Jan 17

Catch a Star 2016 Contest Winners Announced

The winners of this year’s Catch a Star Contest have been announced.

The top three prizes were awarded to: The Lost Planet, by Andrea Moral Suárez, Natalia Serrano López and Ana Sánchez Díez from Spain; Life on Mars, by Daniel Vilda Rodríguez, Daniel Sayad Pérez Peréz and Iván Rodríguez Lozano from Spain; and Dark Matter in the Classroom by Simona Stoyanova and Ognyan Simeonov from Bulgaria.

A complete list of the winners can be found on the Catch a Star website.

ESO is presenting a mounted astronomical image to each of the top five places and each winning team will also have the chance either to carry out remote observations at the National Astronomical Observatory “Rozhen”, Bulgaria, or to hold a video conference with a professional astronomer.

Secondary school students from around the world were invited to take part in the contest. To participate students had to submit a written report on an astronomical topic of their choice — for example an astronomical object, phenomenon, observation, scientific problem or theory.

Catch a Star is a contest organised as a collaboration between the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) and ESO that has been running since 2002. Its goal is to stimulate the creativity and independent work of students, and to strengthen and expand their astronomical knowledge and skills. The programme encourages students to work together, to learn about astronomy and to discover things for themselves by researching information on an astronomical object.

Find out more about the competition on the Catch a Star website.


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Dec 16

Winners of the Pioneers category 2016 present their work at a major Programming event in Portugal

 Carlota FERNANDES, Diogo GONCALVES and Nelson REBELO, the winners of the 2016 edition of the Odysseus II competition in the Pioneers category, accompanied by their teacher Cristina PINHO of the Sebastião e Silva Secondary School will be in the Pavilion of Knowledge (Lisbon, Portugal) in the first initiative of the Movement Portugal Code will take place in the on December 11, 2016. This presence will serve to give visibility to this amazing project. To know more about the event click here (in Portuguese).

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Dec 16

First Signs of Weird Quantum Property of Empty Space?

Source: ESO Science Release eso1641

This artist’s view shows how the light coming from the surface of a strongly magnetic neutron star (left) becomes linearly polarised as it travels through the vacuum of space close to the star on its way to the observer on Earth (right). The polarisation of the observed light in the extremely strong magnetic field suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, a prediction of quantum electrodynamics (QED). This effect was predicted in the 1930s but has not been observed before. The magnetic and electric field directions of the light rays are shown by the red and blue lines. Model simulations by Roberto Taverna (University of Padua, Italy) and Denis Gonzalez Caniulef (UCL/MSSL, UK) show how these align along a preferred direction as the light passes through the region around the neutron star. As they become aligned the light becomes polarised, and this polarisation can be detected by sensitive instruments on Earth.
The polarisation of light emitted by a neutron star.
Image credit: ESO/L. Calçada

By studying the light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect, first predicted in the 1930s. The polarisation of the observed light suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence.(read more)

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Nov 16

Catch a Star's deadline has been postponed to December 20th


Due to the requests of teachers all around Europe, the deadline for the submission of Catch a Star's works has been postponed to December 20th, 2016.

Teachers say that they have done the work with their students but in many cases have not been able to finish the translation of their work to English.

Since December 16th is the end of first term in many European countries EAAE has decided to extend the contest submissions deadline until December 20th. This will give students an opportunity to finish their works. It will also be an opportunity for more teachers to apply with works of their students.

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Nov 16

Odysseus Winners Witness Rocket Launch in French Guiana


Winners of the 2015-2016 Odysseus space science contest have travelled to French Guiana to observe the successful launch of an Ariane 5 rocket. The trip is just part of their reward for earning top honours at the Odysseus international finals in July. Equally exciting opportunities await young Europeans in the 2016-2017 contest cycle.

Witnessing a rocket launch at the spaceport in French Guiana was an extraordinary experience for the Odysseus prizewinners. “It was amazing just to watch the transfer of the rocket to the launch pad”, says Alice Antonelli from Italy. She won first place in the Explorers category of competition for university undergraduates. For Nelson Rebelo the trip was nothing less than “a dream come true”. Nelson was part of the three-member team of high-school students from Portugal who submitted the most convincing project in the Pioneers category. Next year too, first-prize winners in both categories can look forward to visiting Europe’s spaceport in South America and to earning coveted internships in the space sector.

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Nov 16

Alice promotes space science and Odysseus Contest in Italian schools

Alice Antonelli, who won the first place in the Explorers Category of the 2016 Odysseus Contest, in parallel with her studies on Aerospace Engineering at the University of Pisa is actively mobilizing young pupils’ and students’ interest on space science. Alice who is European Youth Space Ambassador for 2016-2017 has been already invited by schools in Tuscany and in Rome to share her experiences from the contest and to talk to students about space science challenges.



