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  • richardmitnick 8:54 am on May 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), ESO’s Very Large Telescope Celebrates 20 Years of Remarkable Science   

    From European Southern Observatory: “ESO’s Very Large Telescope Celebrates 20 Years of Remarkable Science” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From European Southern Observatory

    25 May 2018
    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: pio@eso.org

    1

    ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the flagship facility for European ground-based astronomy, celebrates its 20th anniversary today. The first of the VLT’s Unit Telescopes saw first light on 25 May 1998, ushering in a new era of astronomy. Over the following years three more 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes were completed and these giants were joined by the four smaller Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs) that form part of the VLT Interferometer. The interferometer first combined the light from two ATs in 2005, creating a virtual telescope up to 200 metres in diameter that now regularly observes the surfaces of stars.

    The VLT could not function without its world-class suite of instruments, which have been developed in collaboration with astronomers and engineers in the ESO community. A spectacular recent addition to the VLT is the 4 Laser Guide Star Facility, which projects four 22-watt laser beams into the upper atmosphere to create artificial stars that help correct for the effects of atmospheric turbulence, a technique known as adaptive optics [see the great image below].

    The instruments on the VLT are in high demand — last year the requested observing time exceeded the available time by a factor of five. Successful observing requests have provided the data behind thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers — in 2017 alone, over 600 papers were published using data from the VLT.

    ESO’s flagship observatory has not just led to a great quantity of science, but also quality. The VLT has contributed to breakthroughs in many areas of astronomy, and is responsible for seven of ESO’s Top 10 Astronomical Discoveries.

    For instance, in 2009 the VLT overcame the demanding observational challenge of imaging a planet around another star for the first time, followed by the first analysis of the atmosphere around a super-Earth exoplanet in 2010. ESO has continued to build on this planet-hunting capability with SPHERE, a planet-hunting instrument that was added to the VLT in 2014.

    ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT, Cerro Paranal, Chile, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level


    ESO/SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT, Cerro Paranal, Chile, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Painstaking VLT observations spanning nearly two decades revealed the motions of stars orbiting the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

    Sgr A* from ESO VLT

    This continues to be a closely-studied topic — in fact, this week the VLT is scrutinising the star S2 as it passes close by this hidden monster. Just last year ESO’s fleet of telescopes, including the VLT, was used to observe another exotic phenomenon: the first light from a gravitational wave source.

    On top of its scientific legacy, the VLT is also playing a vital role in preparing technology for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), currently under construction 23 kilometres from the VLT in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. ESO’s experience in building and operating remote, cutting-edge observatories such as the VLT is proving vital in developing the ELT, the next frontier in ground-based astronomy.

    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO La Silla HELIOS (HARPS Experiment for Light Integrated Over the Sun)

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at Cerro LaSilla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO/Cerro LaSilla, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Platform at Cerro Paranal elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft)

    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    ESO/NTT at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres

    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, at an altitude 3,046 m (9,993 ft)

    ESO/APEX high on the Chajnantor plateau in Chile’s Atacama region, at an altitude of over 4,800 m (15,700 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

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  • richardmitnick 7:28 am on January 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), ,   

    From ESO: “Odd Behaviour of Star Reveals Lonely Black Hole Hiding in Giant Star Cluster” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    17 January 2018

    Benjamin Giesers
    Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
    Göttigen, Germany
    Email: giesers@astro.physik.uni-goettingen.de

    Stefan Dreizler
    Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
    Göttigen, Germany
    Email: dreizler@astro.physik.uni-goettingen.de

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1
    Astronomers using ESO’s MUSE instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered a star in the cluster NGC 3201 that is behaving very strangely. It appears to be orbiting an invisible black hole with about four times the mass of the Sun — the first such inactive stellar-mass black hole found in a globular cluster and the first found by directly detecting its gravitational pull. This important discovery impacts on our understanding of the formation of these star clusters, black holes, and the origins of gravitational wave events.


    This important discovery impacts on our understanding of the formation of these star clusters, black holes, and the origins of gravitational wave events.
    This short ESOcast takes a look at this discovery and its significance.
    Credit: ESO.
    Directed by: Nico Bartmann.
    Editing: Nico Bartmann.
    Web and technical support: Mathias André and Raquel Yumi Shida.
    Written by: Rosa Jesse, Nicole Shearer and Richard Hook.
    Music: Music written and performed by: John Stanford (johnstanfordmusic.com).
    Footage and photos: ESO, Luís Calçada, spaceengine (spaceengine.org).


    This video takes us towards the southern constellation of Vela (The Sails), where we find the bright globular star cluster NGC 3201. This huge and ancient ball of stars has been found to harbour an invisible black hole with four times the mass of the Sun. The final sharp view of the centre of the cluster comes from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

    Credit: ESO/ESA/NASA/Digitized Sky Survey 2/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: Astral Electronic

    2
    This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the central region of the rich globular star cluster NGC 3201 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sails).
    A star that has been found to be orbiting a black hole with four times the mass of the Sun is indicated with blue circle. Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    One particular cluster, called NGC 3201 and situated in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sails), has now been studied using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. An international team of astronomers has found that one of the stars [1] in NGC 3201 is behaving very oddly — it is being flung backwards and forwards at speeds of several hundred thousand kilometres per hour, with the pattern repeating every 167 days [2].

