Press Releases

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eso1047 — Science Release
First Super-Earth Atmosphere Analysed
1 December 2010: The atmosphere around a super-Earth exoplanet has been analysed for the first time by an international team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The planet, which is known as GJ 1214b, was studied as it passed in front of its parent star and some of the starlight passed through the planet’s atmosphere. We now know that the atmosphere is either mostly water in the form of steam or is dominated by thick clouds or hazes. The results will appear in the 2 December 2010 issue of the journal Nature.
eso1046 — Science Release
Pulsating Star Mystery Solved
24 November 2010: By discovering the first double star where a pulsating Cepheid variable and another star pass in front of one another, an international team of astronomers has solved a decades-old mystery. The rare alignment of the orbits of the two stars in the double star system has allowed a measurement of the Cepheid mass with unprecedented accuracy. Up to now astronomers had two incompatible theoretical predictions of Cepheid masses. The new result shows that the prediction from stellar pulsation theory is spot on, while the prediction from stellar evolution theory is at odds with the new observations.
eso1045 — Science Release
Planet from another galaxy discovered
18 November 2010: An exoplanet orbiting a star that entered our Milky Way from another galaxy has been detected by a European team of astronomers using the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The Jupiter-like planet is particularly unusual, as it is orbiting a star nearing the end of its life and could be about to be engulfed by it, giving tantalising clues about the fate of our own planetary system in the distant future.
eso1044 — Photo Release
Atoms-for-Peace: A Galactic Collision in Action
10 November 2010: European Southern Observatory astronomers have produced a spectacular new image of the famous Atoms-for-Peace galaxy (NGC 7252). This galactic pile-up, formed by the collision of two galaxies, provides an excellent opportunity for astronomers to study how mergers affect the evolution of the Universe.
eso1043 — Organisation Release
EVALSO: A New High-speed Data Link to Chilean Observatories
4 November 2010: Stretching 100 kilometres through Chile’s harsh Atacama Desert, a newly inaugurated data cable is creating new opportunities at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and the Observatorio Cerro Armazones. Connecting these facilities to the main Latin American scientific data backbone completes the last gap in the high-speed link between the observatories and Europe.
eso1042 — Photo Release
Spiral Galaxies Stripped Bare
27 October 2010: Six spectacular spiral galaxies are seen in a clear new light in images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The pictures were taken in infrared light, using the impressive power of the HAWK-I camera, and will help astronomers understand how the remarkable spiral patterns in galaxies form and evolve.
eso1041 — Science Release
Clearing the Cosmic Fog
20 October 2010: A European team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has measured the distance to the most remote galaxy so far. By carefully analysing the very faint glow of the galaxy they have found that they are seeing it when the Universe was only about 600 million years old (a redshift of 8.6). These are the first confirmed observations of a galaxy whose light is clearing the opaque hydrogen fog that filled the cosmos at this early time. The results were presented at an online press conference with the scientists on 19 October 2010, and will appear in the 21 October issue of the journal Nature.
eso1040 — Science Release
Growing Galaxies Gently
13 October 2010: New observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope have, for the first time, provided direct evidence that young galaxies can grow by sucking in the cool gas around them and using it as fuel for the formation of many new stars. In the first few billion years after the Big Bang the mass of a typical galaxy increased dramatically and understanding why this happened is one of the hottest problems in modern astrophysics. The results appear in the 14 October issue of the journal Nature.
eso1039 — Photo Release
VISTA Reveals the Secret of the Unicorn
6 October 2010: A new infrared image from ESO’s VISTA survey telescope reveals an extraordinary landscape of glowing tendrils of gas, dark clouds and young stars within the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn). This star-forming region, known as Monoceros R2, is embedded within a huge dark cloud. The region is almost completely obscured by interstellar dust when viewed in visible light, but is spectacular in the infrared.
eso1038 — Photo Release
An Elegant Galaxy in an Unusual Light
22 September 2010: A new image taken with the powerful HAWK-I camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope at Paranal Observatory in Chile shows the beautiful barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 in infrared light. NGC 1365 is a member of the Fornax cluster of galaxies, and lies about 60 million light-years from Earth.
