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  • richardmitnick 8:29 am on November 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO FORS2 VLT, ESO VLT, First Signs of Weird Quantum Property of Empty Space?, , RX J1856.5-3754   

    From ESO: “First Signs of Weird Quantum Property of Empty Space?” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    30 November 2016
    Contacts

    Roberto Mignani
    INAF – Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica Milano
    Milan, Italy
    Tel: +39 02 23699 347
    Cell: +39 328 9685465
    Email: mignani@iasf-milano.inaf.it

    Vincenzo Testa
    INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma
    Monteporzio Catone, Italy
    Tel: +39 06 9428 6482
    Email: vincenzo.testa@inaf.it

    Roberto Turolla
    University of Padova
    Padova, Italy
    Tel: +39-049-8277139
    Email: turolla@pd.infn.it

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

    VLT observations of neutron star may confirm 80-year-old prediction about the vacuum


    Access mp4 video here .

    1
    By studying the light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect, first predicted in the 1930s. The polarisation of the observed light suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence.

    A team led by Roberto Mignani from INAF Milan (Italy) and from the University of Zielona Gora (Poland), used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile to observe the neutron star RX J1856.5-3754, about 400 light-years from Earth [1].

    4
    This wide field image shows the sky around the very faint neutron star RX J1856.5-3754 in the southern constellation of Corona Australis. This part of the sky also contains interesting regions of dark and bright nebulosity surrounding the variable star R Coronae Australis (upper left), as well as the globular star cluster NGC 6723. The neutron star itself is too faint to be seen here, but lies very close to the centre of the image. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin

    5
    Colour composite photo of the sky field around the lonely neutron star RX J1856.5-3754 and the related cone-shaped nebula. It is based on a series of exposures obtained with the multi-mode FORS2 instrument at VLT KUEYEN through three different optical filters.

    ESO FORS2 VLT
    ESO FORS2 VLT

    The trail of an asteroid is seen in the field with intermittent blue, green and red colours. RX J1856.5-3754 is exactly in the centre of the image. Credit: ESO

    Despite being amongst the closest neutron stars, its extreme dimness meant the astronomers could only observe the star with visible light using the FORS2 instrument on the VLT, at the limits of current telescope technology.

    Neutron stars are the very dense remnant cores of massive stars — at least 10 times more massive than our Sun — that have exploded as supernovae at the ends of their lives. They also have extreme magnetic fields, billions of times stronger than that of the Sun, that permeate their outer surface and surroundings.

    These fields are so strong that they even affect the properties of the empty space around the star. Normally a vacuum is thought of as completely empty, and light can travel through it without being changed. But in quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory describing the interaction between photons and charged particles such as electrons, space is full of virtual particles that appear and vanish all the time. Very strong magnetic fields can modify this space so that it affects the polarisation of light passing through it.

    Mignani explains: “According to QED, a highly magnetised vacuum behaves as a prism for the propagation of light, an effect known as vacuum birefringence.”

    Among the many predictions of QED, however, vacuum birefringence so far lacked a direct experimental demonstration. Attempts to detect it in the laboratory have not yet succeeded in the 80 years since it was predicted in a paper by Werner Heisenberg (of uncertainty principle fame) and Hans Heinrich Euler.

    “This effect can be detected only in the presence of enormously strong magnetic fields, such as those around neutron stars. This shows, once more, that neutron stars are invaluable laboratories in which to study the fundamental laws of nature.” says Roberto Turolla (University of Padua, Italy).

    After careful analysis of the VLT data, Mignani and his team detected linear polarisation — at a significant degree of around 16% — that they say is likely due to the boosting effect of vacuum birefringence occurring in the area of empty space surrounding RX J1856.5-3754 [2].

    Vincenzo Testa (INAF, Rome, Italy) comments: “This is the faintest object for which polarisation has ever been measured. It required one of the largest and most efficient telescopes in the world, the VLT, and accurate data analysis techniques to enhance the signal from such a faint star.”

    “The high linear polarisation that we measured with the VLT can’t be easily explained by our models unless the vacuum birefringence effects predicted by QED are included,” adds Mignani.

    “This VLT study is the very first observational support for predictions of these kinds of QED effects arising in extremely strong magnetic fields,” remarks Silvia Zane (UCL/MSSL, UK).

    Mignani is excited about further improvements to this area of study that could come about with more advanced telescopes: “Polarisation measurements with the next generation of telescopes, such as ESO’s European Extremely Large Telescope, could play a crucial role in testing QED predictions of vacuum birefringence effects around many more neutron stars.”

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile
    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile

    “This measurement, made for the first time now in visible light, also paves the way to similar measurements to be carried out at X-ray wavelengths,” adds Kinwah Wu (UCL/MSSL, UK).

    Notes

    [1] This object is part of the group of neutron stars known as the Magnificent Seven. They are known as isolated neutron stars (INS), which have no stellar companions, do not emit radio waves (like pulsars), and are not surrounded by progenitor supernova material.

    [2] There are other processes that can polarise starlight as it travels through space. The team carefully reviewed other possibilities — for example polarisation created by scattering off dust grains — but consider it unlikely that they produced the polarisation signal observed.

    More information

    This research was presented in the paper entitled Evidence for vacuum birefringence from the first optical polarimetry measurement of the isolated neutron star RX J1856.5−3754, by R. Mignani et al., to appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The team is composed of R.P. Mignani (INAF – Istituto di Astrofisica Spaziale e Fisica Cosmica Milano, Milano, Italy; Janusz Gil Institute of Astronomy, University of Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra, Poland), V. Testa (INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Monteporzio, Italy), D. González Caniulef (Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, UK), R. Taverna (Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università di Padova, Padova, Italy), R. Turolla (Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università di Padova, Padova, Italy; Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, UK), S. Zane (Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, UK) and K. Wu (Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, UK).

