Press Releases

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eso9008-en-gb — Photo Release
Sweet Dreams, Halley!
26 July 1990: Famous Comet Halley, now receding from the Sun after its perihelion passage in early 1986, has recently entered into a state of hibernation which will last until shortly before the next passage in 2062.
eso9007-en-gb — Photo Release
An Unusual View of Comet Austin
13 June 1990: Most of the dust that is ejected from a comet's nucleus (i.e. the "dirty snowball" at its centre) assembles in a thin “sheet'' near the orbital plane in which the comet moves around the sun. This sheet is very thin and is difficult to observe unless it is viewed directly from the side. On June 6, 1990, the Earth crossed the orbital plane of Comet Austin, allowing such a unique, side-on view.
eso9006-en-gb — Organisation Release
Adaptive Optics sharpens telescopes' sight
23 May 1990: With the help of "adaptive optics," a revolutionary optical concept (eso8908), infrared astronomical images have been obtained with the ESO 3.6 m telescope at the La Silla observatory which are as sharp as they would be if the telescope were situated in space. This is the first time in astronomy that a ground-based telescope of this size has been able to directly register during long time periods stellar images with a sharpness that corresponds to the theoretically possible limit.
eso9005-en-gb — Organisation Release
Discoveries in the Southern Sky: ESO Exhibition now at "Microcosm"
9 April 1990: Paris, Brussels, Vienna and Copenhagen were some of the stations for ESO's travelling astronomy exhibition. Now this exhibition can be seen for the first time in Switzerland, where CERN's MICROCOSM exhibition has opened its doors for a detailed view at the World of stars and galaxies.
eso9004-en-gb — Science Release
Comet Austin Develops a Long Tail
2 March 1990: Professional and amateur astronomers all over the world are excited about the prospects of seeing a really bright comet during the coming months. A newly discovered comet, known by the name of the amateur who first saw it, is now getting brighter each day. Observations are made almost every night at the ESO La Silla Observatory and elsewhere in order to follow the development of the comet and also to try to predict the maximum brightness which the comet will reach by mid-April this year.
eso9003-en-gb — Organisation Release
ESO Celebrates its New Technology Telescope
6 February 1990: In the presence of a distinguished audience of ministers and high-ranking officials, as well as representatives of European industry and scientists from the member states, the European Southern Observatory today officially inaugurates its revolutionary 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT).
eso9002-en-gb — Organisation Release
Caltech and ESO Join Forces to Produce Sky Atlas
26 January 1990: The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) of Pasadena, California, U.S.A. and the European Southern Observatory have concluded an agreement by which ESO will undertake the responsibility of producing high-quality copies of photographic sky survey plates obtained with the Palomar 40-inch Oschin Telescope and to distribute the resulting photographic atlas [1].
eso9001-en-gb — Science Release
The Elusive Pulsar in Supernova 1987A
5 January 1990: Is there - or is there not - a pulsar in Supernova 1987A? This is one of the main enigmas in current astrophysical research, and nearly three years after the explosion of the first naked-eye supernova (see eso8704, eso8705, eso8706, eso8711 and eso8802) in four hundred years, the answer is still not known.
eso8908-en-gb — Organisation Release
Catching a Twinkling Star: Successful Tests of Adaptive Optics Herald New Era
26 October 1989: An old dream of ground-based astronomers has finally come true, thanks to the joint development of a revolutionary new technique, adaptive optics, by ESO and ONERA [1], LdM [2] and Observatoire de Paris in France.
eso8907-en-gb — Organisation Release
ESO Contract for Polishing of VLT Mirror Blanks Goes to R.E.O.S.C.
