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Posts Tagged ‘European Southern Observatory’

VISTA Produces Spectacular Panoramic View of the Distant Universe

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

The most detailed infrared image ever taken of a region of space large enough to be representative of the distant Universe has been released by a team led by the University of Edinburgh. The image from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) VISTA telescope reveals more than 200,000 galaxies, including the most distant seen to date in the early Universe. These objects formed less than one billion years after the Big Bang. The new image comes from the first year of data taken as part of the five-year UltraVISTA survey. It was made by combining more than six thousand separate images – equivalent to an exposure time of 55 hours.

The image forms part of a huge collection of fully processed images from all the VISTA surveys that is now being made available by ESO to astronomers worldwide. It comes as a result of the VISTA telescope being trained on the same patch of sky repeatedly to slowly accumulate the very dim light from the most distant galaxies. On this colour composite of the UltraVISTA image, the large white objects with haloes are foreground stars in our own Milky Way Galaxy. A host of other galaxies can be seen, from relatively nearby galaxies which appear large enough to discern their structures, to the most distant galaxies which appear as red dots in this image.
Professor Jim Emerson, of Queen Mary, University of London, Principal Investigator for the construction of VISTA, commented: “These superbly detailed images of such a large area of the distant Universe are an exciting first return for the ten years the team spent getting VISTA from an idea to a successful reality.”

Full Story: http://www.stfc.ac.uk/News+and+Events/38774.aspx

Citizen Scientists Reveal a Bubbly Milky Way

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin

A team of volunteers has pored over observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and discovered more than 5,000 “bubbles” in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy. Young, hot stars blow these bubbles into surrounding gas and dust, indicating areas of brand new star formation.

Upwards of 35,000 “citizen scientists” sifted through the Spitzer infrared data as part of the online Milky Way Project to find these telltale bubbles. The volunteers have turned up 10 times as many bubbles as previous surveys so far.

“These findings make us suspect that the Milky Way is a much more active star-forming galaxy than previously thought,” said Eli Bressert, an astrophysics doctoral student at the European Southern Observatory, based in Germany, and the University of Exeter, England, and co-author of a paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“The Milky Way’s disk is like champagne with bubbles all over the place,” he said.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-062

Super-Earth Detected in Cool Star’s Habitable Zone

February 2, 2012 Leave a comment

Image: Guillem Anglada-Escudé.

Image: Guillem Anglada-Escudé.

An international team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Guillem Anglada-Escudé and Paul Butler has discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star. The star is a member of a triple star system and has a different makeup than our Sun, being relatively lacking in metallic elements. This discovery demonstrates that habitable planets could form in a greater variety of environments than previously believed. Their work will be published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters and the current version of the manuscript will be posted athttp://arxiv.org/archive/astro-ph

The team used public data from the European Southern Observatory and analyzed it with a novel data analysis method. They also incorporated new measurements from the Keck Observatory’s High Resolution Echelle Spectrograph and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope.

Their planet-finding technique involved measuring the small wobbles in a star’s orbit in response to a planet’s gravity. Anglada-Escudé and his team focused on an M-class dwarf star called GJ 667C, which is 22 light years away. It is a member of a triple-star system. The other two stars (GJ 667AB) are a pair of orange K dwarfs, with a concentration of heavy elements only 25% that of our Sun’s. Such elements are the building blocks of terrestrial planets so it was thought to be unusual for metal-depleted star systems to have an abundance of low mass planets.

Full Story: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/new_superearth_detected_within_habitable_zone_nearby_cool_star

Gas Ring Around Young Star Raises Questions

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomers have detected a mysterious ring of carbon monoxide gas around the young star V1052 Cen, which is about 700 light years away in the southern constellation Centaurus. The ring is part of the star’s planet-forming disk, and it’s as far from V1052 Cen as Earth is from the sun. Discovered with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, its edges are uniquely crisp.

Carbon monoxide is often detected near young stars, but the gas is usually spread through the planet-forming disk. What’s different about this ring is that it is shaped more like a rope than a dinner plate, said Charles Cowley, professor emeritus in the University of Michigan who led the international research effort.

“It’s exciting because this is the most constrained ring we’ve ever seen, and it requires an explanation,” Cowley said. “At present time, we just don’t understand what makes it a rope rather than a dish.”  Perhaps magnetic fields hold it in place, the researchers say. Maybe “shepherding planets” are reining it in like several of Saturn’s moons control certain planetary rings.

Full Story: http://www.aip.de/en/news/press/gaseous-ring

Planet Population Is Plentiful

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment

An international team, including three astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO), has used the technique of gravitational microlensing to measure how common planets are in the Milky Way. After a six-year search that surveyed millions of stars, the team concludes that planets around stars are the rule rather than the exception. The results will appear in the journal Nature on 12 January 2012.

Over the past 16 years, astronomers have detected more than 700 confirmed exoplanets and have started to probe the spectra (eso1002) and atmospheres (eso1047) of these worlds. While studying the properties of individual exoplanets is undeniably valuable, a much more basic question remains: how commonplace are planets in the Milky Way?

Most currently known exoplanets were found either by detecting the effect of the gravitational pull of the planet on its host star or by catching the planet as it passes in front of its star and slightly dims it. Both of these techniques are much more sensitive to planets that are either massive or close to their stars, or both, and many planets will be missed.

An international team of astronomers has searched for exoplanets using a totally different method — gravitational microlensing — that can detect planets over a wide range of mass and those that lie much further from their stars.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1204/

ESO Celebrates 50 Years of Reaching New Heights in Astronomy

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in the world. The anniversary year is an opportunity to look back at ESO’s history, celebrate its scientific and technological achievements and look forward to its next ambitious programmes. ESO is planning several exciting activities during the year.

On 5 October 1962, representatives from five European countries — Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden — signed the ESO Convention in Paris. Their signatures represented a formal commitment to establish the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, today commonly referred to as the European Southern Observatory.

ESO’s 50th anniversary comes in the middle of the most exciting period for European and international ground-based astronomy. ESO has come a long way since it was established in 1962. Fifty years later, ESO is now a leader in the astronomical research community as the most productive astronomical observatory in the world,” says Tim de Zeeuw, ESO’s Director General.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1202/

Star Blasts Planet With X-rays

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

New data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope suggest that high-energy radiation is evaporating about 5 million tons of matter from the planet every second. This result gives insight into the difficult survival path for some planets.

The planet, known as CoRoT-2b, has a mass about 3 times that of Jupiter (1000 times that of Earth) and orbits its parent star, CoRoT-2a at a distance roughly ten times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

The CoRoT-2 star and planet — so named because the French Space Agency’s Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite discovered them in 2008 — is a relatively nearby neighbor of the Solar System at a distance of 880 light years.

“This planet is being absolutely fried by its star,” said Sebastian Schroeter of the University of Hamburg in Germany. “What may be even stranger is that this planet may be affecting the behavior of the star that is blasting it.”

Full Story: http://chandra.si.edu/press/11_releases/press_091311.html