From European Southern Observatory: “NGC 6902 Caught by SPECULOOS” First Light

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From European Southern Observatory

This Picture of the Week is a special treat: a first-light image from the newest resident of ESO’s Paranal Observatory, the SPECULOOS Southern Observatory. This planet-hunting machine aims to observe nearby but dim stars to locate exoplanets for other telescopes — such as ESO’s forthcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) — to study in detail. Comprising four one-metre telescopes, each named after one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, SPECULOOS promises to open up new frontiers in exoplanet research.

This image, however, is obviously not of a faint star, but of a galaxy called NGC 6902. Before a telescope starts its primary mission it must successfully undertake an event called “first light”: the first time it is used for a scientific observation. Astronomers typically pick well-known objects for this initial test of a telescope’s capabilities, which is half demonstration and half celebration. In this case, the team settled on NGC 6902 as the first-light target for the Ganymede telescope.

The result was this stunning image of the spiral galaxy, which is found about 120 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The galaxy’s spiral arms swirl outwards from a bright centre until they dissolve into streams of blue haze at the galaxy’s edge. If this is what Ganymede can produce as its first observation of something it wasn’t even designed to image, we have a lot to look forward to. Watch this space!

See the full article here .


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ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre EEuropean Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

ESO Speculoos telescopes four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes at ESO Paranal Observatory 2635 metres 8645 ft above sea level