From Gemini Observatory: “Ultra-sharp Images Make Old Stars Look Absolutely Marvelous! “

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Gemini Observatory
From Gemini Observatory

March 21, 2019

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Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Brazil
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Figure 1. Color composite GSAOI+GeMS image of HP 1 obtained using the Gemini South telescope in Chile. North is up and East to the left. Composite image produced by Mattia Libralato of the Space Telescope Science Institute. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF.

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GSAOI+GeMS color composite image of HP 1 (right image) shown relative to the full field of the cluster obtained by the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (left). Credit: Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA/VISTA/Aladin/CDS.

Part of ESO’s Paranal Observatory, the VLT Survey Telescope (VISTA) observes the brilliantly clear skies above the Atacama Desert of Chile. It is the largest survey telescope in the world in visible light.
Credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

Using high-resolution adaptive optics imaging from the Gemini Observatory, astronomers have uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way Galaxy. The remarkably sharp image looks back into the early history of our Universe and sheds new insights on how our Galaxy formed.

Just as high-definition imaging is transforming home entertainment, it is also advancing the way astronomers study the Universe.

“Ultra-sharp adaptive optics images from the Gemini Observatory allowed us to determine the ages of some of the oldest stars in our Galaxy,” said Leandro Kerber of the Universidade de São Paulo and Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Brazil. Kerber led a large international research team that published their results in the April 2019 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Gemini Observatory Adaptie Optics-Gemini South on the summit of Cerro Pachón in Chile (left) and Gemini North on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, USA (right). Image credit Gemini/NSF/AURA

Using advanced adaptive optics technology at the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the researchers zoomed in on a cluster of stars known as HP 1. “Removing our atmosphere’s distortions to starlight with adaptive optics reveals tremendous details in the objects we study,” added Kerber. “Because we captured these stars in such great detail, we were able to determine their advanced age and piece together a very compelling story.”

That story begins just as the Universe was reaching its one-billionth birthday.

“This star cluster is like an ancient fossil buried deep in our Galaxy’s bulge, and now we’ve been able to date it to a far-off time when the Universe was very young,” said Stefano Souza, a PhD student at the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, who worked with Kerber as part of the research team. The team’s results date the cluster at about 12.8 billion years, making these stars among the oldest ever found in our Galaxy. “These are also some of the oldest stars we’ve seen anywhere,” added Souza.

“HP 1 is one of the surviving members of the fundamental building blocks that assembled our Galaxy’s inner bulge,” said Kerber. Until a few years ago, astronomers believed that the oldest globular star clusters — spherical swarms of up to a million stars — were only located in the outer parts of the Milky Way, while the younger ones resided in the innermost Galactic regions. However, Kerber’s study, as well as other recent work based on data from the Gemini Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), have revealed that ancient star clusters are also found within the Galactic bulge and relatively close to the Galactic center.

Globular clusters tell us much about the formation and evolution of the Milky Way. Most of these ancient and massive stellar systems are thought to have coalesced out of the primordial gas cloud that later collapsed to form the spiral disk of our Galaxy, while others appear to be the cores of dwarf galaxies consumed by our Milky Way. Of the roughly 160 globular clusters known in our Galaxy, about a quarter are located within the greatly obscured and tightly packed central bulge region of the Milky Way. This spherical mass of stars some 10,000 light years across forms the central hub of the Milky Way (the yolk if you will) which is made primarily of old stars, gas, and dust. Among the clusters within the bulge, those that are the most metal-poor (lacking in heavier elements) – which includes HP 1 – have long been suspected of being the oldest. HP 1 then is pivotal, as it serves as an excellent tracer of our Galaxy’s early chemical evolution.

“HP 1 is playing a critical role in our understanding of how the Milky Way formed,” Kerber said. “It is helping us to bridge the gap in our understanding between our Galaxy’s past and its present.”

