Press Releases

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eso9708 — Science Release
Discovery of a Circumstellar Disk in the Lagoon Nebula
9 April 1997: Circumstellar disks of gas and dust play a crucial role in the formation of stars and planets. Until now, high-resolution images of such disks around young stars within the Orion Nebula obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) constituted the most direct proof of their existence. Now, another circumstellar disk has been detected around a star in the Lagoon Nebula - also known as Messier 8 (M8) , a giant complex of interstellar gas and dust with many young stars in the southern constellation of Sagittarius and four times more distant than the Orion Nebula. The observations were carried out by an international team of scientists led by Bringfried Stecklum (Thüringer Landessternwarte, Tautenburg, Germany) [1] who used telescopes located at the ESO La Silla observatory and also observations from the HST archive. These new results are paving the road towards exciting research programmes on star formation which will become possible with the ESO Very Large Telescope.
eso9707 — Organisation Release
A power plant for the VLT
20 March 1997: These photos show one of the three generating sets (08a/97 and 08b/97) that will constitute the electric power station of the ESO Paranal Observatory of the Very Large Telescope Observatory (VLT).
eso9706 — Science Release
The Biggest Star in the Sky
11 March 1997: An international team of astronomers has used large telescopes in Chile and Australia to measure the biggest star in the sky. The star, designated R Doradus , is of the so-called red giant type and is located in the southern constellation of Dorado. Its apparent diameter (i.e., the size which the star appears to have when seen from the Earth) is larger than any other so far observed, except for the Sun. In particular, it exceeds by more than 30 % that of Betelgeuse , which for the past 75 years has held the title of star with the largest apparent size.
eso9705 — Organisation Release
Bavarian Prime Minister at La Silla
5 March 1997: In the afternoon of March 9, 1997, the Bavarian Prime Minister, Dr. Edmund Stoiber, on the invitation of the Director General of ESO, Professor Riccardo Giacconi, visited the ESO La Silla Observatory, located in an isolated area in the Atacama desert some 600 km north of the Chilean capital.
eso9704 — Organisation Release
ESO Successfully Tests Automation of Telescope Operations
28 February 1997: This week astronomers at the European Southern Observatory have tested a novel approach of doing astronomy from the ground. Inaugurating a new era, the ESO 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) at La Silla successfully performed a series of observations under automatic control by advanced computer software developed by the ESO Data Management Division (DMD) for use with the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT). This move has been made necessary by technological improvements in telescopes and the increasing competition among scientists for these valuable resources.
eso9703 — Science Release
Unexplained Brightening of Unusual Star
15 January 1997: Recent observations with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have documented an unexpected and rapid, seven-fold brightening of an unusual double star at the centre of the impressive 47 Tucanae globular cluster in the southern sky. This is the first HST observation of such a rare phenomenon. The astronomers [1] who are involved in this observational program find that this event cannot be explained by any of the common processes known to occur in such stars.
eso9702 — Science Release
Enigma of Runaway Stars Solved
14 January 1997: The following success story is a classical illustration of scientific progress through concerted interplay of observation and theory. It concerns a 35-year old mystery which has now been solved by means of exciting observations of a strange double star. An added touch is the successive involvement of astronomers connected to the European Southern Observatory.
eso9701 — Organisation Release
Paranal at Night
9 January 1997: This impressive nocturnal image of Cerro Paranal, the site of the ESO VLT Observatory, inaugurates the series of ESO Press Photos in 1997, a decisive year for the Very Large Telescope Project. Only one year now remains until first light will be obtained with the first of the giant 8.2-metre telescopes in the VLT array. Recent daytime aerial photos of Paranal are available as ESO Press Photos 40a+b/96.
eso9643 — Photo Release
Gas and Dust in Comet Hale-Bopp
23 December 1996: This series of four images shows the appearance of Comet Hale Bopp in early November 1996. At this time it was approaching the Sun in the sky, and these images are some of the last made by a major astronomical telescope in 1996. They were made by Hermann Boehnhardt of the Astronomical Institute of the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich (Germany).
eso9642 — Organisation Release
Information from the European Southern Observatory
23 December 1996: These aerial photos, obtained on December 8, 1996, show the rapid construction progress at the site of the VLT Observatory on Cerro Paranal.
eso9641 — Science Release
A Glimpse into the Time Before Quasars Were Born
28 November 1996: According to the widely accepted Big Bang theory, the first galaxies formed by gravitational accretion from slight irregularities in a primordial sea of matter, a process that required considerable time. Hence it would be expected that there would be a delay between the Big Bang and the appearance of the first galaxies. Or, looking back in time from the present, we would expect to find an epoch in the distant past when galaxies had not yet come into being.
