Press Releases

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eso0739 — Photo Release
Stellar Firework in a Whirlwind
3 September 2007: Stars do not like to be alone. Indeed, most stars are members of a binary system, in which two stars circle around each other in an apparently never-ending cosmic ballet. But sometimes, things can go wrong. When the dancing stars are too close to each other, one of them can start devouring its partner. If the vampire star is a white dwarf – a burned-out star that was once like our Sun – this greed can lead to a cosmic catastrophe: the white dwarf explodes as a Type Ia supernova.
eso0738 — Organisation Release
Professor Tim de Zeeuw Takes Up Duty as New ESO Director General
3 September 2007: On 1 September, Tim de Zeeuw became the new ESO Director General, succeeding Catherine Cesarsky. In his first day in office, he kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
eso0737 — Photo Release
Edge-On!
23 August 2007: As Uranus coasts through a brief window of time when its rings are edge-on to Earth - a view of the planet we get only once every 42 years - astronomers peering at the rings with ESO's Very Large Telescope and other space or ground-based telescopes are getting an unprecedented view of the fine dust in the system, free from the glare of the bright rocky rings. They may even find a new moon or two.
eso0736 — Organisation Release
HAWK-I Takes Off
22 August 2007: Europe's flagship ground-based astronomical facility, the ESO VLT, has been equipped with a new 'eye' to study the Universe. Working in the near-infrared, the new instrument - dubbed HAWK-I - covers about 1/10th the area of the Full Moon in a single exposure. It is uniquely suited to the discovery and study of faint objects, such as distant galaxies or small stars and planets.
eso0735 — Organisation Release
First Light for World's Largest 'Thermometer Camera'
5 August 2007: The world's largest bolometer camera for submillimetre astronomy is now in service at the 12-m APEX telescope, located on the 5100m high Chajnantor plateau in the Chilean Andes. LABOCA was specifically designed for the study of extremely cold astronomical objects and, with its large field of view and very high sensitivity, will open new vistas in our knowledge of how stars form and how the first galaxies emerged from the Big Bang.
eso0734 — Science Release
Star Caught Smoking
3 August 2007: Using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer, astronomers from France and Brazil have detected a huge cloud of dust around a star. This observation is further evidence for the theory that such stellar puffs are the cause of the repeated extreme dimming of the star.
eso0733 — Photo Release
The Planet, the Galaxy and the Laser
2 August 2007: On the night of 21 July, ESO astronomer Yuri Beletsky took images of the night sky above Paranal, the 2600m high mountain in the Chilean Atacama Desert home to ESO's Very Large Telescope. The amazing images bear witness to the unique quality of the sky, revealing not only the Milky Way in all its splendour but also the planet Jupiter and the laser beam used at Yepun, one of the 8.2-m telescopes that make up this extraordinary facility.
eso0732 — Organisation Release
Birth of a Colossus on Wheels
30 July 2007: The first of two spectacular vehicles for the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) Observatory rolled out of its hangar and passed successfully a series of tests. This vehicle, the ALMA antenna transporter, is a rather exceptional 'lorry' driving on 28 tyres. It is 10m wide, 20m long and 6m high, weighs 130 tons and has as much power as two Formula 1 engines. This colossus will be able to transport a 115-ton antenna and set it down on a concrete pad within millimetres of a prescribed position.
eso0731 — Science Release
The Gobbling Dwarf that Exploded
12 July 2007: A unique set of observations, obtained with ESO's VLT, has allowed astronomers to find direct evidence for the material that surrounded a star before it exploded as a Type Ia supernova. This strongly supports the scenario in which the explosion occurred in a system where a white dwarf is fed by a red giant.
eso0730 — Science Release
GROND Takes Off
6 July 2007: A new instrument has seen First Light at the ESO La Silla Observatory. Equipping the 2.2-m MPI/ESO telescope, GROND takes images simultaneously in seven colours. It will be mostly used to determine distances of gamma-ray bursts.