Kerber and his international team used the exquisitely deep high-resolution adaptive optics images from Gemini Observatory as well as archival optical images from the HST to identify faint cluster members, which are essential for age determination. With this rich data set they confirmed that HP 1 is a fossil relic born less than a billion years after the Big Bang, when the Universe was in its infancy.

“These results crown an effort of more than two decades with some of the world’s premier telescopes aimed at determining accurate chemical abundances with high-resolution spectroscopy,” said Beatriz Barbuy of the Universidade de São Paulo, coauthor of this paper and a world-renowned expert in this field. “These Gemini images are the best ground-based photometric data we have. They are at the same level of HST data, allowing us to recover a missing piece in our puzzle: the age of HP 1. From the existence of such old objects, we can attest to the short star formation timescale in the Galactic bulge, as well as its fast chemical enrichment.”

To determine the cluster’s distance, the team used archival ground-based data to identify 11 RR Lyrae variable stars (a type of “standard candle” used to measure cosmic distances) within HP 1. The observed brightness of these RR Lyrae stars indicate that HP 1 is at a distance of about 21,500 light years, placing it approximately 6,000 light years from the Galactic center, well within the Galaxy’s central bulge region.

Kerber and his team also used the Gemini data, as well HST, Very Large Telescope, and Gaia mission data, to refine the orbit of HP 1 within our Galaxy. This analysis shows that during HP 1’s history, the cluster came as close as about 400 light years from the Galactic center – less than one-tenth of its current distance.

NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
•KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
•MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
•YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo,

ESA/GAIA satellite

“The combination of high angular resolution and near-infrared sensitivity makes GeMS/GSAOI an extremely powerful tool for studying these compact, highly dust-enshrouded stellar clusters,” added Mattia Libralato of the Space Telescope Science Institute, a coauthor on the study. “Careful characterization of these ancient systems, as we’ve done here, is paramount to refine our knowledge of our Galaxy’s formation.”

Chris Davis, Program Officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Gemini, commented, “These fabulous results demonstrate why the development of wide-field, high-resolution imaging at Gemini is key to the Observatory’s future. The recent NSF award to support the development of a similar system at Gemini North will make routine super-sharp imaging from both hemispheres a reality. These are certainly exciting times for the Observatory.”

The Gemini observations resolve stars to about 0.1 arcsecond which is one 36 thousandths of a degree and comparable to separating two automobile headlamps from approximately 1,500 miles, or 2,500 kilometers, away (the distance from Manaus to Sao Paulo in Brazil, or from San Francisco to Dallas in the USA). This resolution was obtained using the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI) – a near-infrared adaptive optics camera used with the Gemini Multi-conjugate adaptive optics System (GeMS). GeMS is an advanced adaptive optics system utilizing three deformable mirrors to correct for distortions imparted on starlight by turbulence in layers of our atmosphere.

See the full article here .


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

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Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

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From NASA Chandra: “NGC 6231: Stellar Family Portrait in X-rays”

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NASA/Chandra Telescope


NASA Chandra

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Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Valparaiso/M. Kuhn et al; IR: NASA/JPL/WISE
An infrared image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey explorer is shown on the left.

NASA/WISE Telescope

Chandra’s image of the stellar cluster NGC 6231 helps provide an accurate census of the stars that reside there.

Astronomers think that our Sun was born in a stellar cluster about 4.6 billion years ago that quickly dispersed.

X-rays from Chandra were used to identify Sun-like stars in NGC 6231 that were previously missed.

The Chandra image shows the inner region of NGC 6231 where red, green, and blue represent low, medium, and high-energy X-rays.

In some ways, star clusters are like giant families with thousands of stellar siblings. These stars come from the same origins — a common cloud of gas and dust — and are bound to one another by gravity. Astronomers think that our Sun was born in a star cluster about 4.6 billion years ago that quickly dispersed.

By studying young star clusters, astronomers hope to learn more about how stars — including our Sun — are born. NGC 6231, located about 5,200 light years from Earth, is an ideal testbed for studying a stellar cluster at a critical stage of its evolution: not long after star formation has stopped.

