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  • richardmitnick 1:38 pm on April 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESO VST   

    From New Scientist: “Never-before-seen galaxy spotted orbiting the Milky Way” 

    NewScientist

    New Scientist

    14 April 2016
    Ken Croswell

    1
    The Milky Way is orbited by 49 other galaxies – that we know of. ESO

    The galaxy’s empire has a new colony. Astronomers have detected a dwarf galaxy orbiting the Milky Way whose span stretches farther than nearly all other Milky Way satellites. It may belong to a small group of galaxies that is falling into our own.

    Giant galaxies like the Milky Way grew large when smaller galaxies merged, according to simulations. The simulations also suggest that whole groups of galaxies can fall into a single giant at the same time. The best examples in our cosmic neighbourhood are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the Milky Way’s two brightest satellites, which probably orbit each other.
    Orbiting galaxies

    About four dozen known galaxies orbit our own. The largest in terms of breadth is the Sagittarius dwarf, discovered in 1994 – but it’s big only because our galaxy’s gravity is ripping it apart. The next two largest are the Magellanic Clouds.

    Now, Gabriel Torrealba at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues* have found a new galaxy about 380,000 light years away in the constellation Crater. “It’s the fourth largest satellite of the Milky Way,” Torrealba says.

    Named the Crater 2 dwarf, the new galaxy is not apparent to human eyes, though individual stars within the galaxy are visible. The team were only able to find it this January by using a computer to look for over-densities of stars in data from images taken by a telescope in Chile [ESO VST].

    ESO VST telescope
    ESO VST Interior
    ESO VST telescope

    How do you measure a galaxy?

    Most galaxies don’t have defined edges, so astronomers sometimes express a galaxy’s size in terms of its “half-light diameter”, which encloses the brightest part of the galaxy and emits half of its light. The Crater 2 dwarf has a half-light diameter of 7000 light years – which, if we could see it, would look twice as big as the full moon.

    Josh Simon, an astronomer at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, says the galaxy is notable because it is brighter than nearly all of the many galaxies found orbiting the Milky Way during the past decade. It emits 160,000 times more light than the sun.
    Ghostly appearance

    The galaxy eluded detection for so long because its stars are spread out from one another, giving it a ghostly appearance.

    Torrealba says it may not be alone. The Crater 2 dwarf is near four other new-found objects: the Crater globular star cluster as well as three dwarf galaxies in Leo. All may be part of a group that is just now falling into the Milky Way.

    Until now, though, the new galaxy has led a quiet life, never venturing near a giant galaxy. We know this because the galaxy is round. If it had encountered a giant, gravity would have bent the dwarf out of shape.

    Reference*: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in press, and arxiv.org/abs/1601.07178

    Science paper:
    *The feeble giant. Discovery of a large and diffuse Milky Way dwarf galaxy in the constellation of Crater

    Science team:
    G. Torrealba1, S.E. Koposov1, V. Belokurov1 & M. Irwin1

    Affiliations:
    1Institute of Astronomy, Madingley Rd, Cambridge, CB3 0HA

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:06 am on April 13, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VST, Fornax Cluster, Inside the Fiery Furnace   

    From ESO: “Inside the Fiery Furnace” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    13 April 2016
    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 Survey Telescope Captures the Fornax Cluster

    1

    This new image from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile captures a spectacular concentration of galaxies known as the Fornax Cluster, which can be found in the southern hemisphere constellation of Fornax (The Furnace). The cluster plays host to a menagerie of galaxies of all shapes and sizes, some of which are hiding secrets.

    Galaxies, it seems, are sociable animals and they like to gather together in large groups, known as clusters. Actually it’s gravity that holds the galaxies in the cluster close together as a single entity, with the pull of gravity arising from large amounts of dark matter, as well as from the galaxies we can see. Clusters can contain anything between about 100 and 1000 galaxies and can be between about 5 and 30 million light-years across.

    Galaxy clusters do not come in neatly defined shapes so it is difficult to determine exactly where they begin and end. However, astronomers have estimated that the centre of the Fornax Cluster is in the region of 65 million light-years from Earth. What is more accurately known is that it contains nearly sixty large galaxies, and a similar number of smaller dwarf galaxies. Galaxy clusters like this one are commonplace in the Universe and illustrate the powerful influence of gravity over large distances as it draws together the enormous masses of individual galaxies into one region.

    At the centre of this particular cluster, in the middle of the three bright fuzzy blobs on the left side of the image, is what is known as a cD galaxy — a galactic cannibal. cD galaxies like this one, called NGC 1399, look similar to elliptical galaxies but are bigger and have extended, faint envelopes [1]. This is because they have grown by swallowing smaller galaxies drawn by gravity towards the centre of the cluster [2].