eso0729 — Science Release
Star Surface Polluted by Planetary Debris
6 July 2007: Looking at the chemical composition of stars that host planets, astronomers have found that while dwarf stars often show iron enrichment on their surface, giant stars do not. The astronomers think that the planetary debris falling onto the outer layer of the star produces a detectable effect in a dwarf star, but this pollution is diluted by the giant star and mixed into its interior.
eso0728 — Science Release
Back on Track
19 June 2007: Observing the image of a faint object that lies close to a star is a demanding task as the object is generally hidden in the glare of the star. Characterising this object, by taking spectra, is an even harder challenge. Still, thanks to ingenious scientists and a new ESO imaging spectrograph, this is now feasible, paving the way to an eldorado of many new thrilling discoveries.
eso0727 — Organisation Release
Free from the Atmosphere
13 June 2007: An artificial, laser-fed star now shines regularly over the sky of Paranal, home of ESO's Very Large Telescope, one of the world's most advanced large ground-based telescopes. This system provides assistance for the adaptive optics instruments on the VLT and so allows astronomers to obtain images free from the blurring effect of the atmosphere, regardless of the brightness and the location on the sky of the observed target. Now that it is routinely offered by the observatory, the skies seem much sharper to astronomers.
eso0726 — Science Release
Matter Flashed at Ultra Speed
12 June 2007: Using a robotic telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory, astronomers have for the first time measured the velocity of the explosions known as gamma-ray bursts. The material is travelling at the extraordinary speed of more than 99.999% of the velocity of light, the maximum speed limit in the Universe.
eso0725 — Science Release
Chronicle of a Death Foretold
31 May 2007: Using ESO's VLTI on Cerro Paranal and the VLBA facility operated by NRAO, an international team of astronomers has made what is arguably the most detailed study of the environment of a pulsating red giant star. They performed, for the first time, a series of coordinated observations of three separate layers within the star's tenuous outer envelope: the molecular shell, the dust shell, and the maser shell, leading to significant progress in our understanding of the mechanism of how, before dying, evolved stars lose mass and return it to the interstellar medium.
eso0724 — Science Release
A Brown Dwarf Joins the Jet-Set
23 May 2007: Jets of matter have been discovered around a very low mass 'failed star', mimicking a process seen in young stars. This suggests that these 'brown dwarfs' form in a similar manner to normal stars but also that outflows are driven out by objects as massive as hundreds of millions of solar masses down to Jupiter-sized objects.
eso0723 — Science Release
A Galactic Fossil
10 May 2007: How old are the oldest stars? Using ESO's VLT, astronomers recently measured the age of a star located in our Galaxy. The star, a real fossil, is found to be 13.2 billion years old, not very far from the 13.7 billion years age of the Universe. The star, HE 1523-0901, was clearly born at the dawn of time.
eso0722 — Science Release
Astronomers Find First Earth-like Planet in Habitable Zone
25 April 2007: Astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, an exoplanet with a radius only 50% larger than the Earth and capable of having liquid water. Using the ESO 3.6-m telescope, a team of Swiss, French and Portuguese scientists discovered a super-Earth about 5 times the mass of the Earth that orbits a red dwarf, already known to harbour a Neptune-mass planet. The astronomers have also strong evidence for the presence of a third planet with a mass about 8 Earth masses.
eso0721 — Organisation Release
School students "Catch a Star"!
13 April 2007: School students from across Europe and beyond have won prizes in an astronomy competition, including the trip of a lifetime to one of the world's most powerful astronomical observatories, on a mountaintop in Chile. ESO, the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, together with the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE), has just announced the winners of the 2007 "Catch a Star!" competition.
eso0720 — Organisation Release
Breathing Stars
3 April 2007: The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) astronomical project will not only enlarge our knowledge of the vast Universe beyond the imaginable. It will also help scientists learn more about the human body.