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05/02/17 Seven Earth-sized Worlds found around nearby star

Astronomers have found a system of seven Earth-sized planets just 40 light-years away. Using ground and space telescopes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the planets were all detected as they passed in front of their parent star, the ultracool dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1 in the constellation of Aquarius.

05/01/17 Hidden Secrets of Orion’s Clouds

The most detailed view of Orion A molecular cloud in near-infrared.
A spectacular new image of the largest near-infrared high-resolution mosaics of the Orion A molecular cloud, the nearest known massive star factory, lying about 1350 light-years from Earth. It was taken using the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile and reveals many young stars and other objects normally buried deep inside the dusty clouds.

22/12/16 New receivers improve ALMA’s ability to search for water in the Universe

The Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile has begun observing in a new range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This has been made possible thanks to new receivers installed at the telescope’s antennas, which can detect radio waves with wavelengths from 1.4 to 1.8 millimetres — a range previously untapped by ALMA. This upgrade allows astronomers to detect faint signals of water in the nearby Universe.

03/11/16 Pillars of Destruction
Colourful Carina Nebula blasted by brilliant nearby stars

Spectacular new observations of vast pillar-like structures within the Carina Nebula have been made using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The different pillars analysed by an international team seem to be pillars of destruction — in contrast to the name of the iconic Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, which are of similar nature.

19/10/16 Highest Resolution Image of Eta Carinae

An international team of astronomers used the VLT to image the Eta Carinae star system in the greatest detail ever achieved. They found new and unexpected structures within the binary system, including in the area between the two stars where extremely high velocity stellar winds are colliding. These new insights into this enigmatic star system could lead to a better understanding of the evolution of very massive stars.

16/09/16 Starving Black Hole Returns Brilliant Galaxy to the Shadows

The mystery of a rare behavioural change in a super massive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy has been solved. It seems that the black hole has fallen on hard times and is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine.

25/08/16 Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

Pale Red Dot campaign reveals Earth-mass world in orbit around Proxima Centauri.
The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System.

28/07/16 White Dwarf Lashes Red Dwarf with Mystery Ray

In the system AR Scorpii, a rapidly spinning white dwarf star powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star, and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio.

14/07/16 Deepest Ever Look into Orion

ESO’s HAWK-I infrared instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile has been used to peer deeper into the heart of Orion Nebula than ever before. The spectacular picture reveals about ten times as many brown dwarfs and isolated planetary-mass objects than were previously known. This discovery poses challenges for the widely accepted scenario for Orion’s star formation history.

26/05/16 New 39 Metre E-ELT Dome and Telescope Structure being built

The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), with a main mirror 39 metres in diameter, will be the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world: truly the world’s biggest eye on the sky. It will be constructed in northern Chile, on a site that has already been prepared.

19/05/16 Gas cloud LHA 120-N55 in the Large Magellanic Cloud

Image from ESO’s (VLT), shows light from blazing blue stars energising the gas left over from the stars’ recent formation. The result is a strikingly colourful emission nebula, called LHA 120-N55, in which the stars are adorned with a mantle of glowing gas. Astronomers study these beautiful displays to learn about the conditions in places where new stars develop.

02/04/16 Most Detailed Image of a Protoplanetary Disc

ALMA’s best image of a protoplanetary disc to date. This picture of the nearby young star TW Hydrae reveals the classic rings and gaps that signify planets are in formation in this system.

10/03/16 VLTI finds discs around aging stars similar to those around young ones

ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has obtained the sharpest view ever of the dusty disc around an aging star. For the first time such features can be compared to those around young stars — and they look surprisingly similar. It is even possible that a disc appearing at the end of a star’s life might also create a second generation of planets.

26/02/16 ATLASGAL Survey of Milky Way Completed

The APEX telescope in Chile has mapped the full area of the Galactic Plane visible from the southern hemisphere at submillimetre wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves. This is the sharpest such map yet made, and complements those from recent space-based surveys.

04/02/16 The Deep-Frozen Flying Saucer

Astronomers have made the first direct measurement of temperature of the large dust grains in the outer parts of a planet-forming disc around a young star. By applying a novel technique to observations of an object nicknamed the Flying Saucer they find that the grains are much colder than expected: −266 degrees Celsius. This surprising result suggests that models of these discs may need to be revised.

13/01/16 First Light For Future Black Hole Probe

Zooming in on black holes is the main mission for the newly installed instrument GRAVITY at ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. During its first observations, GRAVITY successfully combined starlight using all four Auxiliary Telescopes. During these initial tests, the instrument has already achieved a number of notable firsts. This is the most powerful VLT Interferometer instrument yet installed.