    Indeed, there is evidence that this process is happening before our eyes — if you look closely enough. Recent work by a team of astronomers led by Enrichetta Iodice (INAF – Osservatorio di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy) [3], using data from ESO’s VST, has revealed a very faint bridge of light between NGC 1399 and the smaller galaxy NGC 1387 to its right. This bridge, which has not been seen before (and is too faint to show up in this picture), is somewhat bluer than either galaxy, indicating that it consists of stars created in gas that was drawn away from NGC 1387 by the gravitational pull of NGC 1399. Despite there being little evidence for ongoing interactions in the Fornax Cluster overall, it seems that NGC 1399 at least is still feeding on its neighbours.

    Towards the bottom right of this image is the large barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365. This is a striking example of its type, the prominent bar passing through the central core of the galaxy, and the spiral arms emerging from the ends of the bar. In keeping with the nature of cluster galaxies, there is more to NGC 1365 than meets the eye. It is classified as a Seyfert Galaxy, with a bright active galactic nucleus also containing a supermassive black hole at its centre.

    This spectacular image was taken by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. At 2.6 metres in diameter, the VST is by no means a large telescope by today’s standards, but it has been designed specifically to conduct large-scale surveys of the sky. What sets it apart is its huge corrected field of view and 256-megapixel camera, called OmegaCAM, which was specially developed for surveying the sky.

    ESO Omegacam on VST at ESO's Cerro Paranal observatory
    ESO Omegacam on VST at ESO’s Cerro Paranal observatory

    With this camera the VST can produce deep images of large areas of sky quickly, leaving the really big telescopes — like ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) — to explore the details of individual objects.

    Notes

    [1] The image captures only the central regions of the Fornax Cluster; it extends over a larger region of sky.

    [2] The central galaxy is often the brightest galaxy in a cluster, but in this case the brightest galaxy, NGC 1316, is situated at the edge of the cluster, just outside the area covered by this image. Also known as Fornax A, it is one of the most powerful sources of radio waves in the sky. The radio waves, which can be seen by specialised telescopes sensitive to this kind of radiation, emanate from two enormous lobes extending far into space either side of the visible galaxy. The energy that powers the radio emission comes from a supermassive black hole lurking at the centre of the galaxy which is emitting two opposing jets of high-energy particles. These jets produce the radio waves when they plough into the rarefied gas which occupies the space between galaxies in the cluster.

    Sience paper
    [3] “The Fornax Deep Survey with VST. I. The extended and diffuse stellar halo of NGC1399 out to 192 kpc” has been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

    Science team:
    E. Iodice,1; M. Capaccioli, 2; A. Grado, 1; L. Limatola, 1; M. Spavone, 1; N.R. Napolitano, 1; M.
    Paolillo, 2,8,9; R. F. Peletier, 3; M. Cantiello, 4; T. Lisker, 5; C. Wittmann, 5; A. Venhola, 3,6; M.
    Hilker, 7; R. D’Abrusco, 2; V. Pota, 1; P. Schipani, 1

    Affiliations:
    1 INAF – Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, via
    Moiariello 16, Naples, I-80131, Italy
    2 Dip.di Fisica Ettore Pancini, University of Naples
    ”Federico II”, C.U. Monte SantAngelo, Via Cinthia, 80126,
    Naples, Italy
    3 Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen,
    PO Box 72, 9700 AV Groningen, The Netherlands
    4 INAF – Astronomical Observatory of Teramo, Via
    Maggini, 64100, Teramo, Italy
    5 Zentrum fuer Astronomie der Universitaet Heidelberg,
    Germany
    6 Division of Astronomy, Department of Physics, University
    of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
    7 European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-
    Strasse 2, D-85748 Garching bei Mnchen, Germany
    8 INFN Sezione di Napoli, Via Cintia, I-80126 Napoli,
    Italy
    9 Agenzia Spaziale Italiana – Science Data Center, Via
    del Politecnico snc, 00133 Roma, Italy

    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

    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 6:31 am on March 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VST, Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte galaxy   

    From ESO: “The Wilds of the Local Group” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    23 March 2016
    Richard Hook
    ESO education and Public Outreach Department
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1

    This scene, captured by ESO’s OmegaCAM on the VLT Survey Telescope, shows a lonely galaxy known as Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte, or WLM for short.

    ESO Omegacam on VST
    ESO Omegacam on VST

    Although considered part of our Local Group of dozens of galaxies, WLM stands alone at the group’s outer edges as one of its most remote members.