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Sep 16

Space Science Contest Offers Exciting Opportunities for European Youth

International travel, high-value prizes and career-shaping internships – three excellent reasons to take part in the Odysseus space science contest. Registration for the next cycle (covering the 2016-2017 academic year) has just opened. Aimed at space enthusiasts aged 7 to 22, the contest provides a launchpad for young people to explore new horizons.


Brussels, Belgium – 31 August 2016


Odysseus challenges European youth to push the boundaries of their knowledge by discovering answers to fundamental questions on topics ranging from satellites and space probes to astrobiology and interplanetary travel. The ultimate goal to of the contest is to inspire young Europeans to get involved in space science and technology.


Wanted: young Europeans with a spirit of discovery and an interest in space science

Organized in multiple rounds (national, regional and international) the competition is open to participants from primary schools, secondary schools and universities. Teachers and professors are encouraged to get involved by organizing teams; access to professional mentoring is available upon request. Entries can be submitted in any of the EU’s 24 official languages.


Three academic levels are targeted, with separate competitions for:


  • Skywalkers - ages 7 to 13 (primary schools)
  • Pioneers - ages 14 to 19 (secondary schools)
  • Explorers - ages 17 to 22 (universities)


Register online now. Entries (complete projects) must be received by March 31, 2017.


Participants will compete first at national level with submissions addressing one of the contest’s broadly defined topics. Experienced judges will evaluate submissions on the basis of scientific knowledge, practical implementation, team work and creativity. Winners competing in regional and international finals (complete with activity programme) will enjoy expenses-paid travel and accommodation. Prizes include iPads, computerized telescopes, travel opportunities, internships at space agencies or aerospace companies and trips to the European spaceport in French Guiana (South America).


Detailed information – including a media kit and detailed instructions on how to submit an entry online – is available at www.odysseus-contest.eu



The contest is organized by Odysseus II, a three-year project funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The project consortium consists of 14 partners and four supporting organizations from 11 European countries.



Terry Martin

Teltower Damm 283, 14167 Berlin, Germany

phone: +49/ (0) 30 857 41404


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Aug 16

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

Source: ESO Science Release eso1629

eso1629aArtist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri.
Image credits: ESO/M. Kornmesser.

Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016. (learn more)

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Jul 16

Space... the final frontier

Source: ESA/Hubble Photo Release heic1615

heic1615aAbell S1063, the final frontier.
Image credits: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI)

Fifty years ago Captain Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise began their journey into space — the final frontier. Now, as the newest Star Trek film hits cinemas, the NASA/ESA Hubble space telescope is also exploring new frontiers, observing distant galaxies in the galaxy cluster Abell S1063 as part of the Frontier Fields programme.(read more)

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Jul 16

Clandestine Black Hole May Represent New Population

Source: Chandra Space Telescope

VLA J2130+12.
Image credits:X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alberta/B.Tetarenko et al;
Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/AUI/NRAO/Curtin Univ./J. Miller-Jones.

Astronomers have identified the true nature of an unusual source in the Milky Way galaxy. As described in our latest press release, this discovery implies that there could be a much larger number of black holes in the Galaxy that have previously been unaccounted for.

The result was made by combining data from many different telescopes that detect various forms of light, each providing key pieces of information. These telescopes included NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, NSF's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), Green Bank Telescope, Arecibo Observatory, and the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network. (learn more)

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Jul 16

Stellar Outburst Brings Water Snow Line Into View

Source: ESO Science Release eso1626

eso1626aArtist’s impression of the water snowline around the young star V883 Orionis.
Image credits: A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF)/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO).

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has made the first ever resolved observation of a water snow line within a protoplanetary disc. This line marks where the temperature in the disc surrounding a young star drops sufficiently low for snow to form. A dramatic increase in the brightness of the young star V883 Orionis flash heated the inner portion of the disc, pushing the water snow line out to a far greater distance than is normal for a protostar, and making it possible to observe it for the first time. The results are published in the journal Nature on 14 July 2016. (learn more)

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Jul 16

Deepest Ever Look into Orion

Source: ESO Science Release eso1625

This spectacular image of the Orion Nebula star-formation region was obtained from multiple exposures using the HAWK-I infrared camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. This is the deepest view ever of this region and reveals more very faint planetary-mass objects than expected.

ESO’s HAWK-I infrared instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile has been used to peer deeper into the heart of Orion Nebula than ever before. The spectacular picture reveals about ten times as many brown dwarfs and isolated planetary-mass objects than were previously known. This discovery poses challenges for the widely accepted scenario for Orion’s star formation history.(learn more)

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Jul 16

A Surprising Planet with Three Suns

Source: ESO Science Release eso1624

Artist’s impression of planet in the HD 131399 system.
Image credits: ESO/L.Calçada.

