Press Releases

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eso0917 — Science Release
The Most Distant Object Yet Discovered in the Universe
28 April 2009: ESO's Very Large Telescope has shown that a faint gamma-ray burst detected last Thursday is the signature of the explosion of the earliest, most distant known object in the Universe (a redshift of 8.2). The explosion apparently took place more than 13 billion years ago, only about 600 million years after the Big Bang.
eso0916 — Science Release
Solar wind tans young asteroids
22 April 2009: A new study published in Nature this week reveals that asteroid surfaces age and redden much faster than previously thought — in less than a million years, the blink of an eye for an asteroid. This study has finally confirmed that the solar wind is the most likely cause of very rapid space weathering in asteroids. This fundamental result will help astronomers relate the appearance of an asteroid to its actual history and identify any after effects of a catastrophic impact with another asteroid.
eso0915 — Science Release
Lightest exoplanet yet discovered
21 April 2009: Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, “e”, in the famous system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist. These amazing discoveries are the outcome of more than four years of observations using the most successful low-mass-exoplanet hunter in the world, the HARPS spectrograph attached to the 3.6-metre ESO telescope at La Silla, Chile.
eso0914 — Photo Release
Two Galaxies for a Unique Event
4 April 2009: To celebrate the 100 Hours of Astronomy, ESO is sharing two stunning images of unusual galaxies, both belonging to the Sculptor group of galaxies. The images, obtained at two of ESO’s observatories at La Silla and Paranal in Chile, illustrate the beauty of astronomy.
eso0913 — Organisation Release
ESO takes the public on an astronomical journey “Around the World in 80 Telescopes”
30 March 2009: A live 24-hour free public video webcast, “Around the World in 80 Telescopes”, will take place from 3 April 09:00 UT/GMT to 4 April 09:00 UT/GMT, chasing day and night around the globe to let viewers “visit” some of the most advanced astronomical telescopes on and off the planet. The webcast, organised by ESO for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), is the first time that so many large observatories have been linked together for a public event.
eso0912 — Organisation Release
ESO’s First Observatory Celebrates 40th Anniversary
24 March 2009: ESO’s La Silla Observatory, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, became the largest astronomical observatory of its time. It led Europe to the frontline of astronomical research, and is still one of the most scientifically productive in ground-based astronomy.
eso0911 — Photo Release
A Curious Pair of Galaxies
16 March 2009: The ESO Very Large Telescope has taken the best image ever of a strange and chaotic duo of interwoven galaxies. The images also contain some surprises — interlopers both far and near.
eso0910 — Science Release
Hubble and ESO’s VLT provide unique 3D views of remote galaxies
10 March 2009: Astronomers have obtained exceptional 3D views of distant galaxies, seen when the Universe was half its current age, by combining the twin strengths of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s acute eye, and the capacity of ESO’s Very Large Telescope to probe the motions of gas in tiny objects. By looking at this unique “history book” of our Universe, at an epoch when the Sun and the Earth did not yet exist, scientists hope to solve the puzzle of how galaxies formed in the remote past.
eso0909 — Organisation Release
New Inspiring Planetarium Show Introduces ALMA to the Public
9 March 2009: As part of a wide range of education and public outreach activities for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), ESO, together with the Association of French Language Planetariums (APLF), has produced a 30-minute planetarium show, In Search of our Cosmic Origins. It is centred on the global ground-based astronomical Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project and represents a unique chance for planetariums to be associated with the IYA2009.
eso0908 — Science Release
The lower atmosphere of Pluto revealed
2 March 2009: Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have gained valuable new insights about the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto. The scientists found unexpectedly large amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and also discovered that the atmosphere is hotter than the surface by about 40 degrees, although it still only reaches a frigid minus 180 degrees Celsius. These properties of Pluto's atmosphere may be due to the presence of pure methane patches or of a methane-rich layer covering the dwarf planet's surface.
eso0907 — Photo Release
Into the Eye of the Helix
25 February 2009: A deep new image of the magnificent Helix planetary nebula has been obtained using the Wide Field Imager at ESO's La Silla Observatory. The image shows a rich background of distant galaxies, usually not seen in other images of this object.
eso0906 — Organisation Release
Hundred metre virtual telescope captures unique detailed colour image
18 February 2009: A team of French astronomers has captured one of the sharpest colour images ever made. They observed the star T Leporis, which appears, on the sky, as small as a two-storey house on the Moon [1]. The image was taken with ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI), emulating a virtual telescope about 100 metres across and reveals a spherical molecular shell around an aged star.
eso0905 — Photo Release
Strong Winds over the Keel
12 February 2009: The latest ESO image reveals amazing detail in the intricate structures of one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the sky, the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372), where strong winds and powerful radiation from an armada of massive stars are creating havoc in the large cloud of dust and gas from which the stars were born.
eso0904 — Science Release
Powerful New Technique to Measure Asteroids' Sizes and Shapes
4 February 2009: A team of French and Italian astronomers have devised a new method for measuring the size and shape of asteroids that are too small or too far away for traditional techniques, increasing the number of asteroids that can be measured by a factor of several hundred. This method takes advantage of the unique capabilities of ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI).
eso0903 — Photo Release
Black hole outflows from Centaurus A detected with APEX
28 January 2009: Astronomers have a new insight into the active galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128), as the jets and lobes emanating from the central black hole have been imaged at submillimetre wavelengths for the first time. The new data, from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile, which is operated by ESO, have been combined with visible and X-ray wavelengths to produce this striking new image.
eso0902 — Science Release
Frantic activity revealed in dusty stellar factories
19 January 2009: Thanks to the Very Large Telescope's acute and powerful near-infrared eye, astronomers have uncovered a host of new young, massive and dusty stellar nurseries in nearby galaxy NGC 253. The centre of this galaxy appears to harbour a twin of our own Milky Way's supermassive black hole.
eso0901 — Organisation Release
ESO Highlights in 2008
5 January 2009: As is now the tradition, the European Southern Observatory looks back at the exciting moments of last year.

2008 was in several aspects an exceptionally good year. Over the year, ESO's telescopes provided data for more than 700 scientific publications in refereed journals, making ESO the most productive ground-based observatory in the world.
eso0849 — Organisation Release
ALMA observatory equipped with its first antenna
18 December 2008: High in the Atacama region in northern Chile, one of the world's most advanced telescopes has just passed a major milestone. The first of many state-of-the-art antennas has just been handed over to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project. ALMA is under construction on the plateau of Chajnantor, at an altitude of 5000 m. The telescope is being built by a global partnership, including ESO as the European partner.
eso0848 — Photo Release
A Sparkling Spray of Stars
16 December 2008: The festive season has arrived for astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in the form of this dramatic new image. It shows the swirling gas around the region known as NGC 2264 — an area of sky that includes the sparkling blue baubles of the Christmas Tree star cluster.
eso0847 — Science Release
Astronomers Dissect a Supermassive Black Hole with Natural Magnifying Glasses
12 December 2008: Combining a double natural "magnifying glass" with the power of ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have scrutinised the inner parts of the disc around a supermassive black hole 10 billion light-years away. They were able to study the disc with a level of detail a thousand times better than that of the best telescopes in the world, providing the first observational confirmation of the prevalent theoretical models of such discs.