    ESO MUSE on the VLT

    Lead author Benjamin Giesers (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany) was intrigued by the star’s behaviour: “It was orbiting something that was completely invisible, which had a mass more than four times the Sun — this could only be a black hole! The first one found in a globular cluster by directly observing its gravitational pull.”

    The relationship between black holes and globular clusters is an important but mysterious one. Because of their large masses and great ages, these clusters are thought to have produced a large number of stellar-mass black holes — created as massive stars within them exploded and collapsed over the long lifetime of the cluster [3][4].

    ESO’s MUSE instrument provides astronomers with a unique ability to measure the motions of thousands of far away stars at the same time. With this new finding, the team have for the first time been able to detect an inactive black hole at the heart of a globular cluster — one that is not currently swallowing matter and is not surrounded by a glowing disc of gas. They could estimate the black hole’s mass through the movements of a star caught up in its enormous gravitational pull [5].

    From its observed properties the star was determined to be about 0.8 times the mass of our Sun, and the mass of its mysterious counterpart was calculated at around 4.36 times the Sun’s mass — almost certainly a black hole [6].

    Recent detections of radio and X-ray sources in globular clusters, as well as the 2016 detection of gravitational-wave signals produced by the merging of two stellar-mass black holes, suggest that these relatively small black holes may be more common in globular clusters than previously thought.

    Giesers concludes: “Until recently, it was assumed that almost all black holes would disappear from globular clusters after a short time and that systems like this should not even exist! But clearly this is not the case — our discovery is the first direct detection of the gravitational effects of a stellar-mass black hole in a globular cluster. This finding helps in understanding the formation of globular clusters and the evolution of black holes and binary systems — vital in the context of understanding gravitational wave sources.”

    Notes

    [1] The star found is a main sequence turn-off star, meaning it is at the end of the main sequence phase of its life. Having exhausted its primary hydrogen fuel supply it is now on the way to becoming a red giant.

    [2] A large survey of 25 globular clusters around the Milky Way is currently being conducted using ESO’s MUSE instrument with the support of the MUSE consortium. It will provide astronomers with the spectra of 600 to 27 000 stars in each cluster. The study includes analysis of the “radial velocity” of individual stars — the speed at which they move away from and toward the Earth, along the line of sight of the observer. With radial velocity measurements the orbits of stars can be determined, as well as the properties of any massive object they may be orbiting.

    [3] In the absence of continuous star formation, as is the case for globular clusters, stellar-mass black holes soon become the most massive objects present. Generally, stellar-mass black holes in globular clusters are about four times as massive as the surrounding low-mass stars. Recent theories have concluded that black holes form a dense nucleus within the cluster, which then becomes detached from the rest of the globular material. Movements at the centre of the cluster are then thought to eject the majority of black holes, meaning only a few would survive after a billion years.

    [4] Stellar-mass black holes — or collapsars — are formed when massive stars die, collapsing under their own gravity and exploding as powerful hypernovae. Left behind is a black hole with most of the mass of the former star, which can range from a few times the mass of our Sun to several tens of times as massive.

    [5] As no light is able to escape black holes because of their tremendous gravity, the primary method of detecting them is through observations of radio or X-ray emissions coming from hot material around them. But when a black hole is not interacting with hot matter and so not accumulating mass or emitting radiation, as in this case, the black hole is “inactive” and invisible, so another method of detection is required.

    [6] Because the non-luminous object in this binary system cannot be directly observed there are alternative, although much less persuasive, explanations for what it could be. It is perhaps a triple star system made up of two tightly bound neutron stars, with the observed star orbiting around them. This scenario would require each tightly bound star to be at least twice the mass of our Sun, a binary system that has never been observed before.
    More information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled A detached stellar-mass black hole candidate in the globular cluster NGC 3201, by B. Giesers et al., to appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The team is composed of Benjamin Giesers (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany), Stefan Dreizler (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany), Tim-Oliver Husser (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany), Sebastian Kamann (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany; Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom), Guillem Anglada Escudé (Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom), Jarle Brinchmann (Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands; Universidade do Porto, CAUP, Porto, Portugal), C. Marcella Carollo (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH, Zurich, Switzerland) Martin M. Roth (Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany), Peter M. Weilbacher (Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany) and Lutz Wisotzki (Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    Visit ESO in Social Media-

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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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m.

    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

     
  • richardmitnick 9:29 am on January 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT),   

    From COSMOS: “Unlike Hollywood, the universe is full of big stars” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    05 January 2018
    Richard A Lovett

    Research finds massive star numbers have been underestimated – affecting calculations for black holes, neutron stars and gravitational waves.