    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
    VLT

    ESO Vista Telescope
    VISTA

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    NTT

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array
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  • richardmitnick 8:28 am on November 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESO VLT, Fledgling planetary systems, Sculpting Solar Systems   

    From ESO: “Sculpting Solar Systems” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    ESO’s SPHERE instrument reveals protoplanetary discs being shaped by newborn planets

    9 November 2016
    Tomas Stolker
    Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy
    Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    Tel: +3120525 8152
    Email: T.Stolker@uva.nl

    Jos de Boer
    Leiden University
    Leiden, the Netherlands
    Tel: +31715278139
    Email: deboer@strw.leidenuniv.nl

    Christian Ginski
    Leiden University
    Leiden, the Netherlands
    Tel: +31715278139
    Email: ginski@strw.leidenuniv.nl

    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
    Sharp new observations have revealed striking features in planet-forming discs around young stars. The SPHERE instrument, mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has made it possible to observe the complex dynamics of young solar systems — including one seen developing in real-time. The recently published results from three teams of astronomers showcase SPHERE’s impressive capability to capture the way planets sculpt the discs that form them — exposing the complexities of the environment in which new worlds are formed.

    ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT, Cerro Paranal, Chile
    ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT, Cerro Paranal, Chile

    Three teams of astronomers have made use of SPHERE, an advanced exoplanet-hunting instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, in order to shed light on the enigmatic evolution of fledgling planetary systems. The explosion in the number of known exoplanets in recent years has made the study of them one of the most dynamic fields in modern astronomy.

    Today it is known that planets form from vast discs of gas and dust encircling newborn stars, known as protoplanetary discs. These can extend for thousands of millions of kilometres. Over time, the particles in these protoplanetary discs collide, combine and eventually build up into planet-sized bodies. However, the finer details of the evolution of these planet-forming discs remain mysterious.

    SPHERE is a recent addition to the VLT’s array of instruments and with its combination of novel technologies, it provides a powerful method to directly image the fine details of protoplanetary discs [1]. The interaction between protoplanetary discs and growing planets can shape the discs into various forms: vast rings, spiral arms or shadowed voids. These are of special interest as an unambiguous link between these structures and the sculpting planets is yet to be found; a mystery astronomers are keen to solve. Fortunately, SPHERE’s specialised capabilities make it possible for research teams to observe these striking features of protoplanetary discs directly.

    For example, RX J1615 is a young star, which lies in the constellation of Scorpius, 600 light-years from Earth. A team led by the Jos de Boer, of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, found a complex system of concentric rings surrounding the young star, forming a shape resembling a titanic version of the rings that encircle Saturn. Such an intricate sculpting of rings in a protoplanetary disc has only been imaged a handful of times before, and even more excitingly, the entire system seems to be only 1.8 million years old. The disc shows hints of being shaped by planets still in the process of formation.

    The age of the newly detected protoplanetary disc makes RX J1615 an outstanding system, as most other examples of protoplanetary discs detected so far are relatively old or evolved. De Boer’s unexpected result was quickly echoed by the findings of a team led by Christian Ginski, also of Leiden Observatory. They observed the young star HD 97048, located in the constellation of Chamaeleon, about 500 light-years from Earth. Through painstaking analysis, they found that the juvenile disc around this star has also formed into concentric rings. The symmetry of these two systems is a surprising result, as most protoplanetary systems contain a multitude of asymmetrical spiral arms, voids and vortexes. These discoveries significantly raise the number of known systems with multiple highly symmetrical rings.

    A particularly spectacular example of the more common asymmetric disc was captured by a group of astronomers led by Tomas Stolker of the Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, the Netherlands. This disc surrounds the star HD 135344B, about 450 light-years away. Although this star has been well-studied in the past, SPHERE allowed the team to see the star’s protoplanetary disc in more detail than ever before. The large central cavity and two prominent spiral arm-like structures are thought to have been created by one or multiple massive protoplanets, destined to become Jupiter-like worlds.

    In addition, four dark streaks, apparently shadows thrown by the movement of material within HD 135344B’s disc, were observed. Remarkably, one of the streaks noticeably changed in the months between observing periods: a rare example of observing planetary evolution occur in real time, hinting at changes occurring in the inner disc regions that can not be directly detected by SPHERE. As well as producing beautiful images, these flickering shadows provide a unique way of probing the dynamics of innermost disc regions.

    As with the concentric rings found by de Boer and Ginski, these observations by Stolker’s team prove that the complex and changing environment of the discs surrounding young stars are still capable of producing surprising new discoveries. By building an impressive body of knowledge about these protoplanetary discs, these teams are stepping closer to understanding how planets shape the discs that form them — and therefore understanding planet formation itself.
    Notes

    [1] SPHERE had first light in June 2014. The instrument uses advanced adaptive optics to remove atmospheric distortion, a coronagraph to block most of the light from the central star and a combination of differential imaging and polarimetry to isolate the light from features in the disc.
    More information

    The research of de Boer, Ginski and Stolker and their colleagues in the SPHERE consortium is now accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. Their papers are entitled: “Direct detection of scattered light gaps in the transitional disk around HD 97048 with VLT/SPHERE”; “Shadows cast on the transition disk of HD 135344B: Multi-wavelength VLT/SPHERE polarimetric differential imaging”, and “Multiple rings in the transition disk and companion candidates around RX J1615.3-3255: High contrast imaging with VLT/SPHERE”. All three of papers have been created in the framework of the SPHERE GTO program, led by Carsten Dominik, University of Amsterdam.