10/12/15 VLT Revisits a Curious Cosmic Collision

Spectacular aftermath of a 360 million year old cosmic collision revealed in great detail. Among the debris is a rare and mysterious young dwarf galaxy which is providing astronomers with an excellent opportunity to learn more about similar galaxies expected to be common in the early Universe, but are normally too faint and distant to be observed by current telescopes.

12/11/15 VLT maps out remains of white dwarf’s meal

The remains of a fatal interaction between a dead star and an asteroid have been studied in detail for the first time. Astronomers obtained detailed observations of the light from the white dwarf and its surrounding material over an unprecedented period of twelve years between 2003 and 2015. It is rare for white dwarfs to be surrounded by orbiting discs of gaseous material — only seven have ever been found.

29/10/15 VISTA finds hidden feature of Milky Way

Astronomers using the VISTA telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory have discovered a previously unknown component of the Milky Way. By mapping out the locations of a class of stars that vary in brightness called Cepheids, a disc of young stars buried behind thick dust clouds in the central bulge has been found.

24/09/15 A Cosmic Rose with many names

Known as M17, Messier 17, Omega Nebula and Swan Nebula this new image of the rose-coloured star forming region was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope in Chile. It is one of the sharpest images showing the entire nebula and not only reveals its full size but also retains fine detail throughout the cosmic landscape of gas clouds, dust and newborn stars.

17/07/15 Jupiter Twin Discovered Around Solar System Twin

International group of astronomers has used the ESO 3.6-metre telescope to identify a planet just like Jupiter orbiting at the same distance from a Sun-like star, HIP 11915. According to current theories, the formation of Jupiter-mass planets plays an important role in shaping the architecture of planetary systems. The existence of a Jupiter-mass planet in a Jupiter-like orbit around a Sun-like star opens the possibility that the system of planets around this star may be similar to our own Solar System. HIP 11915 is about the same age as the Sun and, furthermore, its Sun-like composition suggests that there may also be rocky planets orbiting closer to the star.

08/07/15 Biggest Explosions in the Universe Powered by Strongest Magnets

Observations from ESO’s La Silla and Paranal Observatories in Chile have for the first time demonstrated a link between a very long-lasting burst of gamma rays and an unusually bright supernova explosion. The results show that the supernova was not driven by radioactive decay, as expected, but was instead powered by the decaying super-strong magnetic fields around an exotic object called a magnetar.

26/06/15 Messier 87 has swallowed an entire galaxy in the last billion years

For the first time a team of astronomers has been able to track the motions of 300 glowing planetary nebulae to find clear evidence of this event and also found evidence of excess light coming from the remains of the totally disrupted victim.

09/06/15 Sharpest View Ever of Star Formation in the Distant Universe

The image shows a magnified view of the galaxy’s star-forming regions, the likes of which have never been seen before at this level of detail in a galaxy so remote. The new observations are far sharper than those made using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and reveal star-forming clumps in the galaxy equivalent to giant versions of the Orion Nebula in the Milky Way.

28/05/15 A Bubbly Cosmic Celebration

This new image from ESO’s (VLT) in Chile shows a spectacular red cloud of glowing hydrogen gas behind a collection of blue foreground stars. Within RCW 34 — located in the southern constellation of Vela — a group of massive young stars hide in the brightest region of the cloud. These stars have a dramatic effect on the nebula. Gas exposed to strong ultraviolet radiation — as occurs in the heart of this nebula becomes ionised, meaning that the electrons have escaped the hydrogen atoms.

14/05/15 VLT discovers new kind of globular star cluster

Observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered a new class of “dark” globular star clusters around the giant galaxy Centaurus A. These mysterious objects look similar to normal clusters, but contain much more mass and may either harbour unexpected amounts of dark matter, or contain massive black holes — neither of which was expected nor is understood.

17/04/15 Dark matter may not be completely dark after all

For the first time dark matter may have been observed interacting with other dark matter in a way other than through the force of gravity. Observations of colliding galaxies made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have picked up the first intriguing hints about the nature of this mysterious component of the Universe.

24/03/15 APEX observations help unravel mystery of Nova Vulpeculae 1670

New observations made with APEX and other telescopes reveal that the star that European astronomers saw appear in the sky in 1670 was not a nova, but a much rarer, violent breed of stellar collision. It was spectacular enough to be easily seen with the naked eye during its first outburst, but the traces it left were so faint that very careful analysis using sub-millimetre telescopes was needed before the mystery could finally be unravelled more than 340 years later.