    1
    This composite of 30 Doradus, aka the Tarantula Nebula, contains data from Chandra, Hubble, and Spitzer. Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Tarantula Nebula is one of the largest star-forming regions close to the Milky Way. Universal History Archive / Contributor / Getty Images

    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    2
    Large Magellanic Cloud, NASA/ESA Hubble

    Giant stars hundreds of times more massive than the sun may have been much more common in the early universe than previously believed, astronomers say.

    The find, published in the journal Science, used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to examine about 800 stars in a “starburst” region called 30 Doradus (also known as the Tarantula Nebula) in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy about 160,000 light years away from the Milky Way.

    3
    30 Doradus, aka the Tarantula Nebula, ESO/VLT

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Using a spectrometer so sensitive it could pick out individual stars only 1.2 arcseconds apart (about 1/1500 the width of the full moon), the researchers counted substantially more high-mass stars – ranging from 30 to 200 times the mass of the sun – than predicted by long-standing models of star formation. Furthermore, the discrepancy was particularly large for the largest stars.

    Historically, astronomers have believed that the vast majority of stellar matter is in the form of myriad small stars, with only a fraction of it in giants of the type observed in 30 Doradus. (In fact, it was only recently that astronomers realized that the largest of these gigantic stars even existed.)

    But the new research appears to have stood the traditional notion on its head. “Our results suggest that a significant fraction [of the mass] is in high-mass stars,” says one of the authors, Chris Evans of the UK’s Astronomy Technology Centre, in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    That’s important, adds the study’s lead author, Fabian Schneider, an astrophysicist from the University of Oxford, because a star 100 times the mass of our sun isn’t equivalent to 100 suns.

    “These are extremely bright,” he says. “A 100 solar-mass star would be a million times brighter than our sun. You need only a handful of these to outshine all the others.”

    Such bright stars, he adds, are “cosmic engines” that blast out not only light but ionising radiation and strong stellar winds. They burn bright, but also die young in massive explosions that not only create black holes and neutron stars, but disperse the elements of planets — and life — into space: carbon, oxygen, silicon, iron, and many others.

    In the earliest universe, after it had cooled down from the initial fury of the Big Bang, there was nothing but hydrogen and helium, cold and dark, Schneider says. But about 150 million years later, astrophysicists believe that the infant universe’s “dark age” ended with the coalescing of these materials into the first stars and galaxies.

    The resulting burst of radiation not only brought light back to the universe, but produced a series of other important effects, including the production of ionising radiation, stellar winds, and supernovae. In combination, these shaped galaxies and slowed the rate of star formation enough to keep the first generation of stars from gobbling up all of the available matter.

    The result, Schneider says, was to “regulate” the star forming process “so that you [still] see stars forming today. Otherwise, it would have stopped early on.”

    In today’s universe, giant star-forming regions such as 30 Doradus are relatively rare. Ancient regions can still be studied by peering at distant galaxies, whose light has been traveling for billions of years, but these are far away and difficult to observe in detail.

    Having one nearby, where we can study it closely, is therefore a perfect opportunity, especially because 30 Doradus is so close and large that it is easily visible in a small telescope.

    And it is so bright that if it were in our own galaxy at the distance of the Orion Nebula’s star-forming cluster (easily visible to the naked eye) it would span an area 60 times larger than the full moon and cast visible shadows on cloudless nights, Schneider says.

    And while it doesn’t constitute a perfect laboratory – it has too many heavier elements, for example, to be a perfect analogy to star-forming regions in the earliest galaxies – the fact it contains so many super-massive stars has major ramifications for our understanding of our universe’s history.

    “There might [have been] 70% more supernovae, a tripling of the chemical yields and towards four times the ionising radiation from massive star populations,” says Schneider.

    “Also, the formation rate of black holes might be increased by 180%, directly translating into a corresponding increase of binary black hole mergers that have recently been detected via their gravitational wave signals.”

    Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist and cosmologist at Australian National University, calls the new study “a very good paper” with “wide-reaching impact.”

    Its authors, he adds comprise a “who’s who” of experts in the field.

    “[It] suggests we should expect more core-collapse supernovae, and thus more metals, in the early Universe,” he says. There should also be more black hole mergers to be detected in the future by the gravitational waves they produced.

    “Simply put,” he says, “more larger stars equals a more exciting universe.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 4:43 pm on November 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before, ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), , ,   

    From ESO: “ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    20 November 2017
    Olivier Hainaut
    ESO
    Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6752
    Email: ohainaut@eso.org

    Karen Meech
    Institute for Astronomy
    Honolulu, Hawai`i, USA
    Cell: +1-720-231-7048
    Email: meech@IfA.Hawaii.Edu

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1
    For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. The new results appear in the journal Nature on 20 November 2017.

    2
    This very deep combined image shows the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua at the centre of the picture. It is surrounded by the trails of faint stars that are smeared as the telescopes tracked the moving asteroid. This image was created by combining multiple images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope as well as the Gemini South Telescope. The object is marked with a blue circle and appears to be a point source, with no surrounding dust. Credit: ESO/K. Meech et al.