The discovery of NGC 6231 is attributed to Giovanni Battista Hodierna, an Italian mathematician and priest who published observations of the cluster in 1654. Sky watchers today can find the star cluster to the southwest of the tail of the constellation Scorpius.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has been used to identify the young Sun-like stars in NGC 6231, which have, until recently, been hiding in plain sight. Young star clusters like NGC 6231 are found in the band of the Milky Way on the sky. As a result, interloping stars lying in front of or behind NGC 6231 greatly outnumber the stars in the cluster. These stars will generally be much older than those in NGC 6231, so members of the cluster can be identified by selecting signs of stellar youth.

Young stars stand out to Chandra because they have strong magnetic activity that heats their outer atmosphere to tens of millions of degrees Celsius and causes them to emit X-rays. Infrared measurements assist in verifying that an X-ray source is a young star and in inferring the star’s properties.

This Chandra X-ray image of NGC 6231 shows a close-up of the inner region of the cluster. Chandra can detect a range of X-ray light, which has been split into three bands to create this image. Red, green, and blue represents the lower, medium, and high-energy X-rays. The brightest X-ray emission is white.

The Chandra data, combined with infrared data from the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) Variables in the Vía Lactéa survey has provided the best census of young stars in NGC 6231 available.


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

There are an estimated 5,700 to 7,500 young stars in NGC 6231 in the Chandra field of view, about twice the number of stars in the well-known Orion star cluster. The stars in NGC 6231 are slightly older (3.2 million years on average) than those in Orion (2.5 million years old). However, NGC 6231 is much larger in volume and therefore the number density of its stars, that is, their proximity to one another, is much lower, by a factor of about 30. These differences enable scientists to study the diversity of properties for star clusters during the first few million years of their life.

Chandra studies of this and other young star clusters, have allowed astronomers to build up a sample from which cluster evolution can be studied. These clusters come from dozens of star-forming regions, but NGC 6231 adds a crucial piece to this puzzle because it shows how a cluster looks after the end of star formation. A comparison of the ages, sizes and masses of clusters in this sample implies that NGC 6231 has expanded from a more compact initial state, but it has not expanded sufficiently fast for its stars to break free from the cluster’s gravitational pull. Astronomers are not sure what will happen next: will it remain held together by gravity? Or will its constituents one day disperse as our Sun’s ancestral cluster once did?

Nearby star-forming regions frequently contain multiple star clusters, most of which are individually less massive than NGC 6231. The simple structure of NGC 6231, along with its relatively high mass, suggests that NGC 6231 was built up by mergers of several star clusters early its lifetime, a process known as “hierarchical cluster assembly”.

Two papers describing recent studies of NGC 6231, both led by Michael Kuhn while at the Universidad de Valparaíso in Chile, have been published and are available online at https://arxiv.org/abs/1706.00017 and https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.01731.

See the full article here .

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NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra’s science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

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From phys.org: “Artificial intelligence finds 56 new gravitational lens candidates”

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phys.org

October 23, 2017

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This picture shows a sample of the handmade photos of gravitational lenses that the astronomers used to train their neural network. Credit: Enrico Petrillo, University of Groningen

A group of astronomers from the universities of Groningen, Naples and Bonn has developed a method that finds gravitational lenses in enormous piles of observations. The method is based on the same artificial intelligence algorithm that Google, Facebook and Tesla have been using in the last years. The researchers published their method and 56 new gravitational lens candidates in the November issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

When a galaxy is hidden behind another galaxy, we can sometimes see the hidden one around the front system. This phenomenon is called a gravitational lens, because it emerges from Einstein’s general relativity theory which says that mass can bend light. Astronomers search for gravitational lenses because they help in the research of dark matter.