03/03/15 Surprisingly Dusty and Evolved Galaxy from the distant past

One of the most distant galaxies ever observed has provided astronomers with the first detection of dust in such a remote star-forming system and tantalising evidence for the rapid evolution of galaxies after the Big Bang.The target of their observations is called A1689-zD1 and is observable only by virtue of its brightness being amplified more than nine times by a gravitational lens in the form of the spectacular galaxy cluster, Abell 1689, which lies between the young galaxy and the Earth. Without the gravitational boost, the glow from this very faint galaxy would have been too weak to detect.

10/02/15 First pair of merging stars destined to become supernova found

Astronomers using ESO facilities in combination with telescopes in the Canary Islands have identified two surprisingly massive stars at the heart of the planetary nebula Henize 2-428. As they orbit each other the two stars are expected to slowly get closer and closer, and when they merge, about 700 million years from now, they will contain enough material to ignite a vast supernova explosion.

05/02/15 VISTA Stares Right Through the Milky Way

A new image taken with ESO’s VISTA survey telescope reveals the famous Trifid Nebula in a new and ghostly light. By observing in infrared light, astronomers can see right through the dust-filled central parts of the Milky Way and spot many previously hidden objects. In just this tiny part of one of the VISTA surveys, astronomers have discovered two unknown and very distant Cepheid variable stars that lie almost directly behind the Trifid. They are the first such stars found that lie in the central plane of the Milky Way beyond its central bulge.

29/01/15 Mouth of the Beast

Like the gaping mouth of some gigantic celestial creature, the cometary globule CG4 glows menacingly in this new image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope. In 1976 several elongated comet-like objects were discovered on pictures taken with the UK Schmidt Telescope in Australia. Although it appears big and bright in this image, it is actually a faint nebula which makes it very difficult for amateur astronomers to detect. The exact nature of CG4 remains a mystery.

08/01/15 Where are all the Stars ?

Some of the stars appear to be missing in this intriguing new ESO image. But the black gap in this glitteringly beautiful starfield is not really a gap, but rather a region of space clogged with gas and dust. This dark cloud is called LDN 483 — for Lynds Dark Nebula 483. Such clouds are the birthplaces of future stars.

18/12/14 The Hot Blue Stars of Messier 47
This spectacular image of the star cluster Messier 47 was taken using the Wide Field Imager camera, installed on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Although it is bright and easy to see (located approximately 1600 light-years from Earth), Messier 47 is one of the least densely populated open clusters. Only around 50 stars are visible in a region about 12 light-years across, compared to other similar objects which can contain thousands of stars.

07/11/14 ALMA Image Reveals Planetary Genesis
New image from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, reveals extraordinarily fine detail that has never been seen before in the planet-forming disc around a young star. These are the first observations that have used ALMA in its near-final configuration and the sharpest pictures ever made at submillimetre wavelengths. The new results are an enormous step forward in the observation of how protoplanetary discs develop and how planets form.

30/10/14 Planet-forming Lifeline Discovered in a Binary Star System

Researchers using ALMA have detected a streamer of gas flowing from a massive outer disc toward the inner reaches of a binary star system. This never-before-seen feature may be responsible for sustaining a second, smaller disc of planet-forming material that otherwise would have disappeared long ago. Half of Sun-like stars are born in binary systems, meaning that these findings will have major consequences for the hunt for exoplanets.

23/10/14 Biggest census ever of exo-comets around Beta Pictoris

The most complete census of comets around another star ever created has been achieved by French astronomers at La Silla Observatory in Chile.The researchers selected a sample of 493 different exocomets. Some exocomets were observed several times and for a few hours. Careful analysis provided measurements of the speed and the size of the gas clouds. Some of the orbital properties of each of these exocomets, such as the shape and the orientation of the orbit and the distance to the star, could also be deduced.

16/10/14 Construction Secrets of Galactic Metropolis

Astronomers used the APEX telescope to probe a huge galaxy cluster forming in the early Universe and revealed that much of the star formation taking place is not only hidden by dust but also occurring in unexpected places. This is the first time that a full census of the star formation in such an object has been possible.

  Globular Cluster - Not What It Seems

New image from the VLT Survey Telescope in Chile shows a the globular cluster M54. This cluster looks similar to many others but it has a secret. M54 doesn’t belong to the Milky Way but is part of a small satellite galaxy, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy. This unusual parentage has now allowed astronomers to use the VLT to test whether there are also unexpectedly low levels of the element lithium in stars outside the Milky Way.

27/08/14 Best View Yet of Merging Galaxies in Distant Universe

An international team of astronomers has obtained the best view yet of a collision that took place between two galaxies when the Universe was only half its current age. They enlisted the help of a galaxy-sized magnifying glass to reveal otherwise invisible detail.

01/08/14 Double Star with Weird and Wild planet-forming discs found

This image of the binary system HK Tauri combines visible light and infrared data. The ALMA observations of this system have provided the clearest picture ever of protoplanetary discs in a double star. This new result demonstrates one possible way to explain why so many exoplanets — unlike the planets in the Solar System — came to have strange, eccentric or inclined orbits.