    Gemini South telescope, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 7200 feet

    3
    This diagram shows the orbit of the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua as it passes through the Solar System. Unlike all other asteroids and comets observed before, this body is not bound by gravity to the Sun. It has come from interstellar space and will return there after its brief encounter with our star system. Its hyperbolic orbit is highly inclined and it does not appear to have come close to any other Solar System body on its way in. Credit: ESO/K. Meech et al.

    4
    This plot shows how the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua varied in brightness during three days in October 2017. The large range of brightness — about a factor of ten (2.5 magnitudes) — is due to the very elongated shape of this unique object, which rotates every 7.3 hours. The different coloured dots represent measurements through different filters, covering the visible and near-infrared part of the spectrum. The dotted line shows the light curve expected if ‘Oumuamua were an ellipsoid with a 1:10 aspect ratio, the deviations from this line are probably due to irregularities in the object’s shape or surface albedo. Credit: ESO/K. Meech et al.


    For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and other observatories around the world show that this unique object was travelling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. The video is available in 4K UHD. Credit: ESO


    This animation shows the path of the interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 (‘Oumuamua) through the Solar System. Observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope and others have shown that this unique object is dark, reddish in colour and highly elongated. Credit:ESO, M. Kornmesser, L.Calcada. Music: Azul Cobalto

    On 19 October 2017, the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i picked up a faint point of light moving across the sky.

    Pann-STARS telescope, U Hawaii, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    It initially looked like a typical fast-moving small asteroid, but additional observations over the next couple of days allowed its orbit to be computed fairly accurately. The orbit calculations revealed beyond any doubt that this body did not originate from inside the Solar System, like all other asteroids or comets ever observed, but instead had come from interstellar space. Although originally classified as a comet, observations from ESO and elsewhere revealed no signs of cometary activity after it passed closest to the Sun in September 2017. The object was reclassified as an interstellar asteroid and named 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) [1].

    “We had to act quickly,” explains team member Olivier Hainaut from ESO in Garching, Germany. “’Oumuamua had already passed its closest point to the Sun and was heading back into interstellar space.”

    ESO’s Very Large Telescope was immediately called into action to measure the object’s orbit, brightness and colour more accurately than smaller telescopes could achieve. Speed was vital as ‘Oumuamua was rapidly fading as it headed away from the Sun and past the Earth’s orbit, on its way out of the Solar System. There were more surprises to come.

    Combining the images from the FORS instrument on the VLT using four different filters with those of other large telescopes, the team of astronomers led by Karen Meech (Institute for Astronomy, Hawai`i, USA) found that ‘Oumuamua varies dramatically in brightness by a factor of ten as it spins on its axis every 7.3 hours.

    ESO/FORS1

    Karen Meech explains the significance: “This unusually large variation in brightness means that the object is highly elongated: about ten times as long as it is wide, with a complex, convoluted shape. We also found that it has a dark red colour, similar to objects in the outer Solar System, and confirmed that it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it.”

    These properties suggest that ‘Oumuamua is dense, possibly rocky or with high metal content, lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and that its surface is now dark and reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over millions of years. It is estimated to be at least 400 metres long.

    Preliminary orbital calculations suggested that the object had come from the approximate direction of the bright star Vega, in the northern constellation of Lyra. However, even travelling at a breakneck speed of about 95 000 kilometres/hour, it took so long for the interstellar object to make the journey to our Solar System that Vega was not near that position when the asteroid was there about 300 000 years ago. ‘Oumuamua may well have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with the Solar System.

    Astronomers estimate that an interstellar asteroid similar to ‘Oumuamua passes through the inner Solar System about once per year, but they are faint and hard to spot so have been missed until now. It is only recently that survey telescopes, such as Pan-STARRS, are powerful enough to have a chance to discover them.

    “We are continuing to observe this unique object,” concludes Olivier Hainaut, “and we hope to more accurately pin down where it came from and where it is going next on its tour of the galaxy. And now that we have found the first interstellar rock, we are getting ready for the next ones!”

    Notes

    [1] The Pan-STARRS team’s proposal to name the interstellar objet was accepted by the International Astronomical Union, which is responsible for granting official names to bodies in the Solar System and beyond. The name is Hawaiian and more details are given here. The IAU also created a new class of objects for interstellar asteroids, with this object being the first to receive this designation. The correct forms for referring to this object are now: 1I, 1I/2017 U1, 1I/’Oumuamua and 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua). Note that the character before the O is an okina. So, the name should sound like H O u mu a mu a. Before the introduction of the new scheme, the object was referred to as A/2017 U1.

    More information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled A brief visit from a red and extremely elongated interstellar asteroid, by K. Meech et al., to appear in the journal Nature on 20 November 2017.

