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eso1410 — Science Release
First Ring System Around Asteroid
26 March 2014: Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO’s La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disc of debris. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 26 March 2014.
eso1320 — Photo Release
An Anarchic Region of Star Formation
2 May 2013: The Danish 1.54-metre telescope located at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has captured a striking image of NGC 6559, an object that showcases the anarchy that reigns when stars form inside an interstellar cloud.
eso1204 — Science Release
Planet Population is Plentiful
11 January 2012: An international team, including three astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), has used the technique of gravitational microlensing to measure how common planets are in the Milky Way. After a six-year search that surveyed millions of stars, the team concludes that planets around stars are the rule rather than the exception. The results will appear in the journal Nature on 12 January 2012.
eso0603 — Science Release
It's Far, It's Small, It's Cool: It's an Icy Exoplanet!
25 January 2006: Using a network of telescopes scattered across the globe, including the Danish 1.54m telescope at ESO La Silla (Chile), astronomers [1] discovered a new extrasolar planet significantly more Earth-like than any other planet found so far. The planet, which is only about 5 times as massive as the Earth, circles its parent star in about 10 years. It is the least massive exoplanet around an ordinary star detected so far and also the coolest [2]. The planet most certainly has a rocky/icy surface. Its discovery marks a groundbreaking result in the search for planets that support life.
eso0533 — Science Release
Flashes Shed Light on Cosmic Clashes
6 October 2005: An international team of astronomers led by Danish astronomer Jens Hjorth [1] has for the first time observed the visible light from a short gamma-ray burst (GRB). Using the 1.5m Danish telescope at La Silla (Chile), they showed that these short, intense bursts of gamma-ray emission most likely originate from the violent collision of two merging neutron stars. The same team has also used ESO's Very Large Telescope to constrain the birthplace of the first ever short burst whose position could be pinpointed with high precision, GRB 050509B. The results are being published in the October 6 issue of the journal Nature. Gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful type of explosion known in the Universe, have been a mystery for three decades. They come in two different flavours, long and short ones. Over the past few years, international efforts have convincingly shown that long gamma-ray bursts are linked with the ultimate explosion of massive stars.
eso0411 — Science Release
Milky Way Past Was More Turbulent Than Previously Known
6 April 2004: A team of astronomers from Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden [2] has achieved a major breakthrough in our understanding of the Milky Way, the galaxy in which we live. After more than 1,000 nights of observations spread over 15 years, they have determined the spatial motions of more than 14,000 solar-like stars residing in the neighbourhood of the Sun. For the first time, the changing dynamics of the Milky Way since its birth can now be studied in detail and with a stellar sample sufficiently large to allow a sound analysis. The astronomers find that our home galaxy has led a much more turbulent and chaotic life than previously assumed.
eso0136 — Photo Release
An Infrared Portrait of the Barred Spiral Galaxy Messier 83
29 November 2001: Messier 83 (M83) is a relatively nearby spiral galaxy with a pronounced bar-like structure. It is located in the southern constellation Hydra (The Water-Snake) and is also known as NGC 5236; the distance is approximately 12 million light-years. Images of M83 obtained in visible light - like the VLT photo published exactly two years ago - show clumpy, well-defined spiral arms that are rich in young stars while the disk reveals a complex system of intricate dust lanes. This galaxy is known to be a site of vigorous star formation and no less than six supernovae (exploding stars) have been observed in M83 during the past century. It is a fairly symmetrical object and possesses no nearby companions.
eso0107 — Science Release
Ashes from the Elder Brethren
2 March 2001: Globular clusters are very massive assemblies of stars. More than 100 are known in the Milky Way galaxy and most of them harbour several million stars. They are very dense - at their centers, the typical distance between individual stars is comparable to the size of the Solar System, or 100 to 1000 times closer than the corresponding distances between stars in the solar neighborhood. Globular clusters are among the oldest objects known , with estimated ages of 11 to 15 billion years [1]. All stars in a globular cluster were formed at nearly the same moment, and from the same parent cloud of gas and dust. The original chemical composition of all stars is therefore the same. But now, an international group of astronomers [2], working with the UVES Spectrograph at the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), have obtained some unexpected results during a detailed analysis of dwarf stars in some globular clusters . Such stars have about the same mass as our Sun and like it, they evolve very slowly. Thus they still ought to have about the same abundances of most chemical elements.
eso9838 — Photo Release
First ESO Image of New Comet 1998 P1
12 August 1998: A new comet was discovered on August 10 by amateur astronomer Peter Williams of Heathcote (near Sydney, Australia). Having received information about this, other observers on that continent sighted the new object yesterday, August 11.
