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Posts Tagged ‘VLT’

Image Of The Carina Nebula Marks Inauguration Of VLT Survey Telescope

December 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO. Acknowledgement: VPHAS+ Consortium/Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

Credit: ESO. Acknowledgement: VPHAS+ Consortium/Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

A spectacular new image of the star-forming Carina Nebula has been captured by the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory and released on the occasion of the inauguration of the telescope in Naples today.

The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre telescope, with the huge 268-megapixel camera OmegaCAM at its heart. It is designed to map the sky both quickly and with very fine image quality. The VST is a joint venture between ESO and INAF and OmegaCam has been provided by the OmegaCam consortium. This new telescope is the largest telescope in the world exclusively dedicated to surveying the sky at visible wavelengths. The occasion of the inauguration has been marked by the release of a dramatic picture of the Carina Nebula taken with the new telescope.

This star formation region is one of the most prominent and frequently imaged objects of the southern sky. It has been the subject of many earlier images with ESO telescopes. However, the glowing gas cloud is huge and it is difficult for most large telescopes to study more than a tiny part of it at once. This makes it an ideal target for the VLT Survey Telescope and its big camera, OmegaCAM. The VST delivers very sharp images because of its high quality optics and the excellent site. But, as it was designed for surveys of the sky, it also has a very wide field of view that can take in almost all of the Carina Nebula in a single picture.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1250/

Feeding Habits of Teenage Galaxies

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

New observations made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope are making a major contribution to understanding the growth of adolescent galaxies. In the biggest survey of its kind astronomers have found that galaxies changed their eating habits during their teenage years – the period from about 3 to 5 billion years after the Big Bang. At the start of this phase smooth gas flow was the preferred snack, but later, galaxies mostly grew by cannibalising other smaller galaxies.

Astronomers have known for some time that the earliest galaxies were much smaller than the impressive spiral and elliptical galaxies that now fill the Universe. Over the lifetime of the cosmos galaxies have put on a great deal of weight but their food, and eating habits, are still mysterious. A new survey of carefully selected galaxies has focussed on their teenage years — roughly the period from about 3 to 5 billion years after the Big Bang.

By employing the state-of-the-art instruments on ESO’s Very Large Telescope an international team is unravelling what really happened. In more than one hundred hours of observations the team has collected the biggest ever set of detailed observations of gas-rich galaxies at this early stage of their development

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1212/

Galaxies Get Up Close & Personal


The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has imaged a fascinating collection of interacting galaxies in the Hercules galaxy cluster. The sharpness of the new picture, and the hundreds of galaxies captured in great detail in less than three hours of observations, attest to the great power of the VST and its huge camera OmegaCAM to explore the nearby Universe.

The Hercules galaxy cluster (also known as Abell 2151) lies about 500 million light-years away in the constellation of Hercules. It is unlike other nearby galactic assemblies in many ways. As well as being rather irregular in shape, it contains a wide variety of galaxy types, particularly young, star-forming spiral galaxies, and there are no giant elliptical galaxies in sight.

The new image was taken with the VST, the most recent addition to ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile (eso1119). The VST is a survey telescope equipped with OmegaCAM, a 268-megapixel camera that provides images covering very large areas on the sky. Normally only small telescopes can image large objects such as this in a single shot, but the 2.6-metre VST not only has a wide field, but can also exploit the superb conditions on Paranal to simultaneously obtain very sharp and deep images quickly.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1211/

VLT Finds Life on Earth by Looking at Moon


Image Credit:  ESO/B. Tafreshi/TWAN (twanight.org)

Image Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi/TWAN (twanight.org)

By observing the Moon using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have found evidence of life in the Universe — on Earth. Finding life on our home planet may sound like a trivial observation, but the novel approach of an international team may lead to future discoveries of life elsewhere in the Universe. The work is described in a paper to appear in the 1 March 2012 issue of the journal Nature.

We used a trick called earthshine observation to look at the Earth as if it were an exoplanet,” says Michael Sterzik (ESO), lead author of the paper [1]. “The Sun shines on the Earth and this light is reflected back to the surface of the Moon. The lunar surface acts as a giant mirror and reflects the Earth’s light back to us — and this is what we have observed with the VLT.

The astronomers analyse the faint earthshine light to look for indicators, such as certain combinations of gases in the Earth’s atmosphere [2], that are the telltale signs of organic life. This method establishes the Earth as a benchmark for the future search for life on planets beyond our Solar System.

***Apologies for not posting this until now – it slipped through my Inbox…***

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1210/

Chandra Finds Black Hole Grazing on Asteroids

February 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

The giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way may be vaporizing and devouring asteroids, which could explain the frequent flares observed, according to astronomers using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For several years Chandra has detected X-ray flares about once a day from the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A*, or “Sgr A*” for short. The flares last a few hours with brightness ranging from a few times to nearly one hundred times that of the black hole’s regular output. The flares also have been seen in infrared data from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

“People have had doubts about whether asteroids could form at all in the harsh environment near a supermassive black hole,” said Kastytis Zubovas of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the report appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. “It’s exciting because our study suggests that a huge number of them are needed to produce these flares.”

Full Story: http://chandra.si.edu/photo/2012/sgra/

VLT Takes Most Detailed IR Image of Carina Nebula

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: ESO/T. Preibisch

Image Credit: ESO/T. Preibisch

ESO’s Very Large Telescope has delivered the most detailed infrared image of the Carina Nebula stellar nursery taken so far. Many previously hidden features, scattered across a spectacular celestial landscape of gas, dust and young stars, have emerged. This is one of the most dramatic images ever created by the VLT.

Deep in the heart of the southern Milky Way lies a stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula. It is about 7500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Carina (The Keel) [1]. This cloud of glowing gas and dust is one of the closest incubators of very massive stars to the Earth and includes several of the brightest and heaviest stars known. One of them, the mysterious and highly unstable star Eta Carinae, was the second brightest star in the entire night sky for several years in the 1840s and is likely to explode as a supernova in the near future, by astronomical standards. The Carina Nebula is a perfect laboratory for astronomers studying the violent births and early lives of stars.

Although this nebula is spectacular in normal visible-light pictures (eso0905), many of its secrets are hidden behind thick clouds of dust. To penetrate this veil a European team of astronomers, led by Thomas Preibisch (University Observatory, Munich, Germany) has used the power of ESO’s Very Large Telescope along with an infrared-sensitive camera called HAWK-I

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1208/

Wild Early Lives of Today’s Most Massive Galaxies

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO, APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO), A. Weiss et al., NASA Spitzer Science Center

Credit: ESO, APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO), A. Weiss et al., NASA Spitzer Science Center

Using the APEX telescope, a team of astronomers has found the strongest link so far between the most powerful bursts of star formation in the early Universe, and the most massive galaxies found today. The galaxies, flowering with dramatic starbursts in the early Universe, saw the birth of new stars abruptly cut short, leaving them as massive — but passive — galaxies of aging stars in the present day. The astronomers also have a likely culprit for the sudden end to the starbursts: the emergence of supermassive black holes.

Astronomers have combined observations from the LABOCA camera on the ESO-operated 12-metre Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope with measurements made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, and others, to look at the way that bright, distant galaxies are gathered together in groups or clusters.

The more closely the galaxies are clustered, the more massive are their halos of dark matter — the invisible material that makes up the vast majority of a galaxy’s mass. The new results are the most accurate clustering measurements ever made for this type of galaxy.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1206/