    Links

    Research paper by Jos de Boer et al.
    Research paper by Christian Ginski et al.
    Research paper by Tomas Stolker et al.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:20 am on November 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Carina Nebula, , , ESO VLT,   

    From ESO: “Pillars of Destruction” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    1
    Region R44 in the Carina Nebula

    Colourful Carina Nebula blasted by brilliant nearby stars

    2 November 2016
    Anna Faye McLeod
    ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6321
    Email: amcleod@eso.org

    Mathias Jäger
    Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 176 62397500
    Email: mjaeger@partner.eso.org

    Spectacular new observations of vast pillar-like structures within the Carina Nebula have been made using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The different pillars analysed by an international team seem to be pillars of destruction — in contrast to the name of the iconic Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, which are of similar nature.

    ESO MUSE
    ESO MUSE

    The spires and pillars in the new images of the Carina Nebula are vast clouds of dust and gas within a hub of star formation about 7500 light-years away. The pillars in the nebula were observed by a team led by Anna McLeod, a PhD student at ESO, using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

    Nebula in the constellation Carina, contains the central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603. NASA/ESA Hubble
    Nebula in the constellation Carina, contains the central cluster of huge, hot stars, called NGC 3603. NASA/ESA Hubble

    The great power of MUSE is that it creates thousands of images of the nebula at the same time, each at a different wavelength of light. This allows astronomers to map out the chemical and physical properties of the material at different points in the nebula.

    Images of similar structures, the famous Pillars of Creation [1] in the Eagle Nebula and formations in NGC 3603, were combined with the ones displayed here. In total ten pillars have been observed, and in so doing a clear link was observed between the radiation emitted by nearby massive stars and the features of the pillars themselves.

    eagle-nebula
    Eagle nebula
    eagle-nebula-new
    Pillars of Creation

    In an ironic twist, one of the first consequences of the formation of a massive star is that it starts to destroy the cloud from which it was born. The idea that massive stars will have a considerable effect on their surroundings is not new: such stars are known to blast out vast quantities of powerful, ionising radiation — emission with enough energy to strip atoms of their orbiting electrons. However, it is very difficult to obtain observational evidence of the interplay between such stars and their surroundings.

    The team analysed the effect of this energetic radiation on the pillars: a process known as photoevaporation, when gas is ionised and then disperses away. By observing the results of photoevaporation — which included the loss of mass from the pillars — they were able to deduce the culprits. There was a clear correlation between the amount of ionising radiation being emitted by nearby stars, and the dissipation of the pillars.

    This might seem like a cosmic calamity, with massive stars turning on their own creators. However the complexities of the feedback mechanisms between the stars and the pillars are poorly understood. These pillars might look dense, but the clouds of dust and gas which make up nebulae are actually very diffuse. It is possible that the radiation and stellar winds from massive stars actually help create denser spots within the pillars, which can then form stars.

    These breathtaking celestial structures have more to tell us, and MUSE is an ideal instrument to probe them with.
    Notes

    [1] The Pillars of Creation are an iconic image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, making them the most famous of these structures. Also known as elephant trunks, they can be several light-years in length.

    More information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled Connecting the dots: a correlation between ionising radiation and cloud mass-loss rate traced by optical integral field spectroscopy, by A. F. McLeod et al., published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The team is composed of A. F. McLeod (ESO, Garching, Germany), M. Gritschneder (Universitäts-Sternwarte, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany), J. E. Dale (Universitäts-Sternwarte, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany), A. Ginsburg (ESO, Garching, Germany), P. D.Klaassen (UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh, UK), J. C. Mottram (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany), T. Preibisch (Universitäts-Sternwarte, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany), S. Ramsay (ESO, Garching, Germany), M. Reiter (University of Michigan Department of Astronomy, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA) and L. Testi (ESO, Garching, Germany).

    See the full article here .

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    ESO LaSilla
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  • richardmitnick 9:34 am on October 20, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESO VLT, New Webcams for ALMA and Paranal   

    From ESO: “New Webcams for ALMA and Paranal” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    20 October 2016
    Peter Grimley
    ESO Assistant Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6383
    Email: pgrimley@partner.eso.org

    1

    New high-definition cameras have been installed at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) . They will provide improved 24/7 interactive views of these two flagship observatories in Chile and will complement ESO’s suite of existing live webcam views..

    The new cameras provide a live 360-degree view of the activities at the observatories throughout the year and can be used interactively to explore the site in all directions in exquisite detail. In addition, there are several high-resolution “points of interest”, which include a dedicated feed of the Cerro Armazones mountain in Chile — the site of the new European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) — to document the construction of the world’s largest optical telescope, scheduled for completion in 2024. Also shown are the operations of the smaller Auxiliary Telescopes at Paranal, and, on very clear days, the Llullaillaco volcano can be seen, at a distance of 190 km on the Chilean border with Argentina. At the ALMA site, antennas from ESO, North America (USA and Canada) and East Asia (Japan, Taiwan, and Republic of Korea) can be appreciated as well as the APEX telescope in the background. Geographical wonders are also visible in these images: the Licancabur stratovolcano and the curious, blade-like snow formations, known as penitentes, that form only at the high altitudes where ALMA is located.

    The cameras are so sensitive that the night sky over Paranal and ALMA can be experienced as one would see it on site. At times the bright yellow laser beams from the VLT’s Adaptive Optics can be seen firing high up into the atmosphere.