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.
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).
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.
eso9616 — Photo Release
Comet Hyakutake's Spectrum Develops Normally
4 March 1996: Spectra of Comet Hyakutake were obtained at the ESO La Silla Observatory on February 29.3 UT by Klaus Simon (Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Munich, Germany) and Chris Lidman (ESO-Chile). They used the Danish 1.54-m telescope with the multi-mode DFOSC instrument and a large CCD. The slit was centred on the brightest part of the cometary coma. The frames were reduced by S. Benetti (ESO-Chile).
eso9615 — Photo Release
The Innermost Coma of Comet Hyakutake
2 March 1996: These false-colour images are reproductions from a short-exposure CCD frame, obtained with the Danish 1.54-metre telescope and the DFOSC instrument with a 2052 x 2052 pix Loral/Lesser CCD. They show the innermost coma of Comet Hyakutake and the pronounced asymmetry of the dust distribution around the nucleus.
eso9614 — Photo Release
Comet Hyakutake Develops Two Tails
21 February 1996: During the first weeks following its discovery on January 31, 1996, Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) has gradually brightened from magnitude 11-12 to 8. As it moves nearer to the Sun and is headed for a close approach to the Earth in late March 1996, the observers continue to describe it as diffuse, with a central condensation, but no typical comet tails were seen so far.
eso9610 — Photo Release
Images of Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake)
11 February 1996: These false-colour photos show the first images of comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake), obtained with the DFOSC instrument at the Danish 1.54-metre telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory. This comet is expected to become quite bright when it passes near the Earth in late March 1996.
eso9522 — Photo Release
The Spectacular Jet in Comet Hale-Bopp
1 September 1995: A new image of comet Hale-Bopp, taken at ESO's observatory in La Silla, sheds new light on the structure of this peculiar comet.
eso9411 — Science Release
Omega Centauri: Big, Bright and Beautiful
27 May 1994: Far down in the southern sky, in the constellation of Centaurus, a diffuse spot of light can be perceived with the unaided eye. It may be unimpressive, but when seen through a telescope, it turns out to be a beautiful, dense cluster of innumerable stars [1]. Omega Centauri, as this object is called, is the brightest of its type in the sky. We refer to it as a "globular cluster", due to its symmetric form. It belongs to our Milky Way galaxy and astrophysical investigations have shown that it is located at a distance of about 16,500 light-years (1 light-year = 9,460,000,000,000 km). Nobody knows for sure how many individual stars it contains, but recent estimates run into the millions. Most of these stars are more than 10,000 million years old and it is generally agreed that Omega Centauri has a similar age. Measurements of its motion indicate that Omega Centauri plows through the Milky Way in an elongated orbit. It is not easy to understand how it has managed to keep its stars together during such an extended period.
eso9410 — Science Release
ESO Braces for the Impact
20 May 1994: There are many signs that the upcoming collision between comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 and giant planet Jupiter is beginning to catch the imagination of the public. Numerous reports in the various media describe the effects expected during this unique event which according to the latest calculations will start in the evening of July 16 and end in the morning of July 22, 1994. (The times in this Press Release are given in Central European Summer Time (CEST), i.e., Universal Time (UT) + 2 hours. The corresponding local time in Chile is CEST - 6 hours.) Astronomers all over the world are now preparing to observe the associated phenomena with virtually all major telescopes. There will be no less than 12 different investigations at the ESO La Silla observatory during this period. This Press Release updates the information published in ESO PR 02/94 (27 January 1994) and provides details about the special services which will be provided by ESO to the media around this rare astronomical event.
eso9305 — Photo Release
Another Trans-plutonian Minor Planet: 1993 FW
1 June 1993: On March 28, 1993, American astronomers David Jewitt and Jane Luu on Hawaii discovered a slow-moving minor planet of magnitude 23. More observations were made the following night, confirming the unusual motion and indicating that it is located at a very large distance from the Sun, possibly far beyond Pluto, the outermost known, major planet. It was given the preliminary designation 1993 FW (IAU Circular 5730)
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