release
Hunting the Southern Skies with SIMBA
30 August 2001: A new instrument, SIMBA ("SEST IMaging Bolometer Array"), has been installed at the Swedish-ESO Submillimetre Telescope (SEST) at the ESO La Silla Observatory in July 2001. It records astronomical images at a wavelength of 1.2 mm and is able to quickly map large sky areas. In order to achieve the best possible sensitivity, SIMBA is cooled to only 0.3 deg above the absolute zero on the temperature scale.
eso0010 — Science Release
Discovery of Molecular Gas Shells around the Unusual Galaxy Centaurus A
14 March 2000: Recent observations by an international team of astronomers [1] with the 15-metre Swedish-ESO Submillimetre Telescope at the La Silla observatory (Chile) have shown that the unusual, nearby galaxy Centaurus A is surrounded by shells in which carbon monoxide molecules are present. These new exciting results are the first of their kind. In addition to the intrinsic scientific value of this discovery, it also provides an instructive example of what will become possible for more distant galaxies with the projected Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), now in the planning phase.
eso9849 — Science Release
New Observations of Comet Hale-Bopp from La Silla
22 October 1998: Observations of famous Comet Hale-Bopp continue with the 15-m Swedish-ESO Submillimetre Telescope (SEST) at the La Silla Observatory. They show amazingly strong activity of this unusual object, also at the present, very large distance from the Sun. The radio observations document in detail the release of various molecules from the comet's icy nucleus. Of particular interest is the observed emission from methanol (CH 3 OH) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) molecules, never before detected in any comet this far away.
eso9618 — Science Release
Exciting Message from a Dying Monster Star
6 March 1996: With the help of a new and more sensitive receiver, recently installed on the 15-metre Swedish-ESO Submillimetre Telescope (SEST) at the European Southern Observatory on the La Silla mountain in Chile, a team of European astronomers [1] has succeeded in discovering the first extra-galactic silicon-monoxide (SiO) maser . It is located in the atmosphere of the largest known star in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. This observational feat now opens new, exciting possibilities for the study of individual stars in other galaxies in the Local Group. The continued search for extra-galactic SiO masers is a joint project of European and Australian astronomers, to be carried on with even more advanced instruments that will become available in the near future.
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