First Light for Band 5 at ALMA

First Light for Band 5 at ALMA

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.
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Spinning Black Hole Swallowing Star Explains Superluminous Event

Spinning Black Hole Swallowing Star Explains Superluminous Event

An extraordinarily brilliant point of light seen in a distant galaxy, and dubbed ASASSN-15lh, was thought to be the brightest supernova ever seen. But new observations from several observatories, including ESO, have now cast doubt on this classification. Instead, a group of astronomers propose that the source was an even more extreme and very rare event — a rapidly spinning black hole ripping apart a passing star that came too close.
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Xavier Barcons Appointed as Next ESO Director General

Xavier Barcons Appointed as Next ESO Director General

The ESO Council has appointed Xavier Barcons, 57, as the next Director General of ESO. He will take up his position on 1 September 2017, when Tim de Zeeuw, the current Director General, completes his mandate.
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Dark Matter May be Smoother than Expected

Dark Matter May be Smoother than Expected

Analysis of a giant new galaxy survey, made with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, suggests that dark matter may be less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought. An international team used data from the Kilo Degree Survey (KiDS) to study how the light from about 15 million distant galaxies was affected by the gravitational influence of matter on the largest scales in the Universe. The results appear to be in disagreement with earlier results from the Planck satellite.
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First Signs of Weird Quantum Property of Empty Space?

First Signs of Weird Quantum Property of Empty Space?

By studying the light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect, first predicted in the 1930s. The polarisation of the observed light suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence.
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Sculpting Solar Systems

Sculpting Solar Systems

Sharp new observations have revealed striking features in planet-forming discs around young stars. The SPHERE instrument, mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has made it possible to observe the complex dynamics of young solar systems — including one seen developing in real-time. The recently published results from three teams of astronomers showcase SPHERE’s impressive capability to capture the way planets sculpt the discs that form them — exposing the complexities of the environment in which new worlds are formed.
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Pillars of Destruction

Pillars of Destruction

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.
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ESO’s VLT Detects Unexpected Giant Glowing Halos around Distant Quasars

ESO’s VLT Detects Unexpected Giant Glowing Halos around Distant Quasars

An international team of astronomers has discovered glowing gas clouds surrounding distant quasars. This new survey by the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope indicates that halos around quasars are far more common than expected. The properties of the halos in this surprising find are also in striking disagreement with currently accepted theories of galaxy formation in the early Universe.
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Highest Resolution Image of Eta Carinae

Highest Resolution Image of Eta Carinae

An international team of astronomers have used the Very Large Telescope Interferometer 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.
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The Milky Way’s Ancient Heart

The Milky Way’s Ancient Heart

Ancient stars, of a type known as RR Lyrae, have been discovered in the centre of the Milky Way for the first time, using ESO’s infrared VISTA telescope. RR Lyrae stars typically reside in ancient stellar populations over 10 billion years old. Their discovery suggests that the bulging centre of the Milky Way likely grew through the merging of primordial star clusters. These stars may even be the remains of the most massive and oldest surviving star cluster of the entire Milky Way.
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