Astronomers reveal a new link between water and planet formation Researchers have found water vapour in the disc around a young star exactly where planets may be forming. Water is a key ingredient for life on Earth, and is also thought to play a significant role in planet formation. Yet, until now, we had never been able to map how water is distributed in a stable, cool disc — the type of disc that offers the most favourable conditions for planets to form around stars. The new findings were made possible thanks to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which the European Southern ObservatoryRead More →

Metal scar found on cannibal star When a star like our Sun reaches the end of its life, it can ingest the surrounding planets and asteroids that were born with it. Now, using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) in Chile, researchers have found a unique signature of this process for the first time — a scar imprinted on the surface of a white dwarf star. The results are published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Brightest and fastest-growing: astronomers identify record-breaking quasar Using the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have characterised a bright quasar, finding it to be not only the brightest of its kind, but also the most luminous object ever observed. Quasars are the bright cores of distant galaxies and they are powered by supermassive black holes. The black hole in this record-breaking quasar is growing in mass by the equivalent of one Sun per day, making it the fastest-growing black hole to date. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Missing link found: supernovae give rise to black holes or neutron stars Astronomers have found a direct link between the explosive deaths of massive stars and the formation of the most compact and enigmatic objects in the Universe — black holes and neutron stars. With the help of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) and ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT), two teams were able to observe the aftermath of a supernova explosion in a nearby galaxy, finding evidence for the mysterious compact object it left behind. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

New 1.5-billion-pixel ESO image shows Running Chicken Nebula in unprecedented detail While many holiday traditions involve feasts of turkey, soba noodles, latkes or Pan de Pascua, this year, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is bringing you a holiday chicken. The so-called Running Chicken Nebula, home to young stars in the making, is revealed in spectacular detail in this 1.5-billion-pixel image captured by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), hosted at ESO’s Paranal site in Chile. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

First segments of the world’s largest telescope mirror shipped to Chile The construction of the European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope (ESO’s ELT) has reached an important milestone with the delivery to ESO and shipment to Chile of the first 18 segments of the telescope’s main mirror (M1). Once they arrive in Chile, the segments will be transported to the ELT Technical Facility, at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the country’s Atacama Desert, where they will be coated in preparation for their future installation on the telescope main structure. Unable to be physically made in one piece, M1 will consist of 798 individual segments arranged inRead More →

Astronomers discover disc around star in another galaxy for the first time In a remarkable discovery, astronomers have found a disc around a young star in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy neighbouring ours. It’s the first time such a disc, identical to those forming planets in our own Milky Way, has ever been found outside our galaxy. The new observations reveal a massive young star, growing and accreting matter from its surroundings and forming a rotating disc. The detection was made using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, in which the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a partner. ESO News Feed GoRead More →

Astronomers detect most distant fast radio burst to date An international team has spotted a remote blast of cosmic radio waves lasting less than a millisecond. This ‘fast radio burst’ (FRB) is the most distant ever detected. Its source was pinned down by the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in a galaxy so far away that its light took eight billion years to reach us. The FRB is also one of the most energetic ever observed; in a tiny fraction of a second it released the equivalent of our Sun’s total emission over 30 years. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Furthest ever detection of a galaxy’s magnetic field Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have detected the magnetic field of a galaxy so far away that its light has taken more than 11 billion years to reach us: we see it as it was when the Universe was just 2.5 billion years old. The result provides astronomers with vital clues about how the magnetic fields of galaxies like our own Milky Way came to be. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

ESO telescopes help unravel pulsar puzzle With a remarkable observational campaign that involved 12 telescopes both on the ground and in space, including three European Southern Observatory (ESO) facilities, astronomers have uncovered the strange behaviour of a pulsar, a super-fast-spinning dead star. This mysterious object is known to switch between two brightness modes almost constantly, something that until now has been an enigma. But astronomers have now found that sudden ejections of matter from the pulsar over very short periods are responsible for the peculiar switches. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Mysterious Neptune dark spot detected from Earth for the first time Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have observed a large dark spot in Neptune’s atmosphere, with an unexpected smaller bright spot adjacent to it. This is the first time a dark spot on the planet has ever been observed with a telescope on Earth. These occasional features in the blue background of Neptune’s atmosphere are a mystery to astronomers, and the new results provide further clues as to their nature and origin. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

New type of star gives clues to mysterious origin of magnetars Magnetars are the strongest magnets in the Universe. These super-dense dead stars with ultra-strong magnetic fields can be found all over our galaxy but astronomers don’t know exactly how they form. Now, using multiple telescopes around the world, including European Southern Observatory (ESO) facilities, researchers have uncovered a living star that is likely to become a magnetar. This finding marks the discovery of a new type of astronomical object — massive magnetic helium stars — and sheds light on the origin of magnetars. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

New image reveals secrets of planet birth A spectacular new image released today by the European Southern Observatory gives us clues about how planets as massive as Jupiter could form. Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), researchers have detected large dusty clumps, close to a young star, that could collapse to create giant planets. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Does this exoplanet have a sibling sharing the same orbit? Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have found the possible ‘sibling’ of a planet orbiting a distant star. The team has detected a cloud of debris that might be sharing this planet’s orbit and which, they believe, could be the building blocks of a new planet or the remnants of one already formed. If confirmed, this discovery would be the strongest evidence yet that two exoplanets can share one orbit. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope is now half completed The European Southern Observatory’s Extremely Large Telescope (ESO’s ELT) is a revolutionary ground-based telescope that will have a 39-metre main mirror and will be the largest telescope in the world for visible and infrared light: the world’s biggest eye on the sky. Construction of this technically complex project is advancing at a good pace, with the ELT now surpassing the 50% complete milestone. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

‘Smiling cat’ nebula captured in new ESO image This cloud of orange and red, part of the Sh2-284 nebula, is shown here in spectacular detail using data from the VLT Survey Telescope, hosted by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). This nebula is teeming with young stars, as gas and dust within it clumps together to form new suns. If you take a look at the cloud as a whole, you might be able to make out the face of a cat, smiling down from the sky. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

BlackGEM telescopes begin hunt for gravitational-wave sources at ESO’s La Silla Observatory The BlackGEM array, consisting of three new telescopes located at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, has begun operations. The telescopes will scan the southern sky to hunt down the cosmic events that produce gravitational waves, such as the mergers of neutron stars and black holes. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

ESO telescope reveals hidden views of vast stellar nurseries Using ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), astronomers have created a vast infrared atlas of five nearby stellar nurseries by piecing together more than one million images. These large mosaics reveal young stars in the making, embedded in thick clouds of dust. Thanks to these observations, astronomers have a unique tool with which to decipher the complex puzzle of stellar birth. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Astronomers find distant gas clouds with leftovers of the first stars Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), researchers have found for the first time the fingerprints left by the explosion of the first stars in the Universe. They detected three distant gas clouds whose chemical composition matches what we expect from the first stellar explosions. These findings bring us one step closer to understanding the nature of the first stars that formed after the Big Bang. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

First direct image of a black hole expelling a powerful jet For the first time, astronomers have observed, in the same image, the shadow of the black hole at the centre of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) and the powerful jet expelled from it. The observations were done in 2018 with telescopes from the Global Millimetre VLBI Array (GMVA), the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), of which ESO is a partner, and the Greenland Telescope (GLT). Thanks to this new image, astronomers can better understand how black holes can launch such energetic jets. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →