Press Releases

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eso1014 — 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 — 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 — 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 — 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).
eso1010 — Science Release
Jupiter’s Spot Seen Glowing
16 March 2010: New ground-breaking thermal images obtained with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and other powerful ground-based telescopes show swirls of warmer air and cooler regions never seen before within Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, enabling scientists to make the first detailed interior weather map of the giant storm system linking its temperature, winds, pressure and composition with its colour.
eso1009 — Photo Release
The Cosmic Bat
3 March 2010: The delicate nebula NGC 1788, located in a dark and often neglected corner of the Orion constellation, is revealed in a new and finely nuanced image that ESO is releasing today. Although this ghostly cloud is rather isolated from Orion’s bright stars, the latter’s powerful winds and light have had a strong impact on the nebula, forging its shape and making it home to a multitude of infant suns.
eso1008 — Photo Release
Light, Wind and Fire
24 February 2010: Today ESO has released a dramatic new image of NGC 346, the brightest star-forming region in our neighbouring galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud, 210 000 light-years away towards the constellation of Tucana (the Toucan). The light, wind and heat given off by massive stars have dispersed the glowing gas within and around this star cluster, forming a surrounding wispy nebular structure that looks like a cobweb. NGC 346, like other beautiful astronomical scenes, is a work in progress, and changes as the aeons pass. As yet more stars form from loose matter in the area, they will ignite, scattering leftover dust and gas, carving out great ripples and altering the face of this lustrous object.
eso1007 — Science Release
No Place to Hide: Missing Primitive Stars Outside Milky Way Uncovered
17 February 2010: After years of successful concealment, the most primitive stars outside our Milky Way galaxy have finally been unmasked. New observations using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have been used to solve an important astrophysical puzzle concerning the oldest stars in our galactic neighbourhood — which is crucial for our understanding of the earliest stars in the Universe.
eso1006 — Photo Release
Orion in a New Light
10 February 2010: The Orion Nebula reveals many of its hidden secrets in a dramatic image taken by ESO’s new VISTA survey telescope. The telescope’s huge field of view can show the full splendour of the whole nebula and VISTA’s infrared vision also allows it to peer deeply into dusty regions that are normally hidden and expose the curious behaviour of the very active young stars buried there.
eso1005 — Photo Release
The Stars behind the Curtain
3 February 2010: ESO is releasing a magnificent VLT image of the giant stellar nursery surrounding NGC 3603, in which stars are continuously being born. Embedded in this scenic nebula is one of the most luminous and most compact clusters of young, massive stars in our Milky Way, which therefore serves as an excellent “local” analogue of very active star-forming regions in other galaxies. The cluster also hosts the most massive star to be “weighed” so far.
eso1004 — Science Release
Black Hole Hunters Set New Distance Record
27 January 2010: Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have detected, in another galaxy, a stellar-mass black hole much farther away than any other previously known. With a mass above fifteen times that of the Sun, this is also the second most massive stellar-mass black hole ever found. It is entwined with a star that will soon become a black hole itself.
eso1003 — Photo Release
On the Trail of a Cosmic Cat
20 January 2010: ESO has just released a stunning new image of the vast cloud known as the Cat’s Paw Nebula or NGC 6334. This complex region of gas and dust, where numerous massive stars are born, lies near the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, and is heavily obscured by intervening dust clouds.
eso1002 — Science Release
VLT Captures First Direct Spectrum of an Exoplanet
13 January 2010: By studying a triple planetary system that resembles a scaled-up version of our own Sun’s family of planets, astronomers have been able to obtain the first direct spectrum — the “chemical fingerprint” [1] — of a planet orbiting a distant star [2], thus bringing new insights into the planet's formation and composition. The result represents a milestone in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe.
eso1001 — Organisation Release
Closing the Loop for ALMA
4 January 2010: The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has passed a key milestone crucial for the high quality images that will be the trademark of this revolutionary new tool for astronomy. Astronomers and engineers have, for the first time, successfully linked three of the observatory's antennas at the 5000-metre elevation observing site in northern Chile. Having three antennas observing in unison paves the way for precise images of the cool Universe at unprecedented resolution, by providing the missing link to correct errors that arise when only two antennas are used.
eso0950 — 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 — 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 — 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 — 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 — 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 — 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.
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