Press Releases

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eso1147 — Science Release
VLT Finds Fastest Rotating Star
5 December 2011: ESO's Very Large Telescope has picked up the fastest rotating star found so far. This massive bright young star lies in our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 160 000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers think that it may have had a violent past and has been ejected from a double star system by its exploding companion.
eso1146 — Organisation Release
Spanish Crown Prince visits ESO's Paranal Observatory
24 November 2011: On 24 November 2011 ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile was honoured by a visit from Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Asturias.
eso1145 — Photo Release
The Cool Clouds of Carina
16 November 2011: Observations made with the APEX telescope in submillimetre-wavelength light reveal the cold dusty clouds from which stars form in the Carina Nebula. This site of violent star formation, which plays host to some of the highest-mass stars in our galaxy, is an ideal arena in which to study the interactions between these young stars and their parent molecular clouds.
eso1144 — Science Release
Lutetia: a Rare Survivor from the Birth of the Earth
11 November 2011: New observations indicate that the asteroid Lutetia is a leftover fragment of the same original material that formed the Earth, Venus and Mercury. Astronomers have combined data from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft, ESO’s New Technology Telescope, and NASA telescopes. They found that the properties of the asteroid closely match those of a rare kind of meteorites found on Earth and thought to have formed in the inner parts of the Solar System. Lutetia must, at some point, have moved out to its current location in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
eso1143 — Science Release
VLT Observations of Gamma-ray Burst Reveal Surprising Ingredients of Early Galaxies
2 November 2011: An international team of astronomers has used the brief but brilliant light of a distant gamma-ray burst as a probe to study the make-up of very distant galaxies. Surprisingly the new observations, made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope, have revealed two galaxies in the young Universe that are richer in the heavier chemical elements than the Sun. The two galaxies may be in the process of merging. Such events in the early Universe will drive the formation of many new stars and may be the trigger for gamma-ray bursts.
eso1142 — Science Release
Faraway Eris is Pluto's Twin
26 October 2011: Astronomers have accurately measured the diameter of the faraway dwarf planet Eris for the first time by catching it as it passed in front of a faint star. This event was seen at the end of 2010 by telescopes in Chile, including the Belgian TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. The observations show that Eris is an almost perfect twin of Pluto in size. Eris appears to have a very reflective surface, suggesting that it is uniformly covered in a thin layer of ice, probably a frozen atmosphere. The results will be published in the 27 October 2011 issue of the journal Nature.
eso1141 — Photo Release
VISTA Finds New Globular Star Clusters
19 October 2011: Two newly discovered globular clusters have been added to the total of just 158 known globular clusters in our Milky Way. They were found in new images from ESO’s VISTA survey telescope as part of the Via Lactea (VVV) survey. This survey has also turned up the first star cluster that is far beyond the centre of the Milky Way and whose light has had to travel right through the dust and gas in the heart of our galaxy to get to us.
eso1140 — Organisation Release
Full-size Mock-up of World’s Largest Telescope Mirror Built at ESO’s Open House Day
17 October 2011: On Saturday 15 October, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) opened the doors of its headquarters in Garching bei München, Bavaria, Germany, to the public. Throughout the day, thousands of visitors had the chance to help build a full-size mock-up mirror of the largest planned telescope in the world — the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) — and to experience many other aspects of ESO’s work.
eso1139 — Organisation Release
ESO and Chile sign agreement on E-ELT
13 October 2011: At a ceremony today in Santiago, Chile the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfredo Moreno and ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, signed an agreement regarding the European Extremely Large Telescope. This agreement between ESO and the Chilean government includes the donation of land for the telescope, as well as a long-term concession to establish a protected area around it, and support from the Chilean government for the establishment of the E-ELT.
eso1138 — Science Release
Distant Galaxies Reveal The Clearing of the Cosmic Fog
12 October 2011: Scientists have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to probe the early Universe at several different times as it was becoming transparent to ultraviolet light. This brief but dramatic phase in cosmic history — known as reionisation — occurred around 13 billion years ago. By carefully studying some of the most distant galaxies ever detected, the team has been able to establish a timeline for reionisation for the first time. They have also demonstrated that this phase must have happened quicker than astronomers previously thought.