    Local Group. Andrew Z. Colvin
    Local Group. Andrew Z. Colvin

    In fact, the galaxy is so small and secluded that it may never have interacted with any other Local Group galaxy — or perhaps even any other galaxy in the history of the Universe.

    Rather like an uncontacted tribe living deep in the Amazon rainforest or on an island in Oceania, WLM offers a rare insight into the primordial nature of galaxies that have been little disturbed by their environment.

    WLM was discovered in 1909 by German astronomer Max Wolf, and identified as a galaxy some fifteen years later by astronomers Knut Lundmark and Philibert Jacques Melotte — explaining the galaxy’s unusual moniker. The dim galaxy is located in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster) about three million light-years away from the Milky Way, which is one of the three dominant spiral galaxies in the Local Group.

    WLM is quite small and lacks structure, hence its classification as a dwarf irregular galaxy. WLM spans about 8000 light-years at its greatest extent, a measurement that includes a halo of extremely old stars discovered in 1996 (eso9633).

    Astronomers think that comparatively small primeval galaxies gravitationally interacted with each other and in many cases merged, building up into larger composite galaxies. Over billions of years, this merging process assembled the large spiral and elliptical galaxies that now appear to be common in the modern Universe. Galaxies congregating in this manner is similar to the way in which human populations have shifted over thousands of years and intermixed into larger settlements, eventually giving rise to today’s megacities.

    WLM has instead developed on its own, away from the influence of other galaxies and their stellar populations. Accordingly, like a hidden human population with limited contact with outsiders, WLM represents a relatively unperturbed “state of nature”, where any changes occurring over its lifetime have taken place largely independent of activity elsewhere.

    This small galaxy features an extended halo of very dim red stars, which stretches out into the inky blackness of the surrounding space. This reddish hue is indicative of advanced stellar age. It is likely that the halo dates back to the original formation of the galaxy itself, helpfully offering clues about the mechanisms that spawned the very first galaxies.

    The stars at the centre of WLM, meanwhile, appear younger and bluer in colour. In this image, pinkish clouds highlight areas where the intense light from young stars has ionised ambient hydrogen gas, making it glow in a characteristic shade of red.

    This detailed image was captured by the OmegaCAM wide-field imager, a huge camera mounted on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) in Chile — a 2.6-metre telescope exclusively designed to survey the night sky in visible light. OmegaCAM’s 32 CCD detectors create 256-megapixel images, offering a very detailed wide-field view of the cosmos.

    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

    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 8:31 am on March 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VST   

    From ESO: “First Images from the VLT Survey [VST] Telescope” 

    ESO 50 Large

    A VERSION OF THIS ORIGINAL POST WAS BROUGHT FORWARD TODAY BY ESO TO REFUTE THE CLAIM THAT CERTAIN IMAGES FROM THE VLT SURVEY TELESCOPE ARE ACTUALLY FROM HUBBLE

    European Southern Observatory

    8 June 2011
    Prof. Massimo Capaccioli
    University of Naples Federico II and INAF-Capodimonte Astronomical Observatory
    Naples, Italy
    Tel: +39 081 557 5601
    Cell: +39 335 677 6940
    Email: capaccioli@na.infn.it

    Prof. Koen Kuijken
    Leiden Observatory
    The Netherlands
    Tel: +31 71 527 5848
    Email: kuijken@strw.leidenuniv.nl

    Prof. Edwin A. Valentijn
    University of Groningen
    The Netherlands
    Tel: +31 50 363 4011/4036 (secretary)
    Cell: +31 6 482 76416
    Email: valentyn@astro.rug.nl

    Prof. Ralf Bender
    University Observatory of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, and Max-Planck-Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 2180 5999
    Email: bender@usm.lmu.de

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

    Messier 17 star forming region
    Omega Nebula (Messier 17)

    The VLT Survey Telescope (VST), the latest addition to ESO’s Paranal Observatory, has made its first release of impressive images of the southern sky. The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre telescope, with the huge 268-megapixel camera OmegaCAM at its heart, which is designed to map the sky both quickly and with very fine image quality. It is a visible-light telescope that perfectly complements ESO’s VISTA infrared survey telescope. New images of the Omega Nebula and the globular cluster Omega Centauri demonstrate the VST’s power.

    Omega Centauri globular cluster
    Omega Centauri globular cluster

    A New Telescope and Camera

    The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) is the latest telescope to be added to ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. It is housed in an enclosure immediately adjacent to the four VLT Unit Telescopes on the summit of Cerro Paranal under the pristine skies of one of the best observing sites on Earth. The VST is a wide-field survey telescope with a field of view twice as broad as the full Moon. It is the largest telescope in the world designed to exclusively survey the sky in visible light. Over the next few years the VST and its camera OmegaCAM will make several very detailed surveys of the southern sky.

