Press Releases

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eso9611 — Photo Release
First Spectrum of Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake)
11 February 1996: This diagramme shows the first spectrum obtained of comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake), which is expected to pass near the Earth in late March 1996. It was taken by Tomaz Zwitter, visiting astronomer at the ESO La Silla Observatory from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. It has been flux- [(erg/s/cm2/A) within 2x14 arcsecond slit centered on comet] and wavelength- [Angstrom] calibrated.
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.
eso9609 — Photo Release
First NTT Image of Comet Hale-Bopp after Solar Conjunction
9 February 1996: This false-colour image of Comet Hale-Bopp is the first to be obtained with a major astronomical telescope after the recent conjunction with the Sun. At the time of this observation, the comet was located in the southern constellation of Sagittarius, and only 32 degrees from the Sun.
eso9608 — Photo Release
Split Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (January 31, 1996)
9 February 1996: This new image obtained with ESO's New Technology Telescope (NTT) shows the split nucleus of comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.
eso9607 — Science Release
ENACS Survey of Southern Galaxies Indicates Open Universe
9 February 1996: In the context of a comprehensive Key-Programme , carried out with telescopes at the ESO La Silla Observatory, a team of European astronomers [1]. has recently obtained radial velocities for more than 5600 galaxies in about 100 rich clusters of galaxies. With this programme the amount of information about the motions of galaxies (the kinematical data) in such clusters has almost been doubled. This has allowed the team to study the distribution of the cluster masses, and also the dynamical state of clusters in new and interesting ways.
eso9606 — Photo Release
Hunting Mirages in The Southern Sky
9 February 1996: One more cosmic mirage has been found with the ESO 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT). It consists of two images of the same quasar, seen very close to each other in the southern constellation of Hydra (The Water-Snake).
eso9605 — Organisation Release
Enclosure for VLT Unit Telescope no. 1 (January 1996)
2 February 1996: This photo was obtained on 15 January 1996 and shows the progression of the work on the enclosure for VLT Unit Telescope no. 1 on Cerro Paranal.
eso9604 — Organisation Release
Views from the VLT Observatory at Paranal - January 1996
2 February 1996: This aerial photo was obtained on 16 January 1996 and shows the progression of the work at the VLT Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama desert, about 130 km south of the town of Antofagasta.
eso9603 — Science Release
New 'Moons' of Saturn May Be Transient Objects
19 January 1996: How many moons has Saturn, the second-largest planet in the solar system? Until recently, the best answer was eighteen, ranging from innermost Pan that circles the planet 75,000 km above the cloud tops in a little less than 14 hours, to distant Phoebe, 13 million km away in a reverse ('retrograde') 550-day orbit [1]. Now the situation is less clear.
eso9602 — Organisation Release
ESO and Australia to Discuss Future Collaboration
12 January 1996: For some time, the astronomical community in Australia has expressed interest in closer ties to ESO. One of the main reasons is the construction of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), of which the first 8.2 m unit telescope is scheduled for completion less than 2 years from now.
eso9601 — Science Release
Maverick Comet Splits During Dramatic Outburst
5 January 1996: A few months ago, Periodic Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 underwent a dramatic and completely unexpected, thousand-fold brightening. At that time, the cause for this interesting event was unknown. However, observations with the two largest ESO telescopes have now shown that the "dirty snowball" nucleus of this comet has recently split into at least four individual pieces. There is little doubt that the outburst and the splitting event(s) are closely related and that the greatly increased dust and gas production is due to "fresh" material of the icy cometary nucleus becoming exposed to the surrounding space for the first time.
eso9534 — Organisation Release
ESO Council Visits First VLT Unit Telescope Structure in Milan
5 December 1995: As the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) rapidly takes on shape, Europe has just come one step closer to the realisation of its 556 million DEM astronomical showcase project.
eso9533 — Organisation Release
'Young Astronomers' Observe with ESO Telescopes
20 November 1995: Today, forty 16-18 year old students and their teachers are concluding a one-week, educational `working visit' to the ESO Headquarters in Garching (See ESO Press Release 14/95 of 8 November 1995). They are the winners of the Europe-wide contest `Europe Towards the Stars', organised by ESO with the support of the European Union, under the auspices of the Third European Week for Scientific and Technological Culture.