eso1137 — Organisation Release
ALMA Opens Its Eyes
3 October 2011: Humanity's most complex ground-based astronomy observatory, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), has officially opened for astronomers. The first released image, from a telescope still under construction, reveals a view of the Universe that cannot be seen at all by visible-light and infrared telescopes. Thousands of scientists from around the world have competed to be among the first few researchers to explore some of the darkest, coldest, furthest, and most hidden secrets of the cosmos with this new astronomical tool.
eso1136 — Photo Release
Feast your Eyes on the Fried Egg Nebula
28 September 2011: Astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to image a colossal star that belongs to one of the rarest classes of stars in the Universe, the yellow hypergiants. The new picture is the best ever taken of a star in this class and shows for the first time a huge dusty double shell surrounding the central hypergiant. The star and its shells resemble an egg white around a yolky centre, leading the astronomers to nickname the object the Fried Egg Nebula.
eso1135 — Photo Release
An Angry Bird in the Sky
21 September 2011: A new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope reveals the Lambda Centauri Nebula, a cloud of glowing hydrogen and newborn stars in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). The nebula, also known as IC 2944, is sometimes nicknamed the Running Chicken Nebula, from a bird-like shape some people see in its brightest region.
eso1134 — Science Release
Fifty New Exoplanets Discovered by HARPS
12 September 2011: Astronomers using ESO’s world-leading exoplanet hunter HARPS have today announced a rich haul of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star. By studying the properties of all the HARPS planets found so far, the team has found that about 40% of stars similar to the Sun have at least one planet lighter than Saturn.
eso1133 — Photo Release
Young Stars Take a Turn in the Spotlight
7 September 2011: ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT) has captured a striking image of the open cluster NGC 2100. This brilliant star cluster is around 15 million years old, and located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. The cluster is surrounded by glowing gas from the nearby Tarantula Nebula.
eso1132 — Science Release
The Star That Should Not Exist
31 August 2011: A team of European astronomers has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to track down a star in the Milky Way that many thought was impossible. They discovered that this star is composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, with only remarkably small amounts of other chemical elements in it. This intriguing composition places it in the “forbidden zone” of a widely accepted theory of star formation, meaning that it should never have come into existence in the first place. The results will appear in the 1 September 2011 issue of the journal Nature.
eso1131 — Photo Release
VLT Looks into The Eyes of the Virgin
24 August 2011: ESO’s Very Large Telescope has taken a striking image of a beautiful yet peculiar pair of galaxies nicknamed The Eyes. The larger of these, NGC 4438, was once a spiral galaxy but has become badly deformed by collisions with other galaxies in the last few hundred million years. This picture is the first to come out of ESO’s Cosmic Gems programme, an initiative in which ESO has granted dedicated observing time for outreach purposes.
eso1130 — Science Release
Giant Space Blob Glows from Within
17 August 2011: Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope have shed light on the power source of a rare vast cloud of glowing gas in the early Universe. The observations show for the first time that this giant “Lyman-alpha blob” — one of the largest single objects known — must be powered by galaxies embedded within it. The results appear in the 18 August issue of the journal Nature.
eso1129 — Photo Release
A Spiral in Leo
10 August 2011: This new picture from ESO’s Very Large Telescope shows NGC 3521, a spiral galaxy located about 35 million light years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). Spanning about 50 000 light-years, this spectacular object has a bright and compact nucleus, surrounded by richly detailed spiral structure.
eso1128 — Science Release
VISTA Finds 96 Star Clusters Hidden Behind Dust
3 August 2011: Using data from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, an international team of astronomers has discovered 96 new open star clusters hidden by the dust in the Milky Way. These tiny and faint objects were invisible to previous surveys, but they could not escape the sensitive infrared detectors of the world’s largest survey telescope, which can peer through the dust. This is the first time so many faint and small clusters have been found at once.
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