    ESO Omegacam on VST
    OmegaCAM

    All survey data will be made public.

    “I am very pleased to see the impressive first images from the VST and OmegaCAM. The unique combination of the VST and the VISTA infrared survey telescope will allow many interesting objects to be identified for more detailed follow-up observations with the powerful telescopes of the VLT,” says Tim de Zeeuw, the ESO Director General.

    “The VST project has overcome many difficulties but it is now repaying, with its excellent image quality, the expectations of the astronomical community and the efforts of the many people at INAF involved in its construction. I am very pleased to see the VST in operation,” adds Tommaso Maccacaro, the President of the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).

    The VST programme is a joint venture between the INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy [1] and ESO. INAF has designed and built the telescope with the collaboration of leading Italian industries and ESO is responsible for the enclosure and the civil engineering works at the site. OmegaCAM, the VST’s camera, was designed and built by a consortium including institutes in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy [2] with major contributions from ESO. The new facility will be operated by ESO, which will also archive and distribute data from the telescope.

    The VST is a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre aperture telescope with an active optics system to keep the mirrors perfectly positioned at all times.

    ESO Active Optics bed
    Active Optics at Paranal

    At its core, behind large lenses that ensure the best possible image quality [3], lies the 770 kg OmegaCAM camera, built around 32 CCD detectors [4], sealed in vacuum, that together create 268-megapixel images [5].

    The First Images

    Both the telescope and the camera have been designed to fully exploit the high quality skies at Paranal.

    “The superb images now coming from VST and OmegaCAM are a tribute to the hard work of many groups around Europe over many years. We are now looking forward to a rich harvest of science and unexpected discoveries from the VST surveys,” adds Massimo Capaccioli, principal investigator of the VST project.

    The first released image shows the spectacular star-forming region Messier 17, also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula, as it has never been seen before. This dramatic region of gas, dust and hot young stars lies in the heart of the Milky Way in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). The VST field of view is so large that the entire nebula, including its fainter outer parts, is captured — and retains its superb sharpness across the entire image.

    The second released image may be the best portrait of the globular star cluster Omega Centauri ever made.

    This is the largest globular cluster in the sky, but the very wide field of view of VST and OmegaCAM can encompass even the faint outer regions of this spectacular object. This view, which includes about 300 000 stars, demonstrates the excellent resolution of VST.

    The Surveys

    The VST will make three public surveys over the next five years [6]. The KiDS survey will image several regions of the sky away from the Milky Way. It will further the study of dark matter, dark energy and galaxy evolution, and find many new galaxy clusters and high-redshift quasars. The VST ATLAS survey will cover a larger area of sky and focus on understanding dark energy and supporting more detailed studies using the VLT and other telescopes. The third survey, VPHAS+, will image the central plane of the Milky Way to map the structure of the Galactic disc and its star formation history. VPHAS+ will yield a catalogue of around 500 million objects and will discover many new examples of unusual stars at all stages of their evolution.

    The data volume produced by OmegaCAM will be large. About 30 terabytes of raw data will be produced per year and will flow back into data centres in Europe for processing [7]. A novel and sophisticated software system has been developed at Groningen and Naples to handle the very large data flow. The end products from the processing will be huge lists of the objects found, as well as images, and these will be made available to astronomers worldwide for scientific analysis.

    “The combination of large field of view, excellent image quality, and the very efficient operations scheme of the VST will produce an enormous wealth of information that will advance many fields of astrophysics,” concludes Konrad Kuijken, head of the OmegaCAM consortium.

    Notes

    [1] The VST has been designed at the Astronomical Observatory of INAF at Capodimonte, Naples. All components apart from the main optics, which were supplied by the Russian firm LZOS, have been built by Italian industries. INAF has managed the construction and secured the assembly at the Paranal Observatory. This work was performed with the contribution of the project manager G. De Paris and the AIV manager D. Fierro, members of the INAF Department of National Projects, Monte Mario, Rome, Italy. The project manager of the current phase of commissioning is P. Schipani from INAF-Capodimonte Observatory. He was the former VST project engineer and leads a team mostly from the Naples and Padua Observatories. The VST-Tube software system to handle the data at Naples was developed by A. Grado.