    The team is composed of Karen J. Meech (Institute for Astronomy, Honolulu, Hawai`i, USA [IfA]) Robert Weryk (IfA), Marco Micheli (ESA SSA-NEO Coordination Centre, Frascati, Italy; INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Monte Porzio Catone, Italy), Jan T. Kleyna (IfA) Olivier Hainaut (ESO, Garching, Germany), Robert Jedicke (IfA) Richard J. Wainscoat (IfA) Kenneth C. Chambers (IfA) Jacqueline V. Keane (IfA), Andreea Petric (IfA), Larry Denneau (IfA), Eugene Magnier (IfA), Mark E. Huber (IfA), Heather Flewelling (IfA), Chris Waters (IfA), Eva Schunova-Lilly (IfA) and Serge Chastel (IfA).

    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m.

    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

     
  • richardmitnick 8:35 am on November 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A gigantic cosmic bubble, , , , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT),   

    From ESO via Manu: “A gigantic cosmic bubble” 


    Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    1
    Measuring more than 300 000 light-years across, three times the diameter of the Milky Way, this colourful bubble of ionised gas is the biggest to ever have been discovered. The enormous bubble contains 10 individual galaxies and is situated in a particularly dense region of a galaxy group called COSMOS-Gr30, 6.5 billion light-years away from Earth. Targeted due to its high density of galaxies, this group is extremely varied — some galaxies are actively forming stars while others are passive; some are bright while others are dim; some are massive and others are tiny.

    This record-breaking bubble was discovered and studied in detail thanks to the incredible sensitivity of the MUSE instrument, mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Operating in visible wavelengths, MUSE combines the capabilities of an imaging device with the measuring capacity of a spectrograph, creating a unique and powerful tool that can shed light on cosmological objects that would otherwise remain in the dark.

    ESO MUSE on the VLT

    MUSE’s powerful eye on the sky has allowed astronomers to understand that this large pocket of gas is not pristine, but was expelled from galaxies either during violent interactions or by superwinds driven by active black holes and supernovae. They also studied how this magnificent bubble became ionised. It is believed that the gas in the upper area (shown in blue) was ionised by intense electromagnetic radiation from newborn stars and shock waves stemming from galactic activity. Astronomers suspect that the violent red active galactic nucleus towards the lower left of the image could have ripped the electrons from their atoms.

    Science paper:
    Ionised gas structure of 100 kpc in an over-dense region of the galaxy group COSMOS-Gr30 at z 0.7? Astronomy & Astrophysics

    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m.

    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

     
  • richardmitnick 3:46 pm on June 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , CLASH team, , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), , Young dead disk galaxy MACS2129-1   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Captures Massive Dead Disk Galaxy that Challenges Theories of Galaxy Evolution” 

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Jun 21, 2017

    Ann Jenkins
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4488
    jenkins@stsci.edu

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Sune Toft
    Dark Cosmology Center, Niels Bohr Institute,
    University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
    sune@dark-cosmology.dk

    1
    Young, Dead, Compact, Disk Galaxy Surprises Astronomers, Offers New Clues to How Modern-Day Elliptical Galaxies Formed
    Astronomers combined the power of a “natural lens” in space with the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to make a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang. Researchers say that finding such a galaxy so early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve. Astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk. The galaxy, called MACS 2129-1, is considered “dead” because it is no longer making stars. This new insight is forcing astronomers to rethink their theories of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies. “Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early ‘dead’ galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them,” said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

    2
    This artist’s concept shows what the young, dead, disk galaxy MACS2129-1, right, would look like when compared with the Milky Way galaxy, left. Although three times as massive as the Milky Way, it is only half the size. MACS2129-1 is also spinning more than twice as fast as the Milky Way. Note that regions of Milky Way are blue from bursts of star formation, while the young, dead galaxy is yellow, signifying an older star population and no new star birth. NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI)

    3
    This is a wider view of galaxy cluster MACS J2129-0741, located in the constellation Aquarius. The massive galaxy cluster magnifies, brightens, and distorts the images of remote background galaxies, including the far-distant, dead disk galaxy MACS2129-1. NASA, ESA, M. Postman (STScI), and the CLASH team

    4
    This annotated image shows the size, scale, distance, filters, and compass for galaxy cluster MACS J2129-0741 and the gravitationally lensed galaxy MACS2129-1. Science: NASA, ESA, and S. Toft (University of Copenhagen)
    Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, M. Postman (STScI), and the CLASH team

    5
    Acting as a “natural telescope” in space, the gravity of the extremely massive foreground galaxy cluster MACS J2129-0741 magnifies, brightens, and distorts the far-distant background galaxy MACS2129-1, shown in the top box. The middle box is a blown-up view of the gravitationally lensed galaxy. In the bottom box is a reconstructed image, based on modeling, that shows what the galaxy would look like if the galaxy cluster were not present. The galaxy appears red because it is so distant that its light is shifted into the red part of the spectrum. Science: NASA, ESA, and S. Toft (University of Copenhagen)
    Acknowledgment: NASA, ESA, M. Postman (STScI), and the CLASH team

    6
    Featured Image:
    Galaxy Cluster MACS J2129-0741 and Lensed Galaxy MACS2129-1
    News release ID: STScI-2017-26
    Release Date: Jun 21, 2017

    By combining the power of a “natural lens” in space with the capability of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers made a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang.