24/07/2014 Lives and Deaths of Sibling Stars

A striking new image from the La Silla Observatory in Chile shows young stars huddled together against a backdrop of clouds of glowing gas and lanes of dust. The star cluster, known as NGC 3293, would have been just a cloud of gas and dust itself about ten million years ago, but as stars began to form it became the bright group of stars we see here. Clusters like this are celestial laboratories that allow astronomers to learn more about how stars evolve.

10/07/2014 Observations reveal how stardust forms around supernova

Astronomers have been able to follow stardust being made in real time — during the aftermath of a supernova explosion. For the first time they show that these cosmic dust factories make their grains in a two-stage process, starting soon after the explosion, but continuing for years afterwards. The team used ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in northern Chile to analyse the light from the supernova SN2010jl as it slowly faded.

12/06/2014 Gigantic Explosions Buried in Dust

Observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array have for the first time directly mapped out the molecular gas and dust in the host galaxies of gamma-ray bursts, the biggest explosions in the Universe. In a complete surprise, less gas was observed than expected and correspondingly much more dust, making some GRBs appear as “dark GRBs”.

05/06/2014 Revolutionary new VLT instrument installed

SPHERE - (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research instrument )has been installed on ESO’s (VLT) in Chile and has achieved first light. This powerful new facility for finding and studying exoplanets uses multiple advanced techniques in combination offering dramatically better performance than existing instruments and has produced impressive views of dust discs around nearby stars and other targets during the very first days of observations.

21/05/2014 A Star Cluster in the Wake of Carina

Colourful new image from ESO's 2.2-metre telescope shows the star cluster NGC 3590. These stars shine brightly in front of a dramatic landscape of dark patches of dust and richly hued clouds of glowing gas. This small stellar gathering gives astronomers clues about how these stars form and evolve as well as giving hints about the structure of our galaxy's pinwheeling arms.

01/05/2014 Length of Exoplanet Day Measured for First Time

Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have, for the first time, determined the rotation rate of an exoplanet. Beta Pictoris b has been found to have a day that lasts only eight hours. This is much quicker than any planet in the Solar System — its equator is moving at almost 100 000 kilometres per hour. This new result extends the relation between mass and rotation seen in the Solar System to exoplanets. Similar techniques will allow astronomers to map exoplanets in detail in the future with the European Extremely Large Telescope

11/04/2014 Beautiful blue planetary nebula Abell 33 from ESO's VLT

An eye-catching image of planetary nebula commonly known as Abell 33.
Created when an aging star blew off its outer layers, this beautiful blue bubble is, by chance, aligned with a foreground star, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond engagement ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetric, appearing to be almost circular on the sky.

04/04/2014 Galactic Serial Killer

New image from ESO's 2.2-metre telescope in Chile shows two contrasting galaxies, NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbour NGC 1317. These two are quite close to each other in space, but they have very different histories. The small spiral NGC 1317 has led an uneventful life, but NGC 1316 has engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history and shows the battle scars.
Visit this link also to see an outstanding image of the galaxies taken by local Australian amateur Mike Sidonio.

27/03/2014 First Ring System Around Asteroid

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.

13/03/2014 VLT Spots Largest Yellow Hypergiant Star

ESO’s VLT Interferometer has revealed the largest yellow star and one of the ten largest stars found so far. This hypergiant has been found to measure more than 1300 times the diameter of the Sun and to be part of a double star system, with the smaller so close that it is in contact with the main star. Observations spanning over 60 years, some from amateur observers, indicate that this rare and remarkable object is changing very rapidly and has been caught during a very brief phase of its life.

30/01/2014 First Weather Map of Brown Dwarf

The VLT has been used to create the first ever weather map of the surface of the nearest brown dwarf to Earth. An international team has made a chart of the dark and light features on WISE J104915.57-531906.1B, which is informally known as Luhman 16B and is one of two recently discovered brown dwarfs forming a pair only six light-years from the Sun.

16/01/2014 First Planet Found Around Solar Twin in Star Cluster

Astronomers have discovered three planets orbiting stars in the cluster Messier 67. Although more than one thousand planets outside the Solar System are now confirmed, only a handful have been found in star clusters. Remarkably one of these new exoplanets is orbiting a star that is a rare solar twin — a star that is almost identical to the Sun in all respects.

07/01/2014 ALMA Spots Supernova Dust Factory

Striking new observations capture, for the first time, the remains of a recent supernova brimming with freshly formed dust. If enough of this dust makes the perilous transition into interstellar space, it could explain how many galaxies acquired their dusty, dusky appearance.

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