    [2] The OmegaCAM consortium is comprised of institutes in the Netherlands (NOVA, in particular the Kapteyn Institute / OmegaCEN Groningen and Leiden Observatory), Germany (in particular the university observatories of Munich, Göttingen and Bonn) and Italy (INAF, in particular the Padua and Naples Observatories). The ESO Optical Detector Team provides the detector system. OmegaCAM is headed by PI K. Kuijken (Groningen and Leiden University) and co-PI’s R. Bender (Munich USM/MPE) and E. Cappellaro (INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova), project management is done by B. Muschielok and R. Häfner (University Observatory of the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich) and the data handling system, Astro-WISE, is developed by OmegaCEN-NOVA led by E.A. Valentijn (Groningen).

    [3] The telescope optics also include correction for dispersion by the Earth’s atmosphere.

    [4] The camera also contains extra CCDs, which work with the telescope’s systems to help control the guiding and active optics systems.

    [5] To measure the colours of objects in the sky, different very large glass filters can be slid automatically in front of the detectors. Each filter is over 30 cm on a side and most have special coatings that ensure that very little light is lost. There is also a very large shutter consisting of two blades that can be used to block the light while the detectors are read out.

    [6] More details about the VST public surveys are available at http://www.eso.org/sci/observing/policies/PublicSurveys/sciencePublicSurveys.html.

    [7] The VST/OmegaCAM surveys will make use of a new, dedicated fast intercontinental data link between Paranal and Europe that was established with support from the European Union (eso1043).

    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
    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 11:40 am on March 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VST, Gas cloud RCW 106, H II regions of stars   

    From ESO: “The Realm of Buried Giants” 

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    2 March 2016
    Richard Hook
    ESO education and Public Outreach Department
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Gas cloud RCW 106

    In this huge new image clouds of crimson gas are illuminated by rare, massive stars that have only recently ignited and are still buried deep in thick dust clouds. These scorching-hot, very young stars are only fleeting characters on the cosmic stage and their origins remain mysterious. The vast nebula where these giants were born, along with its rich and fascinating surroundings, are captured here in fine detail by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

    RCW 106 is a sprawling cloud of gas and dust located about 12 000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Norma (The Carpenter’s Square). The region gets its name from being the 106th entry in a catalogue of H II regions in the southern Milky Way [1]. H II regions like RCW 106 are clouds of hydrogen gas that are being ionised by the intense starlight of scorching-hot, young stars, causing them to glow and display weird and wonderful shapes.

    RCW 106 itself is the red cloud above centre in this new image, although much of this huge H II region is hidden by dust and it is much more extensive than the visible part. Many other unrelated objects are also visible in this wide-field VST image. For example, the filaments to the right of the image are the remnants of an ancient supernova, and the glowing red filaments at the lower left surround an unusual and very hot star [2]. Patches of dark obscuring dust are also visible across the entire cosmic landscape.

    Astronomers have been studying RCW 106 for some time, although it is not the crimson clouds that draw their attention, but rather the mysterious origin of the massive and powerful stars buried within. Although they are very bright, these stars cannot be seen in visible-light images such as this one as the surrounding dust is too thick, but they make their presence clear in images of the region at longer wavelengths.

    For less massive stars like the Sun the process that brings them into existence is quite well understood — as clouds of gas are pulled together under gravity, density and temperature increase, and nuclear fusion begins — but for the most massive stars buried in regions like RCW 106 this explanation does not seem to be fully adequate. These stars — known to astronomers as O-type stars — may have masses many dozens of times the mass of the Sun and it is not clear how they manage to gather, and keep together, enough gas to form.

    O-type stars likely form from the densest parts of the nebular clouds like RCW 106 and they are notoriously difficult to study. Apart from obscuration by dust, another challenge is the brevity of an O-type star’s life. They burn through their nuclear fuel in mere tens of millions of years, while the lightest stars have lifetimes that span many tens of billions of years. The difficulty of forming a star of this mass, and the shortness of their lifetimes, means that they are very rare — only one in every three million stars in our cosmic neighbourhood is an O-type star. None of those that do exist are close enough for detailed investigation and so the formation of these fleeting stellar giants remains mysterious, although their outsized influence is unmistakeable in glowing H II regions like this one.

    Notes

    [1] The catalogue was compiled in 1960 by three astronomers from the [ANU] Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia whose surnames were Rodgers, Campbell and Whiteoak, hence the prefix RCW.