    Finding such a galaxy early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve, say researchers.

    When Hubble photographed the galaxy, astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together. Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk.

    This is the first direct observational evidence that at least some of the earliest so-called “dead” galaxies — where star formation stopped — somehow evolve from a Milky Way-shaped disk into the giant elliptical galaxies we see today.

    This is a surprise because elliptical galaxies contain older stars, while spiral galaxies typically contain younger blue stars. At least some of these early “dead” disk galaxies must have gone through major makeovers. They not only changed their structure, but also the motions of their stars to make a shape of an elliptical galaxy.

    “This new insight may force us to rethink the whole cosmological context of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies,” said study leader Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

    7

    “Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early “dead” galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them.”

    Previous studies of distant dead galaxies have assumed that their structure is similar to the local elliptical galaxies they will evolve into. Confirming this assumption in principle requires more powerful space telescopes than are currently available. However, through the phenomenon known as “gravitational lensing,” a massive, foreground cluster of galaxies acts as a natural “zoom lens” in space by magnifying and stretching images of far more distant background galaxies. By joining this natural lens with the resolving power of Hubble, scientists were able to see into the center of the dead galaxy.

    The remote galaxy is three times as massive as the Milky Way but only half the size. Rotational velocity measurements made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) showed that the disk galaxy is spinning more than twice as fast as the Milky Way.

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    Using archival data from the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), Toft and his team were able to determine the stellar mass, star-formation rate, and the ages of the stars.

    8
    CLASH: An Innovative Survey to Place New Constraints on the Fundamental Components of the Cosmos using the Hubble Space Telescope

    Why this galaxy stopped forming stars is still unknown. It may be the result of an active galactic nucleus, where energy is gushing from a supermassive black hole. This energy inhibits star formation by heating the gas or expelling it from the galaxy. Or it may be the result of the cold gas streaming onto the galaxy being rapidly compressed and heated up, preventing it from cooling down into star-forming clouds in the galaxy’s center.

    But how do these young, massive, compact disks evolve into the elliptical galaxies we see in the present-day universe? “Probably through mergers,” Toft said. “If these galaxies grow through merging with minor companions, and these minor companions come in large numbers and from all sorts of different angles onto the galaxy, this would eventually randomize the orbits of stars in the galaxies. You could also imagine major mergers. This would definitely also destroy the ordered motion of the stars.”

    The findings are published in the June 22 issue of the journal Nature. Toft and his team hope to use NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to look for a larger sample of such galaxies.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    The Very Large Telescope is a telescope facility operated by the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile.

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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    AURA Icon

    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 8:33 am on May 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT),   

    From Manu Garcia: “The Eagle Nebula, an eagle of cosmic proportions.” 


    Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.
    1

    July 16, 2009.

    ESO today released a new and stunning image of the sky around the Eagle Nebula , a stellar maternity ward where whole clusters are forged inside monstrous columns of gas and dust.

    It is located at 7,000 away in the constellation Serpens (the Snake), light years from the Eagle Nebula is a dazzling stellar nursery, a region of gas and dust where young stars are continually forming; She including just born NGC 6611 , a cluster of massive, hot stars. The intense light and strong winds emitted by these massive stars, carved pillars of light years in length, whose silhouettes stand out in the picture on the bright background of the nebula. The nebula itself has a shape vaguely reminiscent of an eagle, where the central pillars would claws.

    The star cluster was discovered in 1745-46 by the Swiss astronomer Jean Philippe Loys de Cheseaux. It was rediscovered independently twenty years later by the French comet hunter Charles Messier, who included it with the name of M16 in his famous catalog, noting that the stars were surrounded by a faint diffuse glow. The Eagle Nebula achieved fame in 1995 when its central pillars were photographed in the famous image obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope ESA / NASA .

    Pillars of Creation. NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    In 2001, the Very Large Telescope (VLT) captured another striking image of the nebula (eso0142) in the near infrared, thus penetrating dust and clearly showing stars being formed in the pillars.

    ESO/VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    The newly released image, obtained with the Wide Field Camera installed on the MPG / ESO telescope 2.2 meters at the La Silla Observatory in Chile , covers an area of sky the size of the full moon, this being a field 15 times larger than the previous image VLT and 200 times larger than the famous image Hubble in visible light.

    MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres

    The whole region around the pillars can be seen in exquisite detail.

    The “Pillars of Creation” are in the center of the image, accompanied, top right, the young star cluster NGC 6611 . The “Capitel” – another pillar captured by Hubble – is at the center left of the image.

    Shaped structures fingers emerge from the massive wall of the cloud of gas and dust, as stalagmites emerging soil of a cave. Inside the pillars, the gas is dense enough to collapse under its own weight, forming young stars. These columns of gas and dust, light years long, are sculpted, illuminated and destroyed both by the intense ultraviolet radiation from massive stars in NGC 6611 , the adjacent young cluster. Within a few million years – a mere blink of the universal eye wide disappear forever.

    credits:
    ESO .

