Press Releases

Subscribe to receive news from ESO in your language!
eso0032 — Organisation Release
A Milestone for the VLT Interferometer
11 October 2000: Less than one month after "First Light" for the fourth 8.2-m YEPUN telescope (ESO PR 18/00), another special moment occurred at ESO's Paranal Observatory. This time, it was the first truly "underground" event, in the 168-metre long Interferometric Tunnel that has been dug beneath the platform at the top of the mountain. As one staff member remarked on this occasion, it was something like "the first scheduled trip of the Paranal metro"!
eso0031 — Photo Release
Stars and Nebulae in the Southern Crown
6 October 2000: The R Coronae Australis complex of young stars and interstellar gas clouds is one of the nearest star-forming regions, at a distance of approx. 500 light-years from the Sun. It is seen in the southern constellation of that name (The "Southern Crown"). Images of this sky area were recently obtained with the Wide Field Imager (WFI), a 67-million pixel digital camera that is installed at the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO Telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory.
eso0030 — Photo Release
Peering into a Star Factory
14 September 2000: Beautiful images of astronomical objects often contain a lot of scientifically interesting information - PR Photo 24a/00, shown above, is a fine example of this old maxime. It provides a deep and unsually wide look into a giant star forming region in the Milky Way. It is known as Messier 17 (M 17), or the Omega, Swan, Horseshoe, or Lobster Nebula , because of its characteristic shape when photographed in visible light. It is located at a distance of approx. 5000 light-years (1.6 kpc), and is seen in the southern constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer), near the main plane of the Milky Way.
eso0029 — Science Release
The Mystery of the Lonely Neutron Star
11 September 2000: Deep inside the Milky Way, an old and lonely neutron star plows its way through interstellar space. Known as RX J1856.5-3754, it measures only ~ 20 km across. Although it is unusually hot for its age, about 700,000 °C, earlier observations did not reveal any activity at all, contrary to all other neutron stars known so far. In order to better understand this extreme type of object, a detailed study of RX J1856.5-3754 was undertaken by Marten van Kerkwijk (Institute of Astronomy of the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands) and Shri Kulkarni (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA). To the astronomers' delight and surprise, images and spectra obtained with the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) now show a small nearby cone-shaped ("bowshock") nebula. It shines in the light from hydrogen atoms and is obviously a product of some kind of interaction with this strange star.
eso0028 — Organisation Release
Fourth Light at Paranal!
4 September 2000: It was a historical moment last night (September 3 - 4, 2000) in the VLT Control Room at the Paranal Observatory , after nearly 15 years of hard work. Finally, four teams of astronomers and engineers were sitting at the terminals - and each team with access to an 8.2-m telescope! From now on, the powerful "Paranal Quartet" will be observing night after night, with a combined mirror surface of more than 210 m 2. And beginning next year, some of them will be linked to form part of the unique VLT Interferometer with unparalleled sensitivity and image sharpness.
eso0027 — Organisation Release
"First Light" Approaches for Fourth VLT Unit Telescope
28 August 2000: These days, the ESO staff at Paranal is having a strong feeling of "déja-vu". Only seven months after the third 8.2-metre VLT Unit Telescope, MELIPAL, achieved "First Light", this crucial moment is now rapidly approaching for YEPUN , the fourth and last of the giants at the ESO observatory.
eso0026 — Photo Release
The VLT Observes Comet LINEAR's "Shower"
8 August 2000: In a textbook example of useful collaboration between ground- and space-based astronomical telescopes, the ESO Very Large Telescope has imaged the "shower" of "mini-comets" in Comet LINEAR, first seen by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) a few days ago [1].
eso0025 — Photo Release
ESO Observations of New Moon of Jupiter
4 August 2000: Two astronomers, both specialists in minor bodies in the solar system, have performed observations with ESO telescopes that provide important information about a small moon, recently discovered in orbit around the solar system's largest planet, Jupiter. Brett Gladman (of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and working at Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, France) and Hermann Boehnhardt (ESO-Paranal) obtained detailed data on the object S/1999 J 1, definitively confirming it as a natural satellite of Jupiter. Seventeen Jovian moons are now known.
eso0024 — Science Release
Cannibal Stars Cause Giant Explosions in Fornax Cluster Galaxy
28 July 2000: About 70 million years ago, when dinosaurs were still walking on the Earth, a series of violent thermo-nuclear explosions took place in a distant galaxy. After a very long travel across vast reaches of virtually empty space (70 million light-years, or ~ 7 x 10 20 km), dim light carrying the message about these events has finally reached us. It was recorded by the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory (Chile) during an observing programme by a group of Italian astronomers [1]. The subsequent analysis has shown that the observers witnessed the most distant nova outbursts ever seen . They were caused by "stellar cannibalism" in binary systems in which one relatively cool star loses matter to its smaller and hotter companion. An instability results that leads to the ignition of a "hydrogen bomb" on the surface of the receiving star.