A team of astronomers have used the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope to image the first planet ever found in a wide orbit inside a triple-star system. The orbit of such a planet had been expected to be unstable, probably resulting in the planet being quickly ejected from the system. But somehow this one survives. This unexpected observation suggests that such systems may actually be more common than previously thought. The results will be published online in the journal Science on 7 July 2016. (learn more)

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Jul 16

The Crab Nebula as never seen before

Source: ESA/Hubble Photo Release heic1614

While many other images of the famous Crab Nebula nebula have focused on the filaments in the outer part of the nebula, this image shows the very heart of the Crab Nebula including the central neutron star — it is the rightmost of the two bright stars near the centre of this image. The rapid motion of the material nearest to the central star is revealed by the subtle rainbow of colours in this time-lapse image, the rainbow effect being due to the movement of material over the time between one image and another.

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the beating heart of one of the most visually appealing, and most studied, supernova remnants known — the Crab Nebula. At the centre of this nebula the spinning core of a deceased star breathes life into the gas that surrounds it. (learn more)

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Jul 16

Hubble captures vivid auroras in Jupiter’s atmospher

Source: ESA/Hubble Photo Release heic1613

heic1613aAuroras on Jupiter.
Image credits: NASA, ESA.

Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras — stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere — on the poles of the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. This observation programme is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently on its way to Jupiter. (learn more)

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Jun 16

Hubble nets a cosmic tadpole

Source: ESA/Hubble Photo Release heic1612

heic1612aLEDA 36252, a cosmic tadpole.
image credits:NASA, ESA, and D. Elmegreen (Vassar College), B. Elmegreen (IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center), J. Almeida, C. Munoz-Tunon, and M. Filho (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias), J. Mendez-Abreu (University of St. Andrews), J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), M. Rafelski (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and D. Ceverino (Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University)

This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a cosmic tadpole, with its bright head and elongated tail, wriggling through the inky black pool of space. Tadpole galaxies are rare and difficult to find in the local Universe. This striking example, named LEDA 36252, was explored as part of a Hubble study into their mysterious properties — with interesting results.(learn more)

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Jun 16

Jupiter Awaits Arrival of Juno

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1623

In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft in July 2016, astronomers used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter using the VISIR instrument. They are part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet to inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the following months, helping astronomers to better understand the gas giant. This false-colour image was created by selecting and combining the best images obtained from many short VISIR exposures at a wavelength of 5 micrometres.

In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter. They are part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the coming months, helping astronomers to better understand the gas giant ahead of Juno’s close encounter. (learn more)

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Jun 16

New Horizons Sees a ‘Super Grand Canyon’ on Pluto’s Moon Charon

Source: NASA


Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, is home to an unusual canyon system that’s far longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon. The inset above magnifies a portion of the eastern limb in the global view of Charon at left, imaged by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft several hours before its closest approach on July 14, 2015. A deep canyon informally named Argo Chasma is seen grazing the limb.
The section of it seen here measures approximately 185 miles (300 kilometers) long. As far as New Horizons scientists can tell, Argo’s total length is approximately 430 miles (700 kilometers) long – for comparison, Arizona’s Grand Canyon is 280 miles (450 kilometers) long.
At this fortuitous viewing angle the canyon is seen edge-on, and at the northern end of the canyon its depth can be easily gauged. Based on this and other images taken around the same time, New Horizons scientists estimate Argo Chasma to be as deep as 5.5 miles (9 kilometers), which is more than five times the depth of the Grand Canyon. There appear to be locations along the canyon’s length where sheer cliffs reaching several miles high occur, and which could potentially rival Verona Rupes on Uranus’ moon Miranda (which is at least 3 miles, or 5 kilometers, high) for the title of tallest known cliff face in the solar system.
The image was obtained by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at a resolution of approximately 1.45 miles (2.33 kilometers) per pixel. It was taken at a range of approximately 289,000 miles (466,000 kilometers) from Charon, 9 hours and 22 minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to Charon on July 14, 2015.
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. In addition to being the home of the mission principal investigator, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and science planning. New Horizons is the first mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. (NASA news)
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Jun 16

Unexpected Excess of Giant Planets in Star Cluster

Source: Science Release eso1621

eso1621aArtist’s impression of a hot Jupiter exoplanet in the star cluster Messier 67 .
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada.

An international team of astronomers have found that there are far more planets of the hot Jupiter type than expected in a cluster of stars called Messier 67. This surprising result was obtained using a number of telescopes and instruments, among them the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The denser environment in a cluster will cause more frequent interactions between planets and nearby stars, which may explain the excess of hot Jupiters. (learn more)

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Jun 16

Successful First Observations of Galactic Centre with GRAVITY

Source: ESO Organisation Release eso1622

eso1622aArtist’s impression of the star S2 passing very close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada.

A European team of astronomers have used the new GRAVITY instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain exciting observations of the centre of the Milky Way by combining light from all four of the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes for the first time. These results provide a taste of the groundbreaking science that GRAVITY will produce as it probes the extremely strong gravitational fields close to the central supermassive black hole and tests Einstein’s general relativity. (learn more)

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