    More images from ESO

    3
    Digitized sky survey image of the Eagle Nebula

    More … here

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 3:02 pm on August 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), ,   

    From SEEKER: “The Race to See Our Supermassive Black Hole” 

    Seeker bloc

    SEEKER

    May 26, 2016 [Article brought forward by ESO]
    No writer credit found

    Using the power of interferometry, two astronomical projects are, for the first time, close to directly observing the black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

    Sag A*  NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    Sag A* NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way

    There’s a monster living in the center of the galaxy.

    We know the supermassive black hole is there by tracking the motions of stars and gas clouds that orbit an invisible point. That point exerts an overwhelming tidal influence on all objects that get trapped in its gravitational domain and this force can be measured through stellar orbits to calculate its mass.

    It certainly isn’t the biggest black hole in the universe, but it isn’t the smallest either, it “weighs in” at an incredible 4 million times the mass of our sun.

    But this black hole behemoth, called Sagittarius A*, is over 20,000 light-years from Earth making direct observations, before now, nigh-on impossible. Despite its huge mass, the black hole is minuscule when seen from Earth; a telescope with an unprecedented angular resolution is needed.

    Though we already know a lot about Sagittarius A* from indirect observations, seeing is believing and there’s an international race, using the world’s most powerful observatories and sophisticated astronomical techniques, to zoom-in on the Milky Way’s black hole. This won’t only prove it’s really there, but it will reveal a region where space-time is so warped that we will be able to make direct tests of general relativity in the strongest gravity environment known to exist in the universe.

    The Event Horizon Telescope and GRAVITY

    A huge global effort is currently under way to link a network of global radio telescopes to create a virtual telescope that will span the width of our planet. Using the incredible power of interferometry, astronomers can combine the light from many distant radio antennae and collect it at one point, to mimic one large radio antenna spanning the globe.

    Event Horizon Telescope Array

    Event Horizon Telescope map
    Event Horizon Telescope map

    Arizona Radio Observatory
    Arizona Radio Observatory/Submillimeter-wave Astronomy (ARO/SMT)

    ESO/APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX)

    CARMA Array no longer in service
    Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA)

    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)
    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)

    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

    IRAM NOEMA interferometer
    Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique (IRAM) 30m

    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

    CfA Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
    Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO

    Future Array/Telescopes

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array, Chile

    Plateau de Bure interferometer
    Plateau de Bure interferometer

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL
    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

    This effort is known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) and it is hoped the project will be able to attain the angular resolution and spatial definition required to soon produce its first radio observations of the bright ring just beyond Sagittarius A*’s event horizon — the point surrounding a black hole where nothing, not even light, can escape.

    However, another project has the same goal in mind, but it’s not going to observe in radio wavelengths, it’s going to stare deep into the galactic core to seek out optical and infrared light coming from Sagittarius A* and it just needs one observatory to make this goal a reality.

    1
    The ESO Very Large Telescope located atop Cerro Paranal in Chile. Ian O’Neill

    The GRAVITY instrument is currently undergoing commissioning at the ESO’s Very Large Telescope at Paranal Observatory high in the Atacama Desert in Chile (at an altitude of over 2,600 meters or 8,300 ft) and it will also use the power of interferometry to resolve our supermassive black hole. But rather than connecting global observatories like the EHT, GRAVITY will combine the light of the four 8 meter telescopes of the VLT Interferometer (collectively known as the VLTI) to create a “virtual” telescope measuring the distance between each individual telescope.

    ESO GRAVITY insrument
    ESO GRAVITY insrument

    “By doing this you can reach the same resolution and precision that you would get from a telescope that has a size, in this case, of roughly a hundred meters, simply because these eight meter-class telescopes are separated by roughly one hundred meters,” astronomer Oliver Pfuhl, of Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Germany, told DNews. “If you combine the light from those you reach the same resolution as a virtual telescope of a hundred meters would have.”

    Strong Gravity Environment

    When GRAVITY is online it will be used to track features just outside Sagittarius A*’s event horizon.

    “For about ten years, we’ve known that this black hole is actually not black. Once in awhile it flares, so we see it brightening and darkening,” he said. This flaring is matter falling into the event horizon, generating a powerful flash of energy. The nature of these flares are poorly understood, but the instrument should be able to track this flaring material as it rapidly orbits the event horizon and fades away. These flares will also act as tracers, helping us see the structure of space-time immediately surrounding a black hole for the first time.

    2
    One of the four Very Large Telescope domes fires its new four-laser adaptive optics system. GRAVITY will make use of adaptive optics to improve observations of Sagittarius A* by compensating for the effects of atmospheric turbulence. ESO

    “Our goal is to measure these motions. We think that what we see as this flaring is actually gas which spirals into the black hole. This brightening and darkening is essentially the gas, when it comes too close to the black hole, the strong tidal forces make it heat up,” said Pfuhl.

    “If we can study these motions which happen so close to the black hole, we have a direct probe of the space time close to the black hole. In this way we have a direct test of general relativity in one of the most extreme environments which you can find in the universe.”