    The new cameras also break new ground by providing the world’s first live observatory views: ALMA and Paranal are presented in razor-sharp 4k fish-eye images for use in planetariums around the world, including the upcoming ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre in Germany.

    The cameras have been provided by Apical. Based in France, Apical is a high-tech company specialising in innovative solutions for wide-field and high-resolution imaging and for network connectivity in extreme, challenging places.

    See the full article here .

    A separate post from ALMA is here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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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
    VLT

    ESO Vista Telescope
    VISTA

    ESO NTT
    NTT

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    ESO E-ELT
    E-ELT

    ESO APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) Telescope

     
  • richardmitnick 10:07 am on September 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VLT, Starving Black Hole Returns Brilliant Galaxy to the Shadows   

    From ESO: “Starving Black Hole Returns Brilliant Galaxy to the Shadows” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    15 September 2016
    Bernd Husemann
    European Southern Observatory
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 3200 6750
    Email: bhuseman@eso.org

    Rebecca McElroy
    University of Sydney
    Sydney, Australia
    Tel: +61 421 882 513
    Email: rebecca.mcelroy@sydney.edu.au

    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

    The mystery of a rare change in the behaviour of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy has been solved by an international team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope along with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. It seems that the black hole has fallen on hard times and is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    Many galaxies are found to have an extremely bright core powered by a supermassive black hole. These cores make “active galaxies” some of the brightest objects in the Universe. They are thought to shine so brightly because hot material is glowing fiercely as it falls into the black hole, a process known as accretion. This brilliant light can vary hugely between different active galaxies, so astronomers classify them into several types based on the properties of the light they emit [1].

    Some of these galaxies have been observed to change dramatically over the course of only 10 years; a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. However, the active galaxy in this new study, Markarian 1018 stands out by having changed type a second time, reverting back to its initial classification within the last five years. A handful of galaxies have been observed to make this full-cycle change, but never before has one been studied in such detail.

    The discovery of Markarian 1018’s fickle nature was a chance by-product of the Close AGN Reference Survey (CARS), a collaborative project between ESO and other organisations to gather information on 40 nearby galaxies with active cores. Routine observations of Markarian 1018 with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope revealed the surprising change in the light output of the galaxy.

    ESO MUSE
    ESO MUSE

    “We were stunned to see such a rare and dramatic change in Markarian 1018”, said Rebecca McElroy, lead author of the discovery paper and a PhD student at the University of Sydney and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO).

    The chance observation of the galaxy so soon after it began to fade was an unexpected opportunity to learn what makes these galaxies tick, as Bernd Husemann, CARS project leader and lead author of one of two papers associated with the discovery, explained: “We were lucky that we detected the event just 3-4 years after the decline started so we could begin monitoring campaigns to study details of the accretion physics of active galaxies that cannot be studied otherwise.”

    The research team made the most of this opportunity, making it their first priority to pinpoint the process causing Markarian 1018’s brightness to change so wildly. This could have been caused by any one of a number of astrophysical events, but they could rule out the black hole pulling in and consuming a single star [2] and cast doubt on the possibility of obscuration by intervening gas [3]. But the true mechanism responsible for Markarian 1018’s surprising variation remained a mystery after the first round of observations.

    However, the team were able to gather extra data after they were awarded observing time to use the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. With the new data from this suite of instruments they were able to solve the mystery — the black hole was slowly fading because it was being starved of accretion material.

    “It’s possible that this starvation is because the inflow of fuel is being disrupted”, said Rebecca McElroy. “An intriguing possibility is that this could be due to interactions with a second supermassive black hole”. Such a black hole binary system is a distinct possibility in Markarian 1018, as the galaxy is the product of a major merger of two galaxies — each of which likely contained a supermassive black hole in its centre.

    Research continues into the mechanisms at work in active galaxies such as Markarian 1018 that change their appearance. “The team had to work fast to determine what was causing Markarian 1018’s return to the shadows,” comments Bernd Husemann. “Ongoing monitoring campaigns with ESO telescopes and other facilities will allow us to explore the exciting world of starving black holes and changing active galaxies in more detail.”

    Notes

    [1] The brightest of the active galaxies are quasars, where the brilliant nucleus outshines the rest of the galaxy. Another, less extreme, class are known as Seyfert galaxies. Originally a method was developed that used brightness and the emission spectrum — the plot of the strength of radiation emitted at different wavelength — to distinguish between just two types of Seyfert galaxies, Type 1 and Type 2, but extra classifications such as Type 1.9 Seyferts have since been introduced.

    [2] Such a tidal disruption event occurs when a star strays too close to a supermassive black hole and is torn apart by the extreme gravitational tidal force. This results in a sharp rise in the brightness of the central region that slowly declines over a period of years. The observed brightness variations of Markarian 1018 were found not to match the profile of such an event.

    [3] Gas obscuration can affect the classification of an active galaxy by blocking the line of sight, drifting in front of the galaxy’s bright core like fog in front of a car’s headlights, and dimming the light passing through. This also affects the spectrum of galaxy, perhaps changing its classification.

