R Aquarii viewed by the Very Large Telescope and Hubble

While testing a new subsystem on the SPHERE planet-hunting instrument on ESO’s Very Large telescope, astronomers were able to capture dramatic details of the turbulent stellar relationship in the binary star R Aquarii with unprecedented clarity.

However, SPHERE was not the only instrument used in this research — in a striking example of telescope teamwork, SPHERE observations from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) were complemented by images from the Hubble Space Telescope’s  Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). The wide field of view and sensitivity of Hubble captured a large-scale image of R Aquarii, while high-resolution SPHERE/ZIMPOL observations revealed an unprecedentedly detailed view of the symbiotic binary at the centre of the scene.

Astronomers were able to take advantage of data from the Hubble Space Telescope, which fortuitously observed R Aquarii just days before the VLT SPHERE observations of the binary. This fortunate timing, in the words of the team, “provided a unique opportunity for improving the ZIMPOL flux measurements and the instrument throughput calibration”.

This image shows part of the wide-field observation from Hubble compared with the intricate details uncovered by the unparalleled observational capabilities of SPHERE and the VLT.

Credit:

ESO/Schmid et al./NASA/ESA

About the Image

Id:eso1840b
Type:Collage
Release date:12 December 2018, 14:00
Related releases:eso1840
Size:6282 x 2274 px

About the Object

Name:R Aquarii
Type:Milky Way : Star : Type : Variable
Category:Stars

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