    ANU Mount Stromlo 74 inch dome
    ANU Mt Stromlo Observatory 74 inch dome

    [2] The supernova remnant is SNR G332.4-00.4, also known as RCW 103. It is about 2000 years old. The lower filaments are RCW 104, surrounding the Wolf–Rayet star WR 75. Although these objects bear RCW numbers, detailed later investigations revealed that neither of them were HII regions.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:09 am on January 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Dwarf galaxy IC 1613, ESO VST   

    From ESO: “The Milky Way’s Clean and Tidy Galactic Neighbour” 


    European Southern Observatory

    27 January 2016
    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    IC 1613

    Many galaxies are chock-full of dust, while others have occasional dark streaks of opaque cosmic soot swirling in amongst their gas and stars. However, the subject of this new image, snapped with the OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, is unusual — the small galaxy, named IC 1613, is a veritable clean freak! IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity. This is not just a matter of appearances; the galaxy’s cleanliness is vital to our understanding of the Universe around us.

    IC 1613 is a dwarf galaxy in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). This VST image [1] shows the galaxy’s unconventional beauty, all scattered stars and bright pink gas, in great detail.

    German astronomer Max Wolf discovered IC 1613’s faint glow in 1906. In 1928, his compatriot Walter Baade used the more powerful 2.5-metre telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory in California to successfully make out its individual stars.

    Mt Wilson 100 inch Hooker Telescope
    Mt Wilson 100 inch Hooker Telescope Interior
    Mt Wilson Hooker 100 inch telescope

    From these observations, astronomers figured out that the galaxy must be quite close to the Milky Way, as it is only possible to resolve single pinprick-like stars in the very nearest galaxies to us.

    Astronomers have since confirmed that IC 1613 is indeed a member of the Local Group, a collection of more than 50 galaxies that includes our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

    Local Grp II
    The Local Group of galaxies. The Milky Way and Andromeda are the most massive galaxies by far.

    IC 1613 itself lies just over 2.3 million light-years away from us. It is relatively well-studied due to its proximity; astronomers have found it to be an irregular dwarf that lacks many of the features, such as a starry disc, found in some other diminutive galaxies.

    However, what IC 1613 lacks in form, it makes up for in tidiness. We know IC 1613’s distance to a remarkably high precision, partly due to the unusually low levels of dust lying both within the galaxy and along the line of sight from the Milky Way — something that enables much clearer observations [2].

    The second reason we know the distance to IC 1613 so precisely is that the galaxy hosts a number of notable stars of two types: Cepheid variables and RR Lyrae variables [3]. Both types of star rhythmically pulsate, growing characteristically bigger and brighter at fixed intervals (eso1311).

    As we know from our daily lives on Earth, shining objects such as light bulbs or candle flames appear dimmer the further they are away from us. Astronomers can use this simple piece of logic to figure out exactly how far away things are in the Universe— so long as they know how bright they really are, referred to as their intrinsic brightness.

    Cepheid and RR Lyrae variables have the special property that their period of brightening and dimming is linked directly to their intrinsic brightness. So, by measuring how quickly they fluctuate astronomers can work out their intrinsic brightness. They can then compare these values to their apparent measured brightness and work out how far away they must be to appear as dim as they do.

    Stars of known intrinsic brightness can act like standard candles, as astronomers say, much like how a candle with a specific brightness would act as a good gauge of distance intervals based on the observed brightness of its flame’s flicker.

    Using standard candles — such as the variable stars within IC 1613 and the less-common Type Ia supernova explosions, which can seen across far greater cosmic distances — astronomers have pieced together a cosmic distance ladder, reaching deeper and deeper into space.

    Decades ago, IC 1613 helped astronomers work out how to utilise variable stars to chart the Universe’s grand expanse. Not bad for a little, shapeless galaxy.

    Notes

    [1] OmegaCAM is a 32-CCD, 256-million-pixel camera mounted on the 2.6-metre VLT Survey Telescope at Paranal Observatory in Chile. Click here to view more images taken by OmegaCAM.

    ESO Omegacam on VST
    OmegaCAM

    [2] Cosmic dust is made of various heavier elements, such as carbon and iron, as well as larger, grainier molecules. Not only does dust block out light, making dust-shrouded objects harder to see, it also preferentially scatters bluer light. As a result, cosmic dust makes objects appear redder when seen through our telescopes than they are in reality. Astronomers can factor out this reddening when studying objects. Still, the less reddening, the more precise an observation is likely to be.

    [3] Other than the two Magellanic Clouds, IC 1613 is the only irregular dwarf galaxy in the Local Group in which RR Lyrae type variable stars have been identified.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:12 am on July 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ESO VST   

    From ESO: “Huge New Survey to Shine Light on Dark Matter” 


    European Southern Observatory

    9 July 2015
    Koen Kuijken
    Leiden Observatory
    Leiden, The Netherlands
    Email: kuijken@strw.leidenuniv.nl

    Massimo Viola
    Leiden Observatory
    Leiden, The Netherlands
    Email: viola@strw.leidenuniv.nl

    Lars Lindberg Christensen
    Head of ESO ePOD
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
    Cell: +49 173 3872 621
    Email: lars@eso.org

    1

    The first results have been released from a major new dark matter survey of the southern skies using ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The VST KiDS survey will allow astronomers to make precise measurements of dark matter, the structure of galaxy halos, and the evolution of galaxies and clusters. The first KiDS results show how the characteristics of the observed galaxies are determined by the invisible vast clumps of dark matter surrounding them.