    More information

    This research was presented in two papers entitled “Mrk 1018 returns to the shadows after 30 years as a Seyfert 1”, and “What is causing Mrk 1018’s return to the shadows after 30 years?”, both to appear as Letters in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    The team is composed of B. Husemann (ESO, Garching, Germany), T. Urrutia (Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany), G. R. Tremblay (Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, New Haven, USA), M. Krumpe (Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany), J. Dexter (Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany), V. N. Bennert (Physics Department, California Polytechnic State University, USA), G. Busch (I. Physikalisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Germany), F. Combes (LERMA, Observatoire de Paris, France), S. M. Croom (Sydney Institute for Astronomy, Sydney, Australia & ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics), T. A. Davis (School of Physics & Astronomy, Cardiff University, UK), A. Eckart (I. Physikalisches Institut Universität zu Köln, Germany; Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany), R. E. McElroy (Sydney Institute for Astronomy, Sydney, Australia & ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics), M. Pérez-Torres (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Granada, Spain), M. Powell (Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, New Haven, USA) and J. Scharwächter (Gemini Observatory, Northern Operations Center, Hawaii, USA).

    Research paper 1
    Research paper 2
    CARS Survey

    Hubble release

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  • richardmitnick 9:19 am on September 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Astronomers Discover Rare Fossil Relic of Early Milky Way, , , ESO VLT, , , Terzan 5   

    From ESO and Hubble: “Astronomers Discover Rare Fossil Relic of Early Milky Way” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    NASA Hubble Banner

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    7 September 2016
    Francesco Ferraro
    Università degli Studi di Bologna
    Bologna, Italy
    Tel: +39 051 20 9 5774
    Email: francesco.ferraro3@unibo.it

    Davide Massari
    INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna
    Bologna, Italy
    Tel: +51 2095318
    Email: davide.massari@oabo.inaf.it

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

    Mathias Jäger
    ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 176 62397500
    Email: mjaeger@partner.eso.org

    1

    Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope and other telescopes a fossilised remnant of the early Milky Way harbouring stars of hugely different ages has been revealed by an international team of astronomers. This stellar system resembles a globular cluster, but is like no other cluster known. It contains stars remarkably similar to the most ancient stars in the Milky Way and bridges the gap in understanding between our galaxy’s past and its present.

    Terzan 5, 19 000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer) and in the direction of the galactic centre, has been classified as a globular cluster for the forty-odd years since its detection. Now, an Italian-led team of astronomers have discovered that Terzan 5 is like no other globular cluster known.

    The team scoured data from the Multi-conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator [MAD] [1], installed at the Very Large Telescope, as well as from a suite of other ground-based and space telescopes [2]. They found compelling evidence that there are two distinct kinds of stars in Terzan 5 which not only differ in the elements they contain, but have an age-gap of roughly 7 billion years [3].

    ESO MAD bench
    ESO MAD

    The ages of the two populations indicate that the star formation process in Terzan 5 was not continuous, but was dominated by two distinct bursts of star formation. “This requires the Terzan 5 ancestor to have large amounts of gas for a second generation of stars and to be quite massive. At least 100 million times the mass of the Sun,” explains Davide Massari, co-author of the study, from INAF, Italy, and the University of Groningen, Netherlands.

    Its unusual properties make Terzan 5 the ideal candidate for a living fossil from the early days of the Milky Way. Current theories on galaxy formation assume that vast clumps of gas and stars interacted to form the primordial bulge of the Milky Way, merging and dissolving in the process.

    “We think that some remnants of these gaseous clumps could remain relatively undisrupted and keep existing embedded within the galaxy,” explains Francesco Ferraro from the University of Bologna, Italy, and lead author of the study. “Such galactic fossils allow astronomers to reconstruct an important piece of the history of our Milky Way.”

    While the properties of Terzan 5 are uncommon for a globular cluster, they are very similar to the stellar population which can be found in the galactic bulge, the tightly packed central region of the Milky Way. These similarities could make Terzan 5 a fossilised relic of galaxy formation, representing one of the earliest building blocks of the Milky Way.

    This assumption is strengthened by the original mass of Terzan 5 necessary to create two stellar populations: a mass similar to the huge clumps which are assumed to have formed the bulge during galaxy assembly around 12 billion years ago. Somehow Terzan 5 has managed to survive being disrupted for billions of years, and has been preserved as a remnant of the distant past of the Milky Way.

    “Some characteristics of Terzan 5 resemble those detected in the giant clumps we see in star-forming galaxies at high-redshift, suggesting that similar assembling processes occurred in the local and in the distant Universe at the epoch of galaxy formation,“ continues Ferraro.

    Hence, this discovery paves the way for a better and more complete understanding of galaxy assembly. “Terzan 5 could represent an intriguing link between the local and the distant Universe, a surviving witness of the Galactic bulge assembly process,” explains Ferraro while commenting on the importance of the discovery. The research presents a possible route for astronomers to unravel the mysteries of galaxy formation, and offers an unrivaled view into the complicated history of the Milky Way.
    Notes

    [1] The Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) is a prototype multi-conjugate adaptive optics system which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of different MCAO reconstruction techniques in the framework of the E-ELT concept and the second generation VLT Instruments.

    [2] The researchers also used data from the Advanced Camera for Surveys [ACS]and the Wide Field Camera 3 [WFC3] on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NIRC2 (the Near-Infrared Camera, second generation) at the W. M. Keck Observatory.

    NASA/ESA Hubble ACS
    “NASA/ESA Hubble ACS

    NASA Hubble WFC3
    NASA/ESA Hubble WFC3

    Keck Observatory, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    Keck Observatory, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Keck NIRC2 Camera
    Keck NIRC2 Camera

    [3] The two detected stellar populations have ages of 12 billion years and 4.5 billion years respectively.

    More information

    Link to science paper.

    The team is composed of F. R. Ferraro (Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università degli Studi di Bologna, Italy) , D. Massari (INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, Italy & Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, Netherlands), E. Dalessandro (Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università degli Studi di Bologna, Italy; INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, Italy) , B. Lanzoni (Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università degli Studi di Bologna, Italy), L. Origlia (INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Bologna, Italy), R. M. Rich (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Los Angeles, USA) and A. Mucciarelli (Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Università degli Studi di Bologna, Italy).