The hunt for gravitational lenses is painstaking. Astronomers have to sort thousands of images. They are assisted by enthusiastic volunteers around the world. So far, the search was more or less in line with the availability of new images. But thanks to new observations with special telescopes that reflect large sections of the sky, millions of images are added. Humans cannot keep up with that pace.

Google, Facebook, Tesla

To tackle the growing amount of images, the astronomers have used so-called ‘convolutional neural networks’. Google employed such neural networks to win a match of Go against the world champion. Facebook uses them to recognize what is in the images of your timeline. And Tesla has been developing self-driving cars thanks to neural networks.

The astronomers trained the neural network using millions of homemade images of gravitational lenses. Then they confronted the network with millions of images from a small patch of the sky. That patch had a surface area of 255 square degrees. That’s just over half a percent of the sky.

Gravitational lens candidates

Initially, the neural network found 761 gravitational lens candidates. After a visual inspection by the astronomers the sample was downsized to 56. The 56 new lenses still need to be confirmed by telescopes as the Hubble space telescope.

In addition, the neural network rediscovered two known lenses. Unfortunately, it did not see a third known lens. That is a small lens and the neural network was not trained for that size yet.

In the future, the researchers want to train their neural network even better so that it notices smaller lenses and rejects false ones. The final goal is to completely remove any visual inspection.

Kilo-Degree Survey

Carlo Enrico Petrillo (University of Groningen, The Netherlands), first author of the scientific publication: “This is the first time a convolutional neural network has been used to find peculiar objects in an astronomical survey. I think it will become the norm since future astronomical surveys will produce an enormous quantity of data which will be necessary to inspect. We don’t have enough astronomers to cope with this.”

The data that the neuronal network processed, came from the Kilo-Degree Survey. The project uses the VLT Survey Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Mount Paranal (Chile). The accompanying panoramic camera, OmegaCAM, was developed under Dutch leadership.


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

ESO Omegacam on VST at ESO’s Cerro Paranal observatory,with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

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Phys.org™ (formerly Physorg.com) is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004, Phys.org’s readership has grown steadily to include 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Phys.org publishes approximately 100 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Quancast 2009 includes Phys.org in its list of the Global Top 2,000 Websites. Phys.org community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, RSS/XML feeds, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.

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From ESO via Manu: “A Jumble of Exotic Stars”


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.

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European Southern Observatory

10 January 2013
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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This new infrared image from ESO’s VISTA telescope shows the globular cluster 47 Tucanae in striking detail. This cluster contains millions of stars, and there are many nestled at its core that are exotic and display unusual properties. Studying objects within clusters like 47 Tucanae may help us to understand how these oddballs form and interact. This image is very sharp and deep due to the size, sensitivity, and location of VISTA, which is sited at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

Globular clusters are vast, spherical clouds of old stars bound together by gravity. They are found circling the cores of galaxies, as satellites orbit the Earth. These star clumps contain very little dust and gas — it is thought that most of it has been either blown from the cluster by winds and explosions from the stars within, or stripped away by interstellar gas interacting with the cluster. Any remaining material coalesced to form stars billions of years ago.

These globular clusters spark a considerable amount of interest for astronomers — 47 Tucanae, otherwise known as NGC 104, is a huge, ancient globular cluster about 15 000 light-years away from us, and is known to contain many bizarre and interesting stars and systems.

Located in the southern constellation of Tucana (The Toucan), 47 Tucanae orbits our Milky Way. At about 120 light-years across it is so large that, despite its distance, it looks about as big as the full Moon. Hosting millions of stars, it is one of the brightest and most massive globular clusters known and is visible to the naked eye [1]. In amongst the swirling mass of stars at its heart lie many intriguing systems, including X-ray sources, variable stars, vampire stars, unexpectedly bright “normal” stars known as blue stragglers (eso1243), and tiny objects known as millisecond pulsars, small dead stars that rotate astonishingly quickly [2].

