Press Releases 2006

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eso0633 — Science Release
Long-lasting but Dim Brethren of Cosmic Flashes
31 August 2006: Astronomers, using ESO's Very Large Telescope, have for the first time made the link between an X-ray flash and a supernova. Such flashes are the little siblings of gamma-ray bursts (GRB) and this discovery suggests the existence of a population of events less luminous than 'classical' GRBs, but possibly much more numerous.
eso0632 — Organisation Release
Catherine Cesarsky elected President of the International Astronomical Union and Ian Corbett elected Assistant General Secretary
24 August 2006: The General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), meeting in Prague (Czech Republic), has elected the ESO Director General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, as President for a three-year period (2006-2009). The IAU is a body of distinguished professional astronomers, founded in 1919 to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. It now has almost 10 000 individual members drawn from all continents. Dr. Cesarsky is the first woman to receive this high distinction. At the same General Assembly, Dr. Ian Corbett, ESO's Deputy Director General, was elected Assistant General Secretary for 2006-2009, with the expectation of becoming General Secretary in 2009-2012.
eso0631 — Science Release
Far Away Galaxy Under The Microscope
17 August 2006: An international group of astronomers have discovered large disc galaxies akin to our Milky Way that must have formed on a rapid time scale, only 3 billion years after the Big Bang. In one of these systems, the combination of adaptive optics techniques with the new SINFONI spectrograph on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) resulted in a record-breaking resolution of a mere 0.15 arcsecond, giving an unprecedented detailed view of the anatomy of such a distant proto-disc galaxy.
eso0630 — Science Release
Stars Too Old to be Trusted?
10 August 2006: Analysing a set of stars in a globular cluster with ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the solution to a critical cosmological and stellar riddle. Until now, an embarrassing question was why the abundance of lithium produced in the Big Bang is a factor 2 to 3 times higher than the value measured in the atmospheres of old stars. The answer, the researchers say, lies in the fact that the abundances of elements measured in a star's atmosphere decrease with time.
eso0629 — Science Release
The 'Planemo' Twins
4 August 2006: The cast of exoplanets has an extraordinary new member. Using ESO's telescopes, astronomers have discovered an approximately seven-Jupiter-mass companion to an object that is itself only twice as hefty. Both objects have masses similar to those of extra-solar giant planets, but they are not in orbit around a star - instead they appear to circle each other. The existence of such a double system puts strong constraints on formation theories of free-floating planetary mass objects.
eso0628 — Science Release
A Sub-Stellar Jonah
3 August 2006: Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have discovered a rather unusual system, in which two planet-size stars, of different colours, orbit each other. One is a rather hot white dwarf, weighing a little bit less than half as much as the Sun. The other is a much cooler, 55 Jupiter-masses brown dwarf.
eso0627 — Photo Release
Island Universes with a Twist
26 July 2006: If life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you will get - the Universe, with its immensely large variety of galaxies, must be a real candy store! ESO's Very Large Telescope has taken images of three different 'Island Universes' [1], each amazing in their own way, whose curious shapes testify of a troubled past, and for one, of a foreseeable doomed future.
eso0626 — Science Release
Looking Deep with Infrared Eyes
21 July 2006: Today, British astronomers are releasing the first data from the largest and most sensitive survey of the heavens in infrared light to the ESO user community. The UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey (UKIDSS) has completed the first of seven years of data collection, studying objects that are too faint to see at visible wavelengths, such as very distant or very cool objects. New data on young galaxies is already challenging current thinking on galaxy formation, revealing galaxies that are massive at a much earlier stage of development than expected. These first science results already show how powerful the full survey will be at finding rare objects that hold vital clues to how stars and galaxies in our Universe formed.
eso0625 — Organisation Release
Towards a European Extremely Large Telescope
18 July 2006: ESO, the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, is taking an important step towards the realisation of a new, giant telescope for Europe's astronomers, by creating the ESO Extremely Large Telescope Project Office. It will be headed by Jason Spyromilio, formerly La Silla Paranal Observatory Director.
eso0624 — Organisation Release
Sub-millimetre Astronomy in Full Swing on Southern Skies
13 July 2006: The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) 12-m sub-millimetre telescope lives up to the ambitions of the scientists by providing access to the "Cold Universe" with unprecedented sensitivity and image quality. As a demonstration, no less than 26 articles based on early science with APEX are published this week in the research journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. Among the many new findings, most in the field of star formation and astrochemistry, are the discovery of a new interstellar molecule, and the detection of light emitted at 0.2 mm from CO molecules, as well as light coming from a charged molecule composed of two forms of Hydrogen.