25 July 1989: The European Southern Observatory and R.E.O.S.C. Optique (Recherches et études d'optique et de sciences connexes), located at Ballainvilliers near Paris, France, have reached agreement on a contract for the polishing of four giant mirror blanks for the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) (see eso8717 and eso8808).
eso8906-en-gb — Science Release
Witnessing the Violent Birth of a Solar-type Star
6 July 1989: Recent studies at the European Southern Observatory indicate that the formation of a new star is a dramatic process which may be more complex than most astronomers believed only a few years ago.
eso8905-en-gb — Photo Release
First Picture of New Periodic Comet West-Hartley
30 May 1989: On May 11, 1989, Richard M. West at the ESO Headquarters in Garching, Fed.Rep.Germany, found a new comet in a photographic plate obtained on March 14 by night assistant Guido Pizarro with the 1-m Schmidt at the ESO La Silla Observatory. The blue-sensitive plate was exposed during 60 minutes and was centered in the southern constellation of Libra.
eso8904-en-gb — Organisation Release
A Revolution in Ground-Based Direct-Imaging Resolution
11 May 1989: "First Light" with the ESO New Technology Telescope (NTT) was obtained on March 23, 1989 (eso8903) during conditions of exceptionally good "seeing'' and the first images are probably the sharpest ever obtained with a large, ground-based telescope. A full account of the associated events will appear in the June 1989 issue of the ESO Messenger.
eso8903-en-gb — Organisation Release
"First Light'' for ESO's New Technology Telescope
23 March 1989: Early this morning, and during superb atmospheric conditions, the 3.5 m ESO New Technology Telescope (NTT) produced its first astronomical images. They completely satisfy the high expectations towards this revolutionary high-tech telescope, the first of its kind in the world. This important milestone was passed less than seven years after the start of the NTT project in 1982 and at the end of a four-year construction phase (various aspects of the New Technology Telescope have been described in eso8801 and eso8805).
eso8902-en-gb — Science Release
Is There a Pulsar in Supernova 1987A?
24 February 1989: A recent announcement of the discovery of a pulsar in Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud has excited the world-wide astronomical community. New observations at the La Silla Observatory by a group of European astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and the European Southern Observatory, however, do not confirm the reality of this object. More observations are now needed to settle this important question.
eso8901-en-gb — Science Release
The "Southern Crab" Nebula
30 January 1989: Everybody knows the Crab Nebula - that famous object in the northern constellation Taurus (The Bull). It is the remnant of a supernova explosion in the year 1054 and has been studied with all available astronomical techniques. But this nebula does not really resemble the animal whose name it carries! Whoever attached this name to it by the middle of the last century must have had a well developed imagination. Now a "real crab'' has been discovered, a nebula in the southern constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), which from its appearance on recent pictures made with telescopes at the La Silla Observatory would seem to have more right to associate with crustaceans. To avoid confusion, astronomers now refer to the new object as the "Southern Crab".
eso8809-en-gb — Science Release
The Vanishing Star
8 December 1988: Reinhold Häfner, visiting astronomer at the ESO La Silla Observatory, got his life's surprise when the star on the screen in front of him suddenly was gone. All the other stars were still visible, but this particular one had simply vanished.
eso8808-en-gb — Organisation Release
ESO Places Contract for World's Largest Mirror Blanks
12 September 1988: After a period of intense negotiation, the European Southern Observatory and Schott Glaswerke, Mainz (F.R.Germany) reached agreement about the delivery of four giant mirror blanks for the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) (ESO8716). The blanks will be made of Zerodur, a glass ceramic material. Each will have a diameter of 8.2 metres, an area of more than 50 square metres and a thickness of only 17.5 centimetres.
eso8807-en-gb — Science Release
Most Distant Star Ever Seen: Supernova Explodes 5 Billion Years Ago
9 September 1988: The most distant, individual star ever recorded was detected with a telescope at the ESO La Silla observatory on August 9, 1988. The object is an exploding star, a supernova, and is situated in an inconspicuous galaxy, itself a member of a distant cluster of galaxies. Additional observations indicate that the cluster, known as AC118, is at a distance of about 5 billion light-years (1 billion = 1000 million). Thus this supernova explosion occurred 5 billion years ago, or about the time when the Sun and the planets were born. Ever since then, the light emitted by this event has been travelling towards us, only arriving here now. It is the most distant supernova (ESO8802) observed so far.
eso8806-en-gb — Science Release
Discovery of a Cloverleaf Quasar in the Sky: A Lot of Hard Work - and a Little Bit of Luck
28 July 1988: Thanks to observations performed under near-perfect conditions at the La Silla observatory, it has been possible to show that the image of a distant quasar consists of no less than four components. Most appropriately, the object has now become known as the cloverleaf quasar. The peculiar image is due to the effect of "gravitational lensing", a phenomenon predicted by Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and explained at the end of this Press Release.
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