eso9532 — Science Release
A Surprise From the Pulsar in the Crab Nebula
20 November 1995: New observations of the spectrum of the rapidly spinning neutron star (the `pulsar') in the Crab Nebula have been carried out with the ESO 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) by a group of Italian astronomers [1]. Because of greatly improved spectral resolution which allows to register even very fine details in the pulsar's spectrum, they are able to determine for the first time with high accuracy the overall dependance of the emission on wavelength, i.e. the 'shape' of the spectrum. Quite unexpectedly, they also detect a hitherto unknown 100 A (10 nm) broad 'absorption dip', which can be securely attributed to the pulsar. These results open an exciting new window for the study of the extreme physical processes close to a pulsar.
eso9531 — Organisation Release
Enclosure for VLT Unit Telescope No. 1 in October 1995
13 November 1995: This photo shows the state of construction of the enclosure (`dome') for VLT Unit Telescope No. 1 on Paranal in late October 1995. It will be ready in 1996, and will later serve to protect the first 8.2-metre VLT telescope, for which the 'first light' is foreseen in late 1997/early 1998.
eso9530 — Organisation Release
First Giant Mirror for the ESO VLT Ready at REOSC
13 November 1995: In 1989, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the European Organisation for Astronomy, awarded to REOSC, a subsidiary of the SFIM Group and located in Saint Pierre du Perray (France), a comprehensive contract for the polishing of four 8.2-metre diameter mirrors for the unit telescopes of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) project. These mirrors are the largest ever manufactured and polished. This contract comprises not only the polishing and high-precision optical testing of each giant mirror, but also the safe condition of transportation of the blanks which were manufactured by Schott Glaswerke in Mainz (Germany). In order to fulfill the contract, REOSC conceived, built and equipped a novel, high-tech workshop which would allow to polish and test the mirrors, each of which has a surface area of more than 50 square metres.
eso9529 — Organisation Release
A Passage to the Universe
8 November 1995: Following the very successful events of 1993 and 1994 [1], ESO again opens its doors for an 'educational adventure' next week. It takes place within the framework of the 'Third European Week for Scientific and Technological Culture', initiated and supported by the European Commission. On Tuesday, November 14, 1995, about forty 16-18 year old students and their teachers will converge towards Munich from all corners of Europe. They are the happy winners of a Europe-wide astronomy contest (`Europe Towards the Stars') that took place during the summer and early autumn. Their prize is a free, week-long stay at the Headquarters of the European Southern Observatory. During this time they will work with professional astronomers and get a hands-on experience within modern astronomy and astrophysics at one of the world's foremost international centres.
eso9528 — Science Release
A Galaxy is Born in a Swirling Hydrogen Cloud
23 October 1995: Astronomers from the University of Leiden have discovered an extremely distant, enormous gas cloud. It is probably a 'cocoon' from which one or more galaxies are in the process of being born, soon after the Big Bang. The observations also indicate that this gas cloud is slowly rotating, an entirely new result of great cosmological significance. The discovery was made with the ESO 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) at La Silla in Chile by a team consisting of Rob van Ojik, Huub Röttgering, Chris Carilli, George Miley and Malcolm Bremer from Leiden Observatory (The Netherlands) and Duccio Macchetto of the European Space Agency (ESA) stationed in Baltimore, U.S.A. Their extensive observations are reported in an article accepted for publication in the professional European journal `Astronomy and Astrophysics' and also as a chapter of van Ojik's Ph.D. thesis which is defended at the University of Leiden on October 25. This exciting result casts new light on one of the most important questions of modern cosmology, i.e. how lumpy galaxies were 'born' out of the extremely smooth fireball produced during the Big Bang.
eso9527 — Organisation Release
The Coming of Age of Adaptive Optics
23 October 1995: Adaptive Optics (AO) is the new "wonder-weapon" in ground-based astronomy. By means of advanced electro-optical devices at their telescopes, astronomers are now able to ``neutralize'' the image-smearing turbulence of the terrestrial atmosphere (seen by the unaided eye as the twinkling of stars) so that much sharper images can be obtained than before. In practice, this is done with computer-controlled, flexible mirrors which refocus the blurred images up to 100 times per second, i.e. at a rate that is faster than the changes in the atmospheric turbulence.
eso9526 — Science Release
ESO Astronomers Detect a Galaxy at the Edge of the Universe
15 September 1995: Four European astronomers [1] have taken advantage of the superb imaging quality of the ESO 3.5-metre New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla observatory, to detect a galaxy at an extremely large distance. They conclude that its redshift [2] is z = 4.4; thus, this galaxy is by far the most remote ever detected. In fact, it has taken its light about 90 percent of the age of the Universe to reach us, and we now observe this early object as it appeared, only 1 - 2 billion years [3] after the Universe was created in the Big Bang. Still, the galaxy contains a considerable amount of elements that must have been produced in stars. This proves that stars were formed in normal galaxies, already before this very early epoch.