eso9640 — Organisation Release
Astronomy On-Line Programme Enters "Hot Week"
13 November 1996: The Astronomy On-line Programme began officially on 1 October and is now about to enter its most intense phase, known as the Hot Week . On 18 - 22 November, an estimated 4000 astronomy-interested, mostly young people in Europe and on four other continents will get together during five days in what - not unexpected - has become the world's biggest astronomy event ever organised on the World Wide Web.
eso9639 — Organisation Release
VLT Main Structure (October 1996)
28 October 1996: The construction of the largest optical telescope in the world, the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) , continues at full speed, aiming at first-light towards the end of 1997. There is hectic activity on all fronts, both at the Paranal Observatory in Chile and at the many involved industrial firms in Europe.
eso9638 — Photo Release
Seven Jets in Comet Hale-Bopp
20 September 1996: This heavily processed image of C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) is based on a CCD frame that was obtained on August 18, 1996, by Nick Thomas (Max-Planck-Institut fuer Aeronomie, Germany) and Heike Rauer (Observatoire de Paris, France), observing with the DFOSC multi-mode instrument on the Danish 1.54-m telescope at La Silla. The frame was taken at 04:20 UT through an R filter (to show the dust around the cometary nucleus) and the integration time was 20 s.
eso9637 — Photo Release
Strange Comet Discovered at ESO
16 September 1996: On August 7, 1996, Eric W. Elst (Royal Observatory, Uccle, Belgium) reported his discovery of a cometary image on mid-July exposures by Guido Pizarro with the 1.0-m ESO Schmidt telescope at the La Silla Observatory. Further ESO Schmidt plates were then obtained, and on August 19, with the help of orbital computations by Brian Marsden (IAU Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, Cambridge, Mass., USA), Elst was able to identify the object on them. Even though the orbit (Period = 5.6 years; inclination = 1.4 deg; eccentricity = 0.17) is entirely characteristic of that of a main-belt minor planet with the implied long-term orbital stability, the continued presence of a tail seemingly confirms the object as a 'comet'. The object now carries the designation 'Comet P/1996 N2 (Elst-Pizarro)'.
eso9636 — Organisation Release
Chilean Senate Ratifies Agreement With ESO
5 September 1996: On 5 September 1996, the Senate of the Republic of Chile (Second Chamber of the Parliament) has ratified the Interpretative, Supplementary and Modifying Agreement to the Convention of 1963, which regulates the relations between the European Southern Observatory and its host country, the Republic of Chile.
eso9635 — Organisation Release
ISAAC Undergoes Tests at ESO
14 August 1996: ISAAC (Infrared Spectrograph And Array Camera) will be the first major instrument to be installed at VLT Unit Telescope no. 1; according to the current planning, this will happen by mid-1998. ESO Press Photo eso9635a shows this complex instrument during the present, thorough technical tests in the Infrared Laboratory at the ESO Headquarters in Garching (Germany).
eso9634 — Organisation Release
New Method for Data Treatment Developed at ESO
2 August 1996: The past four centuries have seen dramatic improvements in astronomical equipment, in terms of better and larger telescopes, more accurate and sensitive detectors and, not the least, by advanced space instruments with access to new spectral regions. However, until recently there has been little progress on another equally important front, that of quantifying the unavoidable influence of this equipment on the astronomical data they produce. For a long time, astronomers have desired to remove efficiently these `instrumental effects' from their data, in order to give them a clearer understanding of the objects in the Universe and their properties. But it is only now that this fundamental problem can finally be tackled efficiently, with the advent of digital imaging techniques and powerful computers.
eso9633 — Science Release
The Unexpected Past of a Dwarf Galaxy
1 August 1996: The Local Group of Galaxies consists of a few large spiral galaxies - for instance the Milky Way galaxy in which we live, and the Andromeda galaxy that is visible to the unaided eye in the northern constellation of the same name - as well as two dozen much smaller galaxies of mostly irregular shape. Whereas the larger galaxies have extended halos of very old stars, no such halos have ever been seen around the smaller ones. Now, however, Dante Minniti and Albert Zijlstra [1], working at the ESO 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT), have found a large halo of old and metal-poor stars around one of the dwarf galaxies in the Local Group. This finding is quite unexpected. It revises our understanding of star formation in these galaxies and provides important information about the past evolution of galaxies [2].
eso9632 — Organisation Release
Turning of the M1 Cell at GIAT
25 July 1996: Each of the giant Zerodur mirrors for the four unit telescopes of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) , with a diameter of 8.2-metres and a total area of more than 50 square metres, will be supported by a complex steel structure, referred to as the M1 Cell . This structure will also support the M3 Tower that protrudes from the central hole of the mirror and carries a flat mirror (M3) that serves to reflect the light towards the Nasmyth platforms on either side of the telescope. On these platforms are placed the heavy instruments that will record the light from celestial objects collected by the telescope.