Red giants, stars that have exhausted the fuel in their cores and swollen in size, are scattered across this VISTA image and are easy to pick out, glowing a deep amber against the bright white-yellow background stars. The densely packed core is contrasted against the more sparse outer regions of the cluster, and in the background huge numbers of stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud are visible.

This image was taken using ESO’s VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) as part of the VMC survey of the region of the Magellanic Clouds, two of the closest known galaxies to us. 47 Tucanae, although much closer than the Clouds, by chance lies in the the foreground of the Small Magellanic Cloud (eso1008), and was snapped during the survey.

VISTA is the world’s largest telescope dedicated to mapping the sky. Located at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, this infrared telescope, with its large mirror, wide field of view and sensitive detectors, is revealing a new view of the southern sky. Using a combination of sharp infrared images — such as the VISTA image above — and visible-light observations allows astronomers to probe the contents and history of objects like 47 Tucanae in great detail.

Notes

[1] There are over 150 globular clusters orbiting our galaxy. 47 Tucanae is the second most massive after Omega Centauri (eso0844).

[2] Millisecond pulsars are incredibly quickly rotating versions of regular pulsars, highly magnetised, rotating stellar remnants that emit bursts of radiation as they spin. There are 23 known millisecond pulsars in 47 Tucanae — more than in all other globular clusters bar one, Terzan 5 (eso0945).

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”.

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

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

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

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

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

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ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres

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

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From Universe Today: “Enjoy The Biggest Infrared Image Ever Taken Of The Small Magellanic Cloud Without All That Pesky Dust In The Way”

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Universe Today

4 May 2017
Evan Gough

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The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) galaxy. Credit: ESA/VISTA

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

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is one of the Milky Way’s nearest companions (along with the Large Magellanic Cloud.) It’s visible with the naked eye in the southern hemisphere. A new image from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) has peered through the clouds that obscure it and given us our biggest image ever of the dwarf galaxy.

The SMC contains several hundred million stars, is about 7,000 light years in diameter, and is about 200,000 light years away. It’s one of the most distant objects that we can see with the naked eye, and can only be seen from the southern hemisphere (and the lowest latitudes of the northern hemisphere.)

The SMC is a great target for studying how stars form because it’s so close to Earth, relatively speaking. But the problem is, its detail is obscured by clouds of interstellar gas and dust. So an optical survey of the Cloud is difficult.

But the ESO’s VISTA instrument is ideal for the task. VISTA is a near-infrared telescope, and infrared light is not blocked by the dust. VISTA was built at the ESO’s Paranal Observatory, in the Atacama Desert in Chile where it enjoys fantastic observing conditions. VISTA was designed to perform several surveys, including the Vista Magellanic Survey.

The VISTA Magellanic Survey is focused on 3 main objectives:

The study of stellar populations in the Magellanic Clouds
The history of star formation in the Magellanic Clouds
The three-dimensional structure of the Magellanic Clouds

An international team led by Stefano Rubele of the University of Padova has studied this image, and their work has produced some surprising results. VISTA has shown us that most of the stars in this image are much younger than stars in other neighbouring galaxies. It’s also shown us that the SMC’s morphology is that of a warped disc. These are only early results, and there’s much more work to be done analyzing the VISTA image.

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VISTA inside its enclosure at Paranal. VISTA has a 4.1 meter mirror, and its job is to survey large sections of the sky at once. In the background is the ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Image: G. Hüdepohl (atacamaphoto.com)/ESO

The team presented their research in a paper titled “The VMC survey – XIV. First results on the look-back time star formation rate tomography of the Small Magellanic Cloud“, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

As the authors say in their paper, the SMC is a great target for study because of its “rich population of star clusters, associations, stellar pulsators, primary distance indicators, and stars in shortlived evolutionary stages.” In a way, we’re fortunate to have the SMC so close. But studying the SMC was difficult, until the VISTA came online with its infrared capabilities.