    Around 85% of the matter in the Universe is dark [1], and of a type not understood by physicists. Although it doesn’t shine or absorb light, astronomers can detect this dark matter through its effect on stars and galaxies, specifically from its gravitational pull. A major project using ESO’s powerful survey telescopes is now showing more clearly than ever before the relationships between this mysterious dark matter and the shining galaxies that we can observe directly [2].

    The project, known as the Kilo-Degree Survey (KiDS), uses imaging from the VLT Survey Telescope and its huge camera, OmegaCAM.

    ESO Omegacam on VST
    OmegaCAM

    Sited at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, this telescope is dedicated to surveying the night sky in visible light — and it is complemented by the infrared survey telescope VISTA. One of the major goals of the VST is to map out dark matter and to use these maps to understand the mysterious dark energy that is causing our Universe’s expansion to accelerate.

    The best way to work out where the dark matter lies is through gravitational lensing — the distortion of the Universe’s fabric by gravity, which deflects the light coming from distant galaxies far beyond the dark matter. By studying this effect it is possible to map out the places where gravity is strongest, and hence where the matter, including dark matter, resides.

    As part of the first cache of papers, the international KiDS team of researchers, led by Koen Kuijken at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands [3], has used this approach to analyse images of over two million galaxies, typically 5.5 billion light-years away [4]. They studied the distortion of light emitted from these galaxies, which bends as it passes massive clumps of dark matter during its journey to Earth.

    The first results come from only 7% of the final survey area and concentrate on mapping the distribution of dark matter in groups of galaxies. Most galaxies live in groups — including our own Milky Way, which is part of the Local Group — and understanding how much dark matter they contain is a key test of the whole theory of how galaxies form in the cosmic web.

    2
    Local Group

    From the gravitational lensing effect, these groups turn out to contain around 30 times more dark than visible matter.

    “Interestingly, the brightest galaxy nearly always sits in the middle of the dark matter clump,” says Massimo Viola (Leiden Observatory, the Netherlands) lead author of one of the first KiDS papers.

    “This prediction of galaxy formation theory, in which galaxies continue to be sucked into groups and pile up in the centre, has never been demonstrated so clearly before by observations,” adds Koen Kuijken.

    The findings are just the start of a major programme to exploit the immense datasets coming from the survey telescopes and the data are now being made available to scientists worldwide through the ESO archive.

    The KiDS survey will help to further expand our understanding of dark matter. Being able to explain dark matter and its effects would represent a major breakthrough in physics.
    Notes

    [1] Astronomers have found that the total mass/energy content of the Universe is split in the proportions 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter and 5% “normal” matter. So the 85% figure relates to the fraction of “matter” that is dark.

    [2] Supercomputer calculations show how a Universe filled with dark matter will evolve: over time dark matter will clump into a huge cosmic web structure, and galaxies and stars form where gas is sucked into the densest concentrations of dark matter.

    [3] The international KiDS team of researchers includes scientists from the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Italy and Canada.

    [4] This work made use of the 3D map of galaxy groups, provided by the Galaxy And Mass Assembly project (GAMA), following extensive observations on the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

    Anglo Australian Telescope Exterior
    Anglo Australian Telescope Interior
    Anglo-Australian Telescope

    More information

    This research was presented in a series of papers submitted to several leading journals. A list can be found here.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:37 am on April 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ESO VST,   

    From ESO- ESOcast 74: “Mapping the Southern Skies” 


    European Southern Observatory

    ESOcast 74 looks at ESO’s pair of survey telescopes at Paranal: the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) and the VLT Survey Telescope (VST).

    Download available at YouTube

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    See the full article here.