    See the full ESO article here .

    See the full Hubble 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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  • richardmitnick 12:31 pm on July 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VLT, White Dwarf Lashes Red Dwarf with Mystery Ray   

    From ESO: “White Dwarf Lashes Red Dwarf with Mystery Ray” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    27 July 2016
    Tom Marsh
    Department of Physics, University of Warwick
    Coventry, United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 24765 74739
    Email: t.r.marsh@warwick.ac.uk

    Boris Gänsicke
    Department of Physics, University of Warwick
    Coventry, United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 24765 74741
    Email: Boris.Gaensicke@warwick.ac.uk

    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 Very Large Telescope, along with other telescopes on the ground and in space, have discovered a new type of exotic binary star. In the system AR Scorpii a rapidly spinning white dwarf star powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star, and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio. The research will be published in the journal Nature on 28 July 2016.

    In May 2015, a group of amateur astronomers from Germany, Belgium and the UK came across a star system that was exhibiting behaviour unlike anything they had ever encountered. Follow-up observations led by the University of Warwick and using a multitude of telescopes on the ground and in space [1], have now revealed the true nature of this previously misidentified system.

    The star system AR Scorpii, or AR Sco for short, lies in the constellation of Scorpius, 380 light-years from Earth. It comprises a rapidly spinning white dwarf [2], the size of Earth but containing 200 000 times more mass, and a cool red dwarf companion one third the mass of the Sun [3], orbiting one another every 3.6 hours in a cosmic dance as regular as clockwork.

    In a unique twist, this binary star system is exhibiting some brutal behaviour. Highly magnetic and spinning rapidly, AR Sco’s white dwarf accelerates electrons up to almost the speed of light. As these high energy particles whip through space, they release radiation in a lighthouse-like beam which lashes across the face of the cool red dwarf star, causing the entire system to brighten and fade dramatically every 1.97 minutes. These powerful pulses include radiation at radio frequencies, which has never been detected before from a white dwarf system.

    Lead researcher Tom Marsh of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics Group commented: “AR Scorpii was discovered over 40 years ago, but its true nature was not suspected until we started observing it in 2015. We realised we were seeing something extraordinary within minutes of starting the observations.”

    The observed properties of AR Sco are unique. They are also mysterious. The radiation across a broad range of frequencies is indicative of emission from electrons accelerated in magnetic fields, which can be explained by AR Sco’s spinning white dwarf. The source of the electrons themselves, however, is a major mystery — it is not clear whether it is associated with the white dwarf itself, or its cooler companion.

    AR Scorpii was first observed in the early 1970s and regular fluctuations in brightness every 3.6 hours led it to be incorrectly classified as a lone variable star [4]. The true source of AR Scorpii’s varying luminosity was revealed thanks to the combined efforts of amateur and professional astronomers. Similar pulsing behaviour has been observed before, but from neutron stars — some of the densest celestial objects known in the Universe — rather than white dwarfs.

    Boris Gänsicke, co-author of the new study, also at the University of Warwick, concludes: “We’ve known pulsing neutron stars for nearly fifty years, and some theories predicted white dwarfs could show similar behaviour. It’s very exciting that we have discovered such a system, and it has been a fantastic example of amateur astronomers and academics working together.”
    Notes

    [1] The observations underlying this research were carried out on: ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) located at Cerro Paranal, Chile; the William Herschel and Isaac Newton Telescopes of the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes sited on the Spanish island of La Palma in the Canaries; the Australia Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory, Narrabri, Australia; the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope; and NASA’s Swift satellite.

    ING William Herschel Telescope
    ING William Herschel Telescope

    Australian Telescope Compact Array
    CSIRO Australian Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory, about 25 km west of the town of Narrabri in rural NSW about 500 km north-west of Sydney.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/SWIFT Telescope
    NASA/SWIFT Telescope

    [2] White dwarfs form late in the life cycles of stars with masses up to about eight times that of our Sun. After hydrogen fusion in a star’s core is exhausted, the internal changes are reflected in a dramatic expansion into a red giant, followed by a contraction accompanied by the star’s outer layers being blown off in great clouds of dust and gas. Left behind is a white dwarf, Earth-sized but 200 000 times more dense. A single spoonful of the matter making up a white dwarf would weigh about as much as an elephant here on Earth.

    [3] This red dwarf is an M type star. M type stars are the most common class in the Harvard classification system, which uses single letters to group stars according their spectral characteristics. The famously awkward to remember sequence of classes runs: OBAFGKM, and is often remembered using the mnemonic Oh Be A Fine Girl/Guy, Kiss Me.

    [4] A variable star is one whose brightness fluctuates as seen from Earth. The fluctuations may be due to the intrinsic properties of the star itself changing. For instance some stars noticeably expand and contract. It could also be due to another object regularly eclipsing the star. AR Scorpii was mistaken for a single variable star as the orbiting of two stars also results in regular fluctuations in observed brightness.
    More information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled A radio pulsing white dwarf binary star, by T. Marsh et al., to appear in the journal Nature on 28 July 2016.

