Eyes Wide Open for MASCARA in Chile The MASCARA (Multi-site All-Sky CAmeRA) station at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has achieved first light. This new facility will seek out transiting exoplanets as they pass in front of their bright parent stars and create a catalogue of targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Australia Enters Strategic Partnership with ESO At a ceremony today in Canberra, Australia, an arrangement was signed to begin a ten-year strategic partnership between ESO and Australia. The partnership will further strengthen ESO’s programme, both scientifically and technically, and will give Australian astronomers and industry access to the La Silla Paranal Observatory. It may also be the first step towards Australia becoming an ESO Member State. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Dazzling Spiral with an Active Heart ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has captured a magnificent face-on view of the barred spiral galaxy Messier 77. The image does justice to the galaxy’s beauty, showcasing its glittering arms criss-crossed with dust lanes — but it fails to betray Messier 77’s turbulent nature. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

VST Captures Three-In-One Two of the sky’s more famous residents share the stage with a lesser-known neighbour in this enormous new three gigapixel image from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST). On the right lies the faint, glowing cloud of gas called Sharpless 2-54, the iconic Eagle Nebula is in the centre, and the Omega Nebula to the left. This cosmic trio makes up just a portion of a vast complex of gas and dust within which new stars are springing to life and illuminating their surroundings. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

ALMA Finds Ingredient of Life Around Infant Sun-like Stars ALMA has observed stars like the Sun at a very early stage in their formation and found traces of methyl isocyanate — a chemical building block of life. This is the first ever detection of this prebiotic molecule towards solar-type protostars, the sort from which our Solar System evolved. The discovery could help astronomers understand how life arose on Earth. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

ESO Signs Contracts for the ELT’s Gigantic Primary Mirror Contracts for the manufacture of the 39-metre primary mirror of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) were signed today at a ceremony at ESO’s Headquarters near Munich. The German company SCHOTT will produce the blanks of the mirror segments, and the French company Safran Reosc will polish, mount and test the segments. The contract to polish the mirror blanks is the second-largest contract for the ELT construction and the third-largest contract ESO has ever awarded. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

First Stone Ceremony for ESO's Extremely Large Telescope A ceremony marking the first stone of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) has been attended today by the President of the Republic of Chile, Michelle Bachelet Jeria. The event was held at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile, close to the site of the future giant telescope. This milestone marked the beginning of the construction of the dome and main telescope structure of the world’s biggest optical telescope, and ushered in a new era in astronomy. The occasion also marked the connection of the observatory to the Chilean national electrical grid. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Secondary Mirror of ELT Successfully Cast The casting of the secondary mirror blank for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) has been completed by SCHOTT at Mainz, Germany. The completed mirror will be 4.2 metres in diameter and weigh 3.5 tonnes. It will be the largest secondary mirror ever employed on a telescope and also the largest convex mirror ever produced. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

VISTA Peeks Through the Small Magellanic Cloud’s Dusty Veil The Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy is a striking feature of the southern sky even to the unaided eye. But visible-light telescopes cannot get a really clear view of what is in the galaxy because of obscuring clouds of interstellar dust. VISTA’s infrared capabilities have now allowed astronomers to see the myriad of stars in this neighbouring galaxy much more clearly than ever before. The result is this record-breaking image — the biggest infrared image ever taken of the Small Magellanic Cloud — with the whole frame filled with millions of stars. ESO News Feed Go toRead More →

ALMA Residencia Handed Over The new ALMA Residencia at the ALMA Operations Support Facility has just been handed over to the Joint ALMA Observatory. The celebration event was attended by the ALMA Board and the directors of the three executives — ESO, NAOJ and NRAO. The architects who designed the building were also present. The ALMA Residencia is the last major construction item to be delivered to the ALMA project by ESO. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Newly Discovered Exoplanet May be Best Candidate in Search for Signs of Life An exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth may be the new holder of the title “best place to look for signs of life beyond the Solar System”. Using ESO’s HARPS instrument at La Silla, and other telescopes around the world, an international team of astronomers discovered a “super-Earth” orbiting in the habitable zone around the faint star LHS 1140. This world is a little larger and much more massive than the Earth and has likely retained most of its atmosphere. This, along with the fact that it passesRead More →