VISTA saw first light on December 11th, 2009. It’s time is devoted to systematic surveys of the sky. In its first five years, it has undertaken large surveys of the entire southern sky, and also studied small patches of the sky to discern extremely faint objects. The leading image in this article is from the Vista Magellanic Survey, a survey covering 184 square degrees of the sky, taking in both the Small Magellanic Cloud and the Large Magellanic Cloud, and their environment.

Source: VISTA Peeks Through the Small Magellanic Cloud’s Dusty Veil [ On sciencesprings 5/3/17 https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/from-eso-vista-peeks-through-the-small-magellanic-clouds-dusty-veil/]

See the full article here .

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From ESO: “VISTA Peeks Through the Small Magellanic Cloud’s Dusty Veil”

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European Southern Observatory

3 May 2017
Maria-Rosa Cioni
Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP)
Potsdam, Germany
Tel: +49 331 7499 651
Email: mcioni@aip.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

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

The Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is a dwarf galaxy, the more petite twin of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

Large Magellanic Cloud. Adrian Pingstone December 2003

They are two of our closest galaxy neighbours in space — the SMC lies about 200 000 light-years away, just a twelfth of the distance to the more famous Andromeda Galaxy.

Andromeda Galaxy Adam Evans

Both are also rather peculiarly shaped, as a result of interactions with one another and with the Milky Way itself.

Their relative proximity to Earth makes the Magellanic Clouds ideal candidates for studying how stars form and evolve. However, while the distribution and history of star formation in these dwarf galaxies were known to be complex, one of the biggest obstacles to obtaining clear observations of star formation in galaxies is interstellar dust. Enormous clouds of these tiny grains scatter and absorb some of the radiation emitted from the stars — especially visible light — limiting what can be seen by telescopes here on Earth. This is known as dust extinction.

The SMC is full of dust, and the visible light emitted by its stars suffers significant extinction. Fortunately, not all electromagnetic radiation is equally affected by dust. Infrared radiation passes through interstellar dust much more easily than visible light, so by looking at the infrared light from a galaxy we can learn about the new stars forming within the clouds of dust and gas.

VISTA, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope, was designed to image infrared radiation. The VISTA Survey of the Magellanic Clouds (VMC) is focused on mapping the star formation history of the SMC and LMC, as well as mapping their three-dimensional structures. Millions of SMC stars have been imaged in the infrared thanks to the VMC, providing an unparalleled view almost unaffected by dust extinction.

The whole frame of this massive image is filled with stars belonging to the Small Magellanic Cloud. It also includes thousands of background galaxies and several bright star clusters, including 47 Tucanae at the right of the picture, which lies much closer to the Earth than the SMC. The zoomable image will show you the SMC as you have never seen it before!

The wealth of new information in this 1.6 gigapixel image (43 223 x 38 236 pixels) has been analysed by an international team led by Stefano Rubele of the University of Padova. They have used cutting-edge stellar models to yield some surprising results.

The VMC has revealed that most of the stars within the SMC formed far more recently than those in larger neighbouring galaxies. This early result from the survey is just a taster of the new discoveries still to come, as the survey continues to fill in blind spots in our maps of the Magellanic Clouds.
More information

This research was presented in the paper The VMC survey – XIV. First results on the look-back time star formation rate tomography of the Small Magellanic Cloud, in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


This video takes a quick look at a remarkable new image from ESO’s VISTA survey telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The huge picture shows one of our neighbouring galaxies, the Small Magellanic Cloud, in remarkable detail and in infrared light.

The video is available in 4K UHD.

The ESOcast Light is a series of short videos bringing you the wonders of the Universe in bite-sized pieces. The ESOcast Light episodes will not be replacing the standard, longer ESOcasts, but complement them with current astronomy news and images in ESO press releases.
Credit: ESO

Editing: Herbert Zodet.
Web and technical support: Mathias André and Raquel Yumi Shida.
Written by: Hannah Dalgleish, Lauren Fuge and Richard Hook.
Music: tonelabs (tonelabs.com).
Footage and photos: VISTA VMC, N. Risinger (skysurvey.org), ESA/Hubble and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgements: Davide De Martin.
Directed by: Herbert Zodet.
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen.