    The team is composed of T.R. Marsh (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK), B.T. Gänsicke (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK), S. Hümmerich (Bundesdeutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Veränderliche Sterne e.V., Germany; American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), USA) , F.-J. Hambsch (Bundesdeutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Veränderliche Sterne e.V., Germany; American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), USA; Vereniging Voor Sterrenkunde (VVS), Belgium), K. Bernhard (Bundesdeutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Veränderliche Sterne e.V., Germany; American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO),USA), C.Lloyd (University of Sussex, UK), E. Breedt (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK), E.R. Stanway (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK), D.T. Steeghs (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK), S.G. Parsons (Universidad de Valparaiso, Chile), O. Toloza (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK), M.R. Schreiber (Universidad de Valparaiso, Chile), P.G. Jonker (Netherlands Institute for Space Research, The Netherlands; Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands), J. van Roestel (Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands), T. Kupfer (California Institute of Technology, USA), A.F. Pala (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK) , V.S. Dhillon (University of Sheffield, UK; Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Spain; Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), L.K. Hardy (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK; University of Sheffield, UK), S.P. Littlefair (University of Sheffield, UK), A. Aungwerojwit (Naresuan University, Thailand), S. Arjyotha (Chiang Rai Rajabhat University, Thailand), D. Koester (University of Kiel, Germany), J.J. Bochinski (The Open University, UK), C.A. Haswell (The Open University, UK), P. Frank (Bundesdeutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Veränderliche Sterne e.V., Germany) and P.J. Wheatley (University of Warwick, Coventry, UK).

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 5:29 am on July 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO HAWK 1, ESO VLT, Orion Nebula   

    From ESO: “Deepest Ever Look into Orion” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    12 July 2016
    Holger Drass
    Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile / Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
    Santiago / Bochum, Chile / Germany
    Email: hdrass@aiuc.puc.cl

    Amelia Bayo
    Universidad de Valparaíso / Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie
    Valparaíso / Königstuhl, Chile / Germany
    Email: amelia.bayo@uv.cl

    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
    ESO’s HAWK-I infrared instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile has been used to peer deeper into the heart of Orion Nebula than ever before. The spectacular picture reveals about ten times as many brown dwarfs and isolated planetary-mass objects than were previously known. This discovery poses challenges for the widely accepted scenario for Orion’s star formation history.

    An international team has made use of the power of the HAWK-I infrared instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to produce the deepest and most comprehensive view of the Orion Nebula [1] to date. Not only has this led to an image of spectacular beauty, but it has revealed a great abundance of faint brown dwarfs and isolated planetary-mass objects. The very presence of these low-mass bodies provides an exciting insight into the history of star formation within the nebula itself.

    ESO HAWK-I
    ESO HAWK-I

    The famous Orion Nebula spans about 24 light-years within the constellation of Orion, and is visible from Earth with the naked eye, as a fuzzy patch in Orion’s sword. Some nebulae, like Orion, are strongly illuminated by ultraviolet radiation from the many hot stars born within them, such that the gas is ionised and glows brightly.

    The relative proximity of the Orion Nebula [2] makes it an ideal testbed to better understand the process and history of star formation, and to determine how many stars of different masses form.

    Amelia Bayo (Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile; Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl, Germany), a co-author of the new paper and member of the research team, explains why this is important: “Understanding how many low-mass objects are found in the Orion Nebula is very important to constrain current theories of star formation. We now realise that the way these very low-mass objects form depends on their environment.”

    This new image has caused excitement because it reveals a unexpected wealth of very-low-mass objects, which in turn suggests that the Orion Nebula may be forming proportionally far more low-mass objects than closer and less active star formation regions.

    Astronomers count up how many objects of different masses form in regions like the Orion Nebula to try to understand the star-formation process [3]. Before this research the greatest number of objects were found with masses of about one quarter that of our Sun. The discovery of a plethora of new objects with masses far lower than this in the Orion Nebula has now created a second maximum at a much lower mass in the distribution of star counts.

    These observations also hint tantalisingly that the number of planet-sized objects might be far greater than previously thought. Whilst the technology to readily observe these objects does not exist yet, ESO’s future European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), scheduled to begin operations in 2024, is designed to pursue this as one of its goals.

    Lead scientist Holger Drass (Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany; Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile) enthuses: “Our result feels to me like a glimpse into a new era of planet and star formation science. The huge number of free-floating planets at our current observational limit is giving me hope that we will discover a wealth of smaller Earth-sized planets with the E-ELT.”

    Notes

    [1] Nebulae such as the famous one in Orion are also known as H II regions to indicate that they contain ionised hydrogen. These immense clouds of interstellar gas are sites of star formation throughout the Universe.

    [2] The Orion Nebula is estimated to lie about 1350 light-years from Earth.

    [3] This information is used to create something called the Initial Mass Function (IMF) — a way of describing how many stars of different masses make up a stellar population at its birth. This provides an insight into the stellar population’s origins. In other words, determining an accurate IMF, and having a solid theory to explain the origin of the IMF is of fundamental importance in the study of star formation.

    More information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled The bimodal initial mass function in the Orion Nebula Cloud, by H. Drass et al., published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    The team is composed of H. Drass (Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany; Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile), M. Haas (Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany), R. Chini (Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany; Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile), A. Bayo (Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile; Max-Planck Institut für Astronomie, Königstuhl, Germany) , M. Hackstein (Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany), V. Hoffmeister (Astronomisches Institut, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany), N. Godoy (Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile) and N. Vogt (Universidad de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Chile).

    See the full article here .

    Another view:

    2
    In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. … This extensive study took 105 Hubble orbits to complete. All imaging instruments aboard the telescope were used simultaneously to study Orion. The Advanced Camera mosaic covers approximately the apparent angular size of the full moon.