eso0023 — Science Release
Youngest Brown Dwarf Yet in a Multiple Stellar System
21 July 2000: Astronomers are eager to better understand the formation of stars and planets - with an eye on the complex processes that lead to the emergence of our own solar system some 4600 million years ago. Brown Dwarfs (BDs) play a special role in this context. Within the cosmic zoo, they represent a class of "intermediate" objects. While they are smaller than normal stars, they shine by their own energy for a limited time, in contrast to planets. Recent observations with the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) of a "young" Brown Dwarf in a multiple stellar system are taking on a particular importance in this connection. An evaluation of the new data by an international team of astronomers [1] shows that it is by far the youngest of only four such objects found in a stellar system so far. The results are now providing new insights into the stellar formation process.
eso0022 — Organisation Release
Portugal to Accede to ESO
27 June 2000: The Republic of Portugal will become the ninth member state of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) [1]. Today, during a ceremony at the ESO Headquarters in Garching (Germany), a corresponding Agreement was signed by the Portuguese Minister of Science and Technology, José Mariano Gago and the ESO Director General, Catherine Cesarsky, in the presence of other high officials from Portugal and the ESO member states (see the video eso0022a in this release). Following subsequent ratification by the Portuguese Parliament of the ESO Convention and the associated protocols [2], it is foreseen that Portugal will formally join this organisation on January 1, 2001.
eso0021 — Organisation Release
Paranal Impressions
16 June 2000: The main construction phase at the ESO Paranal Observatory is now over and normal operations have begun with two of the four 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes, ANTU and KUEYEN. The next major event will be the installation of the first astronomical instrument, VIMOS (VIsible MultiObject Spectrograph), at the third telescope, MELIPAL. "First Light" for the fourth telescope, YEPUN will follow later this year. The present collection of 29 photos illustrates the current state of the VLT site. They have been divided by theme into five sections that may be accessed by clicking on the corresponding images above.
eso0020 — Organisation Release
With the VLT Interferometer towards Sharper Vision
24 May 2000: European science and technology will gain further strength when the new, front-line Nova-ESO VLTI Expertise Centre (NEVEC) opens in Leiden (The Netherlands) this week. It is a joint venture of the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) (itself a collaboration between the Universities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden, and Utrecht) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). It is concerned with the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI).
eso0018 — Science Release
Unveiling the Secret of a Virgo Dwarf Galaxy
3 May 2000: Dwarf galaxies may not be as impressive in appearance as their larger brethren, but they are at least as interesting from a scientific point of view. And sometimes they may have hidden properties that will only be found by means of careful observations, probing the signals of their stars at the faintest level. Such as the entirely unexpected, well developed spiral structure within an otherwise seemingly normal dwarf elliptical galaxy! This is the surprise result of a new study by a team of astronomers [1], headed by Helmut Jerjen from the Australian National University (Canberra) who obtained detailed observations with the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the dwarf galaxy IC 3328 in the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies, some 50 million light-years away.
eso0017 — Organisation Release
"Physics on Stage" Trailer
2 May 2000: This Video Clip is issued on the web in conjunction with the "Physics On Stage" programme that is part of the European Week for Science and Technology and will culminate in a Science Festival during November 6-11, 2000, on the CERN premises at the French-Swiss border near Geneva.
eso0019 — Science Release
Exoplanets Galore!
15 April 2000: The intensive and exciting hunt for planets around other stars ("exoplanets") is continuing with great success in both hemispheres. Today, a team of astronomers of the Geneva Observatory [1] are announcing the discovery of no less than eight new, very-low mass companions to solar-type stars. The masses of these objects range from less than that of planet Saturn to about 15 times that of Jupiter.
eso0016 — Organisation Release
"Portugal - ESO - VLT"
13 April 2000: A special Workshop "Portugal - ESO - VLT" will be held at the Lisbon University Museum of Science on April 17-18, 2000. It is primarily directed towards young Portuguese scientists and will inform them about the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the many exciting research possibilities with this new facility. The Workshop is accompanied by a public exhibition about ESO and its telescopes , as well as a Press Conference on April 17 with participation of the Portuguese Minister of Science and Technology and the ESO Director General. A public lecture will be given about ESO and the VLT on April 18.
eso0015 — Organisation Release
First Visiting Astronomers at VLT KUEYEN
13 April 2000: Starting in the evening of April 1, 2000, Ghislain Golse and Francisco Castander from the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (Toulouse, France) [1] were the first "visiting astronomers" at Paranal to carry out science observations with the second 8.2-metre VLT Unit Telescope, KUEYEN. Using the FORS2 multi-mode instrument as a spectrograph, they measured the distances to a number of very remote galaxies, located far out in space behind two clusters of galaxies. Such observations may help to determine the values of cosmological parameters that define the geometry and fate of the Universe.
eso0014 — Organisation Release
First Light for ASTROVIRTEL Project
10 April 2000: Astronomical data archives increasingly resemble virtual gold mines of information. A new project, known as ASTROVIRTEL aims to exploit these astronomical treasure troves by allowing scientists to use the archives as virtual telescopes.
eso0013 — Science Release
UVES Analyses the Universe: A First Portfolio of Most Promising Results
6 April 2000: Astronomers working with a major new instrument at the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory have had a first taste of what is bound to become a research bonanza. Recent test observations with the Ultraviolet-Visual Echelle Spectrograph (UVES) have demonstrated the exceptional science potential of this powerful facility.