The video sequence takes the viewer from a wide view of the southern skies deep into a small nearby galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud. The final close-up infrared views are from a very detailed huge image of the galaxy taken using ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. Millions of stars and many star clusters and much more distant galaxies are visible.
Credit: ESO/VISTA VMC/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: Astral electronic.


This view compares a huge new infrared image of the Small Magellanic Cloud from ESO’s VISTA telescope to a more traditional view in visible light. By observing at longer infrared wavelengths VISTA can penetrate the dust clouds of this small neighbouring galaxy and reveal the stars much more clearly. Credit: ESO/VISTA VMC/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Music: Astral electronic.

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

#astronomy, #astrophysics, #basic-research, #cosmology, #eso-vista, #smc

From ESO: “Hidden Secrets of Orion’s Clouds”

ESO 50 Large

European Southern Observatory

4 January 2017
Richard Hook
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
rhook@eso.org

VISTA survey gives most detailed view of Orion A molecular cloud in the near-infrared.

1
This spectacular new image is one of the largest near-infrared high-resolution mosaics of the Orion A molecular cloud, the nearest known massive star factory, lying about 1350 light-years from Earth. It was taken using the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile and reveals many young stars and other objects normally buried deep inside the dusty clouds. Credit: ESO/VISION survey

The new image from the VISION survey (VIenna Survey In Orion) is a montage of images taken in the near-infrared part of the spectrum [1] by the VISTA survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. It covers the whole of the Orion A molecular cloud, one of the two giant molecular clouds in the Orion molecular cloud complex (OMC). Orion A extends for approximately eight degrees to the south of the familiar part of Orion known as the sword [2].

2
This collection of highlights is taken from a new infrared image of the Orion A molecular cloud from the VISTA telescope. Many curious structures are clearly seen, including the red jets from very young stars, dark clouds of dust and even tiny images of very distant galaxies. Credit: ESO/VISION survey


Access mp4 video here .
This video takes a quick look at a new image of one of the coolest bits of the night sky — the Orion Nebula. By observing in infrared light the VISTA survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile can see through the dust and this allowed astronomers to catalogue nearly 800 000 objects in this region, young stars, strange outflows and very distant galaxies.The video is available in 4K UHD. This is the first episode of the recently launched ESOCast Light series — short videos bringing you the wonders of the Universe in bite-sized pieces. Credit:ESO.
Visual Design and Editing: Martin Kornmesser and Luis Calçada.
Editing: Herbert Zodet.Web and technical support: Mathias André and Raquel Yumi Shida.
Written by: Lars Lindberg Christensen and Oana Sandu.
Music: Paulo Raimundo.
Footage and photos: ESO, G. Hüdepohl (atacamaphoto.com), ESO/VISION survey/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org) and B. Tafreshi (twanight.org).
Directed by: Herbert Zodet.
Executive producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen.


Access mp4 video here .
This close-up video sequence gives a detailed look at a new image from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. The image is compared with a visible light view of the region from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS). This new infrared VISTA image is part of the largest infrared high-resolution mosaic of Orion ever created and covers the Orion A molecular cloud, the nearest known massive star factory, lying about 1350 light-years from Earth. The new infrared images reveal many young stars and other objects normally buried deep in the dusty clouds. Credit: Credits: ESO/VISION survey/Digitized Sky Survey 2.
Music: Johan B. Monell


Access mp4 video here .
This zoom sequence takes the viewer from a wide view of the Milky Way deep into a fascinating part of the famous constellation of Orion. By observing in near-infrared light the new picture from VISTA, a survey telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, reveals huge numbers of objects that are normally obscured by dust in visible light pictures of the region
Credit: ESO/VISION survey/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org).
Music: Johan B. Monell

VISTA is the world’s largest dedicated survey telescope, and has a large field of view imaged with very sensitive infrared detectors, characteristics that made it ideal for obtaining the deep, high-quality infrared images required by this ambitious survey.