    While GRAVITY will be able to track these flaring events very close to the black hole, the Event Horizon Telescope will see the shadow, or silhouette, of the dark event horizon surrounded by radio wave emissions. Both projects will be able to measure different components of the region directly surrounding the event horizon, so combined observations in optical and radio wavelengths will complement one other.

    It just so happens that the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the largest radio observatory on the planet — also located in the Atacama Desert — will also be added to the EHT.

    “The Event Horizon Telescope will combine ALMA with telescopes around the world like Hawaii and other locations, and with that power you can look at really fine details especially in the black hole in the center of our galaxy and perhaps in some really nearby other galaxies that also have black holes in their centers,” ESO astronomer Linda Watson told DNews.

    3
    The ALMA antenna in a clustered formation on Chajnantor plateau during the #MeetESO event on May 11, 2016. The extreme location of the observatory can produce unpredictable weather and, as depicted here, a blizzard descended on the plateau cutting the visit short.
    Ian O’Neill

    ALMA itself is an interferometer combining the collecting power of 66 radio antennae located atop Chajnantor plateau some 5,000 meters (16,400 ft) in altitude. Watson uses ALMA data to study the cold dust in interstellar space, but when added to the EHT, its radio-collecting power will help us understand the dynamics of the environment surrounding Sagittarius A*.

    “ALMA’s an interferometer with 66 antennas, (the EHT) will treat ALMA as just one telescope and will combine it with other telescopes around the world to be another interferometer,” she added.

    Black Hole Mysteries

    Many black holes are thought to possess an accretion disk of swirling gas and dust. ALMA, when combined with the EHT, will be able to measure this disk’s structure, speed and direction of motion. Lacking direct observations, many of these characteristics have only been modeled by computer simulations or inferred from indirect observations. We’re about to enter an era when we can truly get to answer some of the biggest mysteries surrounding black hole dynamics.

    “The first thing we want to see is we want to understand how accretion works close to the black hole,” said Pfuhl. “This is also true for the Event Horizon Telescope. Another thing we want to learn is does our black hole have spin? That means, does it rotate?”

    Though the EHT and GRAVITY are working at different wavelengths, observing phenomena around Sagittarius A* will reveal different things about the closest supermassive black hole to Earth. By extension it is hoped that we may observe smaller black holes in our galaxy and other supermassive black holes in neighboring galaxies.

    3
    Computer simulation of what theoretical physiicists expect to see with the EHT — a round, dark disk surrounded by radio emissions.
    Avery E. Broderick/Univ. of Waterloo/Perimeter Institute (screenshot from the Convergence meeting)

    But as we patiently wait for the first direct observations of the black hole monster lurking in the center of our galaxy, an event that some scientists say will be as historic as the “Pale Blue Dot” photo of Earth as captured by Voyager 1 in 1990, it’s hard not to wonder which project will get there first.

    “I think it’s a very tight race,” said Pfuhl. “Let’s see.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:20 am on September 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT)   

    From ESO: “VIMOS and SPHERE pictured inside UT3” 


    European Southern Observatory

    17 August 2015

    1
    In this view inside ESO’s Very Large Telescope array (VLT) Unit Telescope 3, VIMOS — the VIsible Multi-Object Spectrograph — can be seen to the left and SPHERE — the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility — to the right. The telescope enclosure’s large cooling system is also visible. Credit: ESO

    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 European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    ESO LaSilla
    LaSilla

    ESO VLT Interferometer
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    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

     
  • richardmitnick 7:05 am on March 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT)   

    From ESO: “Spiral Beauty Graced by Fading Supernova” 

    20 March 2013

    About 35 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Eridanus (The River), lies the spiral galaxy NGC 1637. Back in 1999 the serene appearance of this galaxy was shattered by the appearance of a very bright Type II supernova [SN1999em]. Astronomers studying the aftermath of this explosion with ESO’s Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile have provided us with a stunning view of this relatively nearby galaxy.

    spi

    In 1999 the Lick Observatory in California reported the discovery of a new supernova in the spiral galaxy NGC 1637. It was spotted using a telescope that had been specially built to search for these rare, but important cosmic objects. Follow-up observations were requested so that the discovery could be confirmed and studied further. This supernova was widely observed and was given the name SN 1999em. After its spectacular explosion in 1999, the supernova’s brightness has been tracked carefully by scientists, showing its relatively gentle fading through the years.”

    sn
    The position of the supernova is marked.

    “SN 1999em is a core-collapse supernova classified more precisely as a Type IIp. The “p” stands for plateau, meaning supernovae of this type remain bright (on a plateau) for a relatively long period of time after maximum brightness.”

    See the full article here.

    Richard Hook
    ESO, La Silla, Paranal, E-ELT & Survey Telescopes Press Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

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    THE BASIC TOOLS OF E.S.O.
    i1
    Paranal Platform The VLT
    ESO NTT

    NTT – New Technology Telescope


    La Silla

    alma
    ALMA Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

    i2
    The European Extremely Large Telescope
    VISTAVISTA (the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy)


    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope (APEX)

    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.


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