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    VLT

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  • richardmitnick 7:42 am on August 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESO VST   

    From ESO: “Triangulum Galaxy Snapped by VST” 


    European Southern Observatory

    6 August 2014

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany

    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured a beautifully detailed image of the galaxy Messier 33. This nearby spiral, the second closest large galaxy to our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is packed with bright star clusters, and clouds of gas and dust. The new picture is amongst the most detailed wide-field views of this object ever taken and shows the many glowing red gas clouds in the spiral arms with particular clarity.

    m33

    ESO VST telescope
    ESO/VST

    Messier 33, otherwise known as NGC 598, is located about three million light-years away in the small northern constellation of Triangulum (The Triangle). Often known as the Triangulum Galaxy it was observed by the French comet hunter Charles Messier in August 1764, who listed it as number 33 in his famous list of prominent nebulae and star clusters. However, he was not the first to record the spiral galaxy; it was probably first documented by the Sicilian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna around 100 years earlier.

    Although the Triangulum Galaxy lies in the northern sky, it is just visible from the southern vantage point of ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. However, it does not rise very high in the sky. This image was taken by the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), a state-of-the-art 2.6-metre survey telescope with a field of view that is twice as broad as the full Moon. This picture was created from many individual exposures, including some taken through a filter passing just the light from glowing hydrogen, which make the red gas clouds in the galaxies spiral arms especially prominent.

    Among the many star formation regions in Messier 33’s spiral arms, the giant nebula NGC 604 stands out. With a diameter of nearly 1500 light-years, this is one of the largest nearby emission nebulae known. It stretches over an area 40 times the size of the visible portion of the much more famous — and much closer — Orion Nebula.

    ngc604
    NASA/ESA Hubble 2010-08-30

    The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, which includes the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy, and about 50 other smaller galaxies. On an extremely clear, dark night, this galaxy is just visible with the unaided eye, and is considered to be the most distant celestial object visible without any optical help. Viewing conditions for the very patient are only set to improve in the long-term: the galaxy is approaching our own at a speed of about 100 000 kilometres per hour.

    local group
    Local Group

    andro
    The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. The image also shows Messier Objects 32 and 110, as well as NGC 206 (a bright star cloud in the Andromeda Galaxy) and the star Nu Andromedae. This image was taken using a hydrogen-alpha filter.Adam Evans

    A closer look at this beautiful new picture not only allows a very detailed inspection of the star-forming spiral arms of the galaxy, but also reveals the very rich scenery of the more distant galaxies scattered behind the myriad stars and glowing clouds of NGC 598.

    See the full article here.

    Another View of M33
    tri
    Alexander Meleg

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  • richardmitnick 9:26 am on January 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESO VST   

    From ESO: “Sneak Preview of Survey Telescope Treasure Trove” 


    European Southern Observatory

    22 January 2014
    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of eleven public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. Together these are providing a vast legacy of publicly available data for the global astronomical community.

    lagoon

    vlt
    VLT Survey Telescope

    The Lagoon Nebula is an intriguing object located around 5000 light-years from us in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer). Also known as Messier 8, it is a giant cloud 100 light-years across, where new stars are forming within its plumes of gas and dust [1]. This new 16 000-pixel-wide image is from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST), one of two dedicated survey telescopes at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. A zoomable version of the image allows the viewers to explore the many nooks and crannies of this fascinating object.

    The VST was not pointed at the Lagoon deliberately, it simply was included as part of a huge imaging survey called VPHAS+ that covered a much larger region of the Milky Way. VPHAS+ is just one of three imaging surveys using visible light with the VST. These are complemented by six infrared surveys with the VISTA survey telescope.

    vista
    VISTA Survey Telescope

    The surveys are addressing many important questions in modern astronomy. These include the nature of dark energy, searching for brilliant quasars in the early Universe, probing the structure of the Milky Way and looking for unusual and hidden objects, studying the neighbouring Magellanic Clouds in great detail, and many other topics. History shows that surveys often find things that are unexpected and these surprises are crucial for the progress of astronomical research.

    As well as the nine imaging surveys with VISTA and the VST there are also two additional surveys that are in progress using other ESO telescopes. One, the Gaia-ESO Survey, is using the Very Large Telescope at Paranal to map the properties of more than 100 000 stars in the Milky Way, and another (PESSTO) is following up on transient objects such as supernovae using the New Technology Telescope at La Silla.

    ESO NTT
    NTT

    Some of these surveys began back in 2010, and some much more recently, but data from all of them are now being made public and are accessible to astronomers around the world through ESO’s archive.

    Although they are still in progress, the surveys are already allowing astronomers to make many discoveries. Just a few of these new results include new star clusters found in the VVV survey (eso1128, eso1141), the best map yet of the central parts of our Milky Way (eso1242, eso1339), a very deep view of the infrared sky (eso1213) and, very recently, some of the most distant quasars discovered so far (from the VISTA VIKING survey).

    The ESO Public Surveys will continue for many years, and their astronomical legacy value will stretch many decades into the future.

    See the full article,with notes, here.

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