Press Releases

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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.
eso0719 — Organisation Release
New Adaptive Optics Technique Demonstrated
30 March 2007: On the evening of 25 March 2007, the Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) achieved First Light at the Visitor Focus of Melipal, the third Unit Telescope of the Very Large Telescope (VLT). MAD allowed the scientists to obtain images corrected for the blurring effect of atmospheric turbulence over the full 2x2 arcminute field of view. This world premiere shows the promises of a crucial technology for Extremely Large Telescopes.
eso0718 — Science Release
The Impossible Siblings
29 March 2007: Combining precise observations obtained by ESO's Very Large Telescope with those gathered by a network of smaller telescopes, astronomers have described in unprecedented detail the double asteroid Antiope, which is shown to be a pair of rubble-pile chunks of material, of about the same size, whirling around one another in a perpetual pas de deux. The two components are egg-shaped despite their very small sizes.
eso0717 — Science Release
Controlled by Distant Explosions
28 March 2007: A time-series of high-resolution spectra in the optical and ultraviolet has twice been obtained just a few minutes after the detection of a gamma-ray bust explosion in a distant galaxy. The international team of astronomers responsible for these observations derived new conclusive evidence about the nature of the surroundings of these powerful explosions linked to the death of massive stars.
eso0716 — Photo Release
The Purple Rose of Virgo
27 March 2007: Until now NGC 5584 was just one galaxy among many others, located to the West of the Virgo Cluster. Known only as a number in galaxy surveys, its sheer beauty is now revealed in all its glory in a new VLT image. Since 1 March, this purple cosmic rose also holds the brightest stellar explosion of the year, known as SN 2007af.
eso0715 — Science Release
Fingerprinting the Milky Way
22 March 2007: Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, an international team of astronomers has shown how to use the chemical composition of stars in clusters to shed light on the formation of our Milky Way. This discovery is a fundamental test for the development of a new chemical tagging technique uncovering the birth and growth of our Galactic cradle.
eso0714 — Organisation Release
Waking up to science!
15 March 2007: How is Europe to tackle its shortage of scientists? The EIROforum Science on Stage festival aims to give European teachers some of the answers they need to take up this urgent challenge. This unique event, showcasing the very best of today's science education, will feature science demonstrations, a science teaching fair with some 66 stands, and a Round Table discussion with the participation of the European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik.
eso0713 — Organisation Release
A Roof for ALMA
14 March 2007: On 10 March, an official ceremony took place on the 2,900m high site of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Operations Support Facility, from where the ALMA antennas will be remotely controlled. The ceremony marked the completion of the structural works, while the building itself will be finished by the end of the year. This will become the operational centre of one of the most important ground-based astronomical facilities on Earth.
eso0712 — Science Release
Star Family Seen Through Dusty Fog
13 March 2007: Images made with ESO's New Technology Telescope at La Silla by a team of German astronomers reveal a rich circular cluster of stars in the inner parts of our Galaxy. Located 30,000 light-years away, this previously unknown closely-packed group of about 100,000 stars is most likely a new globular cluster.
eso0711 — Science Release
Solar Power at Play
7 March 2007: For the very first time, astronomers have witnessed the speeding up of an asteroid's rotation, and have shown that it is due to a theoretical effect predicted but never seen before. The international team of scientists used an armada of telescopes to discover that the asteroid's rotation period currently decreases by 1 millisecond every year, as a consequence of the heating of the asteroid's surface by the Sun. Eventually it may spin faster than any known asteroid in the solar system and even break apart.