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  • richardmitnick 7:43 pm on June 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VLT,   

    From ESO: “Jupiter Awaits Arrival of Juno” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    27 June 2016
    Leigh Fletcher
    University of Leicester
    United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 116 252 3585
    Email: leigh.fletcher@leicester.ac.uk

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

    Robert Massey
    Deputy Executive Director, Royal Astronomical Society
    United Kingdom
    Tel: +44 (0)20 7292 3979
    Email: rm@ras.org.uk

    Anita Heward
    Royal Astronomical Society
    Cell: +44 (0)7756 034 243
    Email: anitaheward@btinternet.com

    1
    In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter. They are part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the coming months, helping astronomers to better understand the gas giant ahead of Juno’s close encounter.

    NASA/Juno
    NASA/Juno

    A team led by Leigh Fletcher of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom are presenting new images of Jupiter at the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting in Nottingham. Obtained with the VISIR instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the new images are part of a focused effort to improve understanding of Jupiter’s atmosphere prior to the arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft [1] in July this year.

    ESO VISIR

    The campaign has involved the use of several telescopes based in Hawaii and Chile [not disclosed in this article] , as well as contributions from amateur astronomers around the world. The maps do not just give snapshots of the planet, they also reveal how Jupiter’s atmosphere has been shifting and changing in the months prior to Juno’s arrival.

    The Juno spacecraft was launched in 2011, and has travelled nearly 3000 million kilometres to reach the Jovian system. Spacecraft can collect data free from the limitations affecting telescopes on Earth so with that in mind, it might seem surprising that this ground-based campaign was considered so important.

    Leigh Fletcher describes the significance of this research in preparing for Juno’s arrival: “These maps will help set the scene for what Juno will witness in the coming months. Observations at different wavelengths across the infrared spectrum allow us to piece together a three-dimensional picture of how energy and material are transported upwards through the atmosphere.”

    Capturing sharp images through the Earth’s constantly shifting atmosphere is one of the greatest challenges faced by ground-based telescopes. This glimpse of Jupiter’s own turbulent atmosphere, rippling with cooler gas clouds, was possible thanks to a technique known as lucky imaging. Sequences of very short exposures were taken of Jupiter by VISIR, producing thousands of individual frames. The lucky frames, where the image is least affected by the atmosphere’s turbulence, are selected and the rest discarded. Those selected frames are aligned and combined to produce remarkable final pictures like the ones shown here.

    Glenn Orton, leader of the ground-based campaign in support of Juno’s mission, elaborates on why the preparatory observations from Earth are so valuable: “The combined efforts of an international team of amateur and professional astronomers have provided us with an incredibly rich dataset over the past eight months. Together with the new results from Juno, the VISIR dataset in particular will allow researchers to characterise Jupiter’s global thermal structure, cloud cover and distribution of gaseous species.”

    Whilst the modern Juno’s mission to unveil the mighty Jupiter will bring new and highly anticipated results, its way has been paved by ground-based efforts here on Earth.
    Notes

    [1] The Juno spacecraft was named after the mythological wife of the god Jupiter. Just like his planetary counterpart, Jupiter veiled himself in clouds to hide his mischief, and only Juno was able to peer through them to see his true nature.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:38 am on June 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VLT,   

    From ESO: “VLT Snaps An Exotic Exoplanet ‘First’ “ 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    6.13.16
    No writer credit found

    1

    Astronomers hunt for planets orbiting other stars (exoplanets) using a variety of methods. One successful method is direct imaging; this is particularly effective for planets on wide orbits around young stars, because the light from the planet is not overwhelmed by light from the host star and is thus easier to spot.

    This image demonstrates this technique. It shows a T-Tauri star named CVSO 30, located approximately 1200 light-years away from Earth in the 25 Orionis group (slightly northwest of Orion’s famous Belt). In 2012, astronomers found that CVSO 30 hosted one exoplanet (CVSO 30b) using a detection method known as transit photometry, where the light from a star observably dips as a planet travels in front of it.

    Planet transit. NASA
    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    Now, astronomers have gone back to look at the system using a number of telescopes. The study combines observations obtained with the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, and the Calar Alto Observatory facilities in Spain.

    Keck Observatory, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    Keck Observatory Interior
    Keck Observatory, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Calar Alto Observatory Province of Almería, SpainCalar Alto Observatory Interior
    Calar Alto Observatory, Province of Almería, Spain

    Using the data astronomers have imaged what is likely to be a second planet! To produce the image, astronomers exploited the astrometry provided by VLT’s NACO and SINFONI instruments.

    ESO/NACO
    ESO/NACO

    ESO SINFONI
    ESO/SINFONI

    This new exoplanet, named CVSO 30c, is the small dot to the upper left of the frame (the large blob is the star itself). While the previously-detected planet, CVSO 30b, orbits very close to the star, whirling around CVSO 30 in just under 11 hours at an orbital distance of 0.008 au, CVSO 30c orbits significantly further out, at a distance of 660 au, taking a staggering 27 000 years to complete a single orbit. (For reference, the planet Mercury orbits the Sun at an average distance of 0.39 au, while Neptune sits at just over 30 au.)

    If it is confirmed that CVSO 30c orbits CVSO 30, this would be the first star system to host both a close-in exoplanet detected by the transit method and a far-out exoplanet detected by direct imaging. Astronomers are still exploring how such an exotic system came to form in such a short timeframe, as the star is only 2.5 million years old; it is possible that the two planets interacted at some point in the past, scattering off one another and settling in their current extreme orbits.
    Link:

    Research paper by Schmidt et al.

    See the full article here .

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    ESO LaSilla
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    ESO VLT
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    ESO Vista Telescope
    VISTA

    ESO NTT
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    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope

    ALMA Array
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    ESO APEX
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