18
Dec 11

A Galaxy Blooming with New Stars — VLT Survey Telescope snaps wide-field view of NGC 253

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1152


Wide-field view of NGC 253 from the VLT Survey Telescope.
Image credits: ESO/INAF-VST.

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) has captured the beauty of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253. The new portrait is probably the most detailed wide-field view of this object and its surroundings ever taken. It demonstrates that the VST, the newest telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory, provides broad views of the sky while also offering impressive image sharpness.(read more)

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14
Dec 11

VLT spots cloud being disrupted by black hole

Source: ESO Science Release eso1151


Simulation of the cloud being disrupted by a black hole.
Image credits: ESO/MPE/Marc Schartmann.

Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have discovered a gas cloud with several times the mass of the Earth accelerating fast towards the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. This is the first time ever that the approach of such a doomed cloud to a supermassive black hole has been observed. The results will be published in the 5 January 2012 issue of the journal Nature.(read more)

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13
Dec 11

Vampire Star Reveals its Secrets

Source: ESO Science Release eso1148


The unusual double star SS Leporis.
Image credits: ESO/PIONIER/IPAG.

Astronomers have obtained the best images ever of a star that has lost most of its material to a vampire companion. By combining the light captured by four telescopes at ESO’s Paranal Observatory they created a virtual telescope 130 metres across with vision 50 times sharper than the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Surprisingly, the new results show that the transfer of mass from one star to the other in this double system is gentler than expected.

The astronomers observed the unusual system SS Leporis in the constellation of Lepus (The Hare), which contains two stars that circle around each other in 260 days. The stars are separated by only a little more than the distance between the Sun and the Earth, while the largest and coolest of the two stars extends to one quarter of this distance — corresponding roughly to the orbit of Mercury. Because of this closeness, the hot companion has already cannibalised about half of the mass of the larger star.(read more)

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29
Sep 11

Feast your Eyes on the Fried Egg Nebula

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1136


The rare yellow hypergiant star called IRAS 17163-3907.
Image credits: ESO/E. Lagadec.

Astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to image a colossal star that belongs to one of the rarest classes of stars in the Universe, the yellow hypergiants. The new picture is the best ever taken of a star in this class and shows for the first time a huge dusty double shell surrounding the central hypergiant. The star and its shells resemble an egg white around a yolky centre, leading the astronomers to nickname the object the Fried Egg Nebula. (learn more)

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31
Aug 11

The Star That Should Not Exist

Source:ESO Science Release eso1132


SDSS J102915+17292, a star that should not exist.
Image credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2.

A team of European astronomers has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to track down a star in the Milky Way that many thought was impossible. They discovered that this star is composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with only remarkably small amounts of other chemical elements in it. This intriguing composition places it in the “forbidden zone” of a widely accepted theory of star formation, meaning that it should never have come into existence in the first place. The results will appear in the 1 September 2011 issue of the journal Nature. (read more)

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24
Aug 11

VLT Looks into The Eyes of the Virgin

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1131


VLT Looks into The Eyes of the Virgin.
Image credits: ESO/Gems project.

ESO’s Very Large Telescope has taken a striking image of a beautiful yet peculiar pair of galaxies nicknamed The Eyes. The larger of these, NGC 4438, was once a spiral galaxy but has become badly deformed by collisions with other galaxies in the last few hundred million years. This picture is the first to come out of ESO’s Cosmic Gems programme, an initiative in which ESO has granted dedicated observing time for outreach purposes.(read more)

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24
Aug 11

A Spiral in Leo

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1129


Picture of the nearby galaxy NGC 3521.
Image credits: ESO/O. Maliy.

This new picture from ESO’s Very Large Telescope shows NGC 3521, a spiral galaxy located about 35 million light years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). Spanning about 50 000 light-years, this spectacular object has a bright and compact nucleus, surrounded by richly detailed spiral structure.(Read more)

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17
Aug 11

Giant Space Blob Glows from Within

Source: ESO


Lyman-alpha blob LAB-1. Image credits: ESO/M. Hayes.

Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope have shed light on the power source of a rare vast cloud of glowing gas in the early Universe. The observations show for the first time that this giant “Lyman-alpha blob” — one of the largest single objects known — must be powered by galaxies embedded within it. The results appear in the 18 August issue of the journal Nature.(read more)

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27
Jul 11

VST Looks at the Leo Triplet and Beyond

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1126


Leo triplet of galaxies.
Image credit: ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM.
Acknowledgement: OmegaCen/Astro-WISE/Kapteyn Institute

A huge image, from the new VLT Survey Telescope (VST) and its camera OmegaCAM at ESO's Paranal Observatory, shows a triplet of bright galaxies in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). But the faint objects in the background, rather than the foreground galaxies, are what may capture an astronomer’s attention. The VST’s sharp view of these dim objects hints at the power of the telescope and OmegaCAM for mapping the distant Universe. (read more)

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20
Jul 11

N44 - A Cosmic Superbubble

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1125


Nebula LHA 120-N 44 (aka N44) surrounding the star cluster NGC 1929.
Image credits: ESO/Manu Mejias.

ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this striking view of the nebula around the star cluster NGC 1929 within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. A colossal example of what astronomers call a superbubble dominates this stellar nursery. It is being carved by the winds from bright young stars and the shockwaves from supernova explosions.(read more)

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30
Jun 11

Most Distant Quasar Found

Source: ESO Science Release eso1122


An artist’s rendering of the most distant quasar.
Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser.

A team of European astronomers has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope and a host of other telescopes to discover and study the most distant quasar found to date. This brilliant beacon, powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun, is by far the brightest object yet discovered in the early Universe. The results will appear in the 30 June 2011 issue of the journal Nature. (read more)

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8
Jun 11

First images from the VLT Survey Telescope - VST and 268 megapixel OmegaCAM start work

Source: ESO Organisation Release eso1119


VST image of the star-forming region Messier 17.
Image credit: ESO/INAF-VST/OmegaCAM.
Acknowledgement: OmegaCen/Astro-WISE/Kapteyn Institute.

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the latest addition to ESO’s Paranal Observatory, has made its first release of impressive images of the southern sky. The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre telescope, with the huge 268-megapixel camera OmegaCAM at its heart, which is designed to map the sky both quickly and with very fine image quality. It is a visible-light telescope that perfectly complements ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope. New images of the Omega Nebula and the globular cluster Omega Centauri demonstrate the VST’s power. (read more)

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1
Jun 11

NGC 6744 - A spiral galaxy that resembles our Milky Way

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1118

ESO astronomers have used the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope to capture an image of NGC 6744. This impressive spiral galaxy lies about 30 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Pavo (The Peacock). But this view could almost be a picture postcard of our own Milky Way, taken and sent by an extragalactic friend, as this galaxy closely resembles our own. (read more)

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26
May 11

VLT finds a brilliant but solitary Superstar

Source: ESO Science Release eso1117


Star-forming region around the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Image credit: ESO/M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey.
ESO's Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

An extraordinarily bright isolated star has been found in a nearby galaxy — the star is three million times brighter than the Sun. All previous similar “superstars” were found in star clusters, but this brilliant beacon shines in solitary splendour. The origin of this star is mysterious: did it form in isolation or was it ejected from a cluster? Either option challenges astronomers’ understanding of star formation.(read more)

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20
May 11

Cassini spacecraft and VLT see violent Saturn storm

Source: NASA News


False-color infrared image, obtained by Cassini spacecraft,
shows a powerful storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft and a European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope (VLT) tracked the growth of a giant early-spring storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere so powerful it stretches around the entire planet. The rare storm has been wreaking havoc for months and shot plumes of gas high into the planet's atmosphere.

Cassini's radio and plasma wave science instrument first detected the large disturbance, and amateur astronomers tracked its emergence in December 2010. As it rapidly expanded, its core developed into a giant, powerful thunderstorm. The storm produced a 3,000-mile-wide (5,000-kilometer-wide) dark vortex, possibly similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot, within the turbulent atmosphere.

The dramatic effects of the deep plumes disturbed areas high up in Saturn's usually stable stratosphere, generating regions of warm air that shone like bright "beacons" in the infrared. Details are published in this week's edition of Science Magazine. (read more)

Links:

NASA Cassini Mission
ESO Science Release eso1116
NASA Science News

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25
Mar 11

A Very Cool Pair of Brown Dwarfs

Source: ESO Science Release 1110


Artist’s impression shows the pair of brown dwarfs named CFBDSIR 1458+10.
Image credits: ESO/L.Calçada.

Observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, along with two other telescopes, have shown that there is a new candidate for the coldest known star: a brown dwarf in a double system with about the same temperature as a freshly made cup of tea — hot in human terms, but extraordinarily cold for the surface of a star. This object is cool enough to begin crossing the blurred line dividing small cold stars from big hot planets.(read more)

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21
Mar 11

The Drama of Starbirth — new-born stars wreak havoc in their nursery

Source: ESO Photo Release eso1109

A new image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope gives a close-up view of the dramatic effects new-born stars have on the gas and dust from which they formed. Although the stars themselves are not visible, material they have ejected is colliding with the surrounding gas and dust clouds and creating a surreal landscape of glowing arcs, blobs and streaks. (read more)

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9
Mar 11

The Most Distant Mature Galaxy Cluster — Young, but surprisingly grown-up

Source: ESO Science Release eso1108

The most remote mature cluster of galaxies yet found.
Credit: ESO/NOAJ/Subaru/R. Gobat

Astronomers have used an armada of telescopes on the ground and in space, including the Very Large Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile to discover and measure the distance to the most remote mature cluster of galaxies yet found. Although this cluster is seen when the Universe was less than one quarter of its current age it looks surprisingly similar to galaxy clusters in the current Universe. (read more)

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24
Feb 11

ESO makes probable first planet formation detection

Source: ESO Science Release eso1106 - Planet Formation in Action? — Astronomers may have found the first object clearing its path in the natal disc surrounding a young star


Artist’s impression of the disc around the young star T Cha.
Image credit: ESO/L.Calçada.

Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope an international team of astronomers has been able to study the short-lived disc of material around a young star that is in the early stages of making a planetary system. For the first time a smaller companion could be detected that may be the cause of the large gap found in the disc. Future observations will determine whether this companion is a planet or a brown dwarf.(read more)

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