eso1037 — Photo Release
A Nearby Galactic Exemplar
8 September 2010: ESO has released a spectacular new image of NGC 300, a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way, and located in the nearby Sculptor Group of galaxies. Taken with the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, this 50-hour exposure reveals the structure of the galaxy in exquisite detail. NGC 300 lies about six million light-years away and appears to be about two thirds the size of the full Moon on the sky.
eso1036 — Photo Release
The Superwind Galaxy NGC 4666
1 September 2010: The galaxy NGC 4666 takes pride of place at the centre of this new image, made in visible light with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. NGC 4666 is a remarkable galaxy with very vigorous star formation and an unusual “superwind” of out-flowing gas. It had previously been observed in X-rays by the ESA XMM-Newton space telescope, and the image presented here was taken to allow further study of other objects detected in the earlier X-ray observations.
eso1035 — Science Release
Richest Planetary System Discovered
24 August 2010: Astronomers using ESO’s world-leading HARPS instrument have discovered a planetary system containing at least five planets, orbiting the Sun-like star HD 10180. The researchers also have tantalising evidence that two other planets may be present, one of which would have the lowest mass ever found. This would make the system similar to our Solar System in terms of the number of planets (seven as compared to the Solar System’s eight planets). Furthermore, the team also found evidence that the distances of the planets from their star follow a regular pattern, as also seen in our Solar System.
eso1034 — Science Release
How Much Mass Makes a Black Hole?
18 August 2010: Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, European astronomers have for the first time demonstrated that a magnetar — an unusual type of neutron star — was formed from a star with at least 40 times as much mass as the Sun. The result presents great challenges to current theories of how stars evolve, as a star as massive as this was expected to become a black hole, not a magnetar. This now raises a fundamental question: just how massive does a star really have to be to become a black hole?
eso1033 — Photo Release
Ambitious Survey Spots Stellar Nurseries
11 August 2010: Astronomers scanning the skies as part of ESO’s VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey have now obtained a spectacular picture of the Tarantula Nebula in our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. This panoramic near-infrared view captures the nebula itself in great detail as well as the rich surrounding area of sky. The image was obtained at the start of a very ambitious survey of our neighbouring galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, and their environment.
eso1032 — Science Release
Seeing a Stellar Explosion in 3D
4 August 2010: Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have for the first time obtained a three-dimensional view of the distribution of the innermost material expelled by a recently exploded star. The original blast was not only powerful, according to the new results. It was also more concentrated in one particular direction. This is a strong indication that the supernova must have been very turbulent, supporting the most recent computer models.
eso1031 — Photo Release
Brilliant Star in a Colourful Neighbourhood
28 July 2010: A spectacular new image from ESO’s Wide Field Imager at the La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the brilliant and unusual star WR 22 and its colourful surroundings. WR 22 is a very hot and bright star that is shedding its atmosphere into space at a rate many millions of times faster than the Sun. It lies in the outer part of the dramatic Carina Nebula from which it formed.
eso1030 — Science Release
Stars Just Got Bigger
21 July 2010: Using a combination of instruments on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have discovered the most massive stars to date, one weighing at birth more than 300 times the mass of the Sun, or twice as much as the currently accepted limit of 150 solar masses. The existence of these monsters — millions of times more luminous than the Sun, losing weight through very powerful winds — may provide an answer to the question “how massive can stars be?”
eso1029 — Science Release
Unravelling the Mystery of Massive Star Birth
14 July 2010: Astronomers have obtained the first image of a dusty disc closely encircling a massive baby star, providing direct evidence that massive stars form in the same way as their smaller brethren. This discovery, made thanks to a combination of ESO’s telescopes, is described in an article in this week’s issue of Nature.
eso1028 — Science Release
Black Hole Blows Big Bubble
7 July 2010: Combining observations made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope, astronomers have uncovered the most powerful pair of jets ever seen from a stellar black hole. This object, also known as a microquasar, blows a huge bubble of hot gas, 1000 light-years across, twice as large and tens of times more powerful than other known microquasars. The discovery is reported this week in the journal Nature.
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