The VISION survey has resulted in a catalogue containing almost 800 000 individually identified stars, young stellar objects and distant galaxies, This represents better depth and coverage than any other survey of this region to date [3].

VISTA can see light that the human eye cannot, allowing astronomers to identify many otherwise hidden objects in the stellar nursery. Very young stars that cannot be seen in visible-light images are revealed when observed at longer infrared wavelengths, where the dust that shrouds them is more transparent.

The new image represents a step towards a complete picture of the star formation processes in Orion A, for both low and high mass stars. The most spectacular object is the glorious Orion Nebula, also called Messier 42 [4] seen towards the left of the image. This region forms part of the sword of the famous bright constellation of Orion (The Hunter). The VISTA catalogue covers both familiar objects and new discoveries. These include five new young stellar object candidates and ten candidate galaxy clusters.

Elsewhere in the image, we can look into Orion A’s dark molecular clouds and spot many hidden treasures, including discs of material that could give birth to new stars (pre-stellar discs), nebulosity associated with newly-born stars (Herbig-Haro objects), smaller star clusters and even galaxy clusters lying far beyond the Milky Way. The VISION survey allows the earliest evolutionary phases of young stars within nearby molecular clouds to be systematically studied.

This impressively detailed image of Orion A establishes a new observational foundation for further studies of star and cluster formation and once again highlights the power of the VISTA telescope to image wide areas of sky quickly and deeply in the near-infrared part of the spectrum [5].
Notes

[1] The VISION survey covers approximately 18.3 square degrees at a scale of about one-third of an arcsecond per pixel.

[2] The other giant molecular cloud in the Orion Molecular Cloud is Orion B, which lies east of Orion’s Belt.

[3] The complete VISION survey includes an even larger region than is shown in this picture, which covers 39 578 x 23 069 pixels.

[4] The Orion nebula was first described in the early seventeenth century although the identity of the discoverer is uncertain. The French comet-hunter Messier made an accurate sketch of its main features in the mid-eighteenth century and gave it the number 42 in his famous catalogue. He also allocated the number 43 to the smaller detached region just north of the main part of the nebula. Later William Herschel speculated that the nebula might be “the chaotic material of future suns” and astronomers have since discovered that the mist is indeed gas glowing in the fierce ultraviolet light from young hot stars that have recently formed there.

[5] The successful VISION survey of Orion will be followed by a new, bigger public survey of other star-forming regions with VISTA, called VISIONS, which will start in April 2017.
More information

This research is presented in a paper entitled VISION – Vienna survey in Orion I. VISTA Orion A Survey, by S. Meingast et al., published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The team is composed of: Stefan Meingast (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), João Alves (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Diego Mardones (Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile) , Paula Teixeira (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Marco Lombardi (University of Milan, Milan, Italy), Josefa Großschedl (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Joana Ascenso (CENTRA, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal; Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal), Herve Bouy (Centro de Astrobiología, Madrid, Spain), Jan Forbrich (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Alyssa Goodman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge MA, USA), Alvaro Hacar (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Birgit Hasenberger (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Jouni Kainulainen (Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany), Karolina Kubiak (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria), Charles Lada (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA), Elizabeth Lada (University of Florida, Gainesville, USA), André Moitinho (SIM/CENTRA, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal), Monika Petr-Gotzens (ESO, Garching, Germany), Lara Rodrigues (Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile) and Carlos G. Román-Zúñiga (UNAM, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico).

See the full article here .

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
STEM Icon

Stem Education Coalition
Visit ESO in Social Media-

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

ESO Bloc Icon

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

#astronomy, #astrophysics, #basic-research, #cosmology, #eso-vista, #hidden-secrets-of-orions-clouds