eso0623 — Science Release
Falling Onto the Dark
3 July 2006: ESO's VLT has helped scientists to discover a large primordial 'blob', more than 10 billion light-years away. The most likely scenario to account for its existence and properties is that it represents the early stage in the formation of a galaxy, when gas falls onto a large clump of dark matter.
eso0622 — Photo Release
The Hooked Galaxy
28 June 2006: Life is not easy, even for galaxies. Some indeed get so close to their neighbours that they get rather distorted. But such encounters between galaxies have another effect: they spawn new generations of stars, some of which explode. ESO's VLT has obtained a unique vista of a pair of entangled galaxies, in which a star exploded.
eso0621 — Organisation Release
ESO and Chile: 10 Years of Productive Scientific Collaboration
19 June 2006: ESO and the Government of Chile launched today the book "10 Years Exploring the Universe", written by the beneficiaries of the ESO-Chile Joint Committee. This annual fund provides grants for individual Chilean scientists, research infrastructures, scientific congresses, workshops for science teachers and astronomy outreach programmes for the public.
eso0620 — Photo Release
The Toucan's Diamond
8 June 2006: The Southern constellation Tucana (the Toucan) is probably best known as the home of the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. But Tucana also hosts another famous object that shines thousands of lights, like a magnificent, oversized diamond in the sky: the globular cluster 47 Tucanae. More popularly known as 47 Tuc, it is surpassed in size and brightness by only one other globular cluster, Omega Centauri.
eso0619 — Science Release
Do 'Planemos' Have Progeny?
6 June 2006: Two new studies, based on observations made with ESO's telescopes, show that objects only a few times more massive than Jupiter are born with discs of dust and gas, the raw material for planet making. This suggests that miniature versions of the solar system may circle objects that are some 100 times less massive than our Sun.
eso0618 — Science Release
Trio of Neptunes and their Belt
18 May 2006: Using the ultra-precise HARPS spectrograph on ESO's 3.6-m telescope at La Silla (Chile), a team of European astronomers have discovered that a nearby star is host to three Neptune-mass planets. The innermost planet is most probably rocky, while the outermost is the first known Neptune-mass planet to reside in the habitable zone. This unique system is likely further enriched by an asteroid belt.
eso0617 — Photo Release
Twin Explosions In Gigantic Dusty Potato Crisp
11 May 2006: ESO's Very Large Telescope, equipped with the multi-mode FORS instrument, took an image of NGC 3190, a galaxy so distorted that astronomers gave it two names. And as if to prove them right, in 2002 it fired off, almost simultaneously, two stellar explosions, a very rare event.
eso0616 — Science Release
Physics in Universe's Youth
8 May 2006: Using a quasar located 12.3 billion light-years away as a beacon, a team of astronomers detected the presence of molecular hydrogen in the farthest system ever, an otherwise invisible galaxy that we observe when the Universe was less than 1.5 billion years old, that is, about 10% of its present age. The astronomers find that there is about one hydrogen molecule for 250 hydrogen atoms. A similar set of observations for two other quasars, together with the most precise laboratory measurements, allows scientists to infer that the ratio of the proton to electron masses may have changed with time. If confirmed, this would have important consequences on our understanding of physics.
eso0615 — Photo Release
The Comet With a Broken Heart
25 April 2006: On the night of April 23 to 24, ESO's Very Large Telescope observed fragment B of the comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 that had split a few days earlier. To their great surprise, the ESO astronomers discovered that the piece just ejected by fragment B was splitting again! Five other mini-comets are also visible on the image. The comet seems thus doomed to disintegrate but the question remains in how much time.
eso0614 — Photo Release
The Great Easter Egg Hunt: The Void's Incredible Richness
14 April 2006: An image made of about 300 million pixels is being released by ESO, based on more than 64 hours of observations with the Wide-Field Camera on the 2.2m telescope at La Silla (Chile). The image covers an 'empty' region of the sky five times the size of the full moon, opening an exceptionally clear view towards the most distant part of our universe. It reveals objects that are 100 million times fainter than what the unaided eye can see.
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