ALMA Captures Dramatic Stellar Fireworks Stellar explosions are most often associated with supernovae, the spectacular deaths of stars. But new ALMA observations provide insights into explosions at the other end of the stellar life cycle, star birth. Astronomers captured these dramatic images as they explored the firework-like debris from the birth of a group of massive stars, demonstrating that star formation can be a violent and explosive process too. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Stars Born in Winds from Supermassive Black Holes Observations using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. These are the first confirmed observations of stars forming in this kind of extreme environment. The discovery has many consequences for understanding galaxy properties and evolution. The results are published in the journal Nature. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Dark Matter Less Influential in Galaxies in Early Universe New observations indicate that massive, star-forming galaxies during the peak epoch of galaxy formation, 10 billion years ago, were dominated by baryonic or “normal” matter. This is in stark contrast to present-day galaxies, where the effects of mysterious dark matter seem to be much greater. This surprising result was obtained using ESO’s Very Large Telescope and suggests that dark matter was less influential in the early Universe than it is today. The research is presented in four papers, one of which will be published in the journal Nature this week. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Ancient Stardust Sheds Light on the First Stars Astronomers have used ALMA to detect a huge mass of glowing stardust in a galaxy seen when the Universe was only four percent of its present age. This galaxy was observed shortly after its formation and is the most distant galaxy in which dust has been detected. This observation is also the most distant detection of oxygen in the Universe. These new results provide brand-new insights into the birth and explosive deaths of the very first stars. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

A Galaxy on the Edge This colourful stripe of stars, gas, and dust is actually a spiral galaxy named NGC 1055. Captured here by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), this big galaxy is thought to be up to 15 percent larger in diameter than the Milky Way. NGC 1055 appears to lack the whirling arms characteristic of a spiral, as it is seen edge-on. However, it displays odd twists in its structure that were probably caused by an interaction with a large neighbouring galaxy. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Ultracool Dwarf and the Seven Planets 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. According to the paper appearing today in the journal Nature, three of the planets lie in the habitable zone and could harbour oceans of water on their surfaces, increasing the possibility that the star system could play host to life. This system has both the largest number of Earth-sized planets yet found and the largestRead More →

Celestial Cat Meets Cosmic Lobster Astronomers have for a long time studied the glowing, cosmic clouds of gas and dust catalogued as NGC 6334 and NGC 6357, this gigantic new image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope Survey Telescope being only the most recent one. With around two billion pixels this is one of the largest images ever released by ESO. The evocative shapes of the clouds have led to their memorable names: the Cat’s Paw Nebula and the Lobster Nebula, respectively. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Contracts Signed for ELT Mirrors and Sensors At a ceremony today at ESO’s Headquarters four contracts were signed for major components of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) that ESO is building. These were for: the casting of the telescope’s giant secondary and tertiary mirrors, awarded to SCHOTT; the supply of mirror cells to support these two mirrors, awarded to the SENER Group; and the supply of the edge sensors that form a vital part of the ELT’s huge segmented primary mirror control system, awarded to the FAMES consortium. The secondary mirror will be largest ever employed on a telescope and the largest convex mirror everRead More →

ALMA Starts Observing the Sun New images taken with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed otherwise invisible details of our Sun, including a new view of the dark, contorted centre of a sunspot that is nearly twice the diameter of the Earth. The images are the first ever made of the Sun with a facility where ESO is a partner. The results are an important expansion of the range of observations that can be used to probe the physics of our nearest star. The ALMA antennas had been carefully designed so they could image the Sun without being damaged by theRead More →