Probing Deeper Into the Hubble Deep Field

This video sequence combines a background picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (blue/green) with a new very deep view of this field using the European Southern Observatory’s ALMA instruments (orange, marked with circles). All the objects that ALMA sees appear to be massive star-forming galaxies.

Video Credit: ESO
Image Credits: ESA/NASA/ESO

Planets Being Formed

ALMA image of the planet-forming disc around the young, Sun-likeThis image from data taken by ESO’s  Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) shows the planet-forming disc around the young, Sun-like star TW Hydrae. The inset image zooms in on the gap nearest the star, which is at roughly the same distance as the Earth is from the Sun. The additional concentric light and dark features represent other planet-forming regions farther out in the disc.

Image Credit: ESO

A Protostar

Infant Star’s First StepsThis false color image from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array shows a pair of immense jets of dense gas with near-perfect symmetry radiating from a single source at the center of the picture. They’re coming from an extremely young star—a protostar—that is in the early stages of becoming a star much like the Sun. The baby star, known as CARMA-7, and its jets are located around 1,400 light-years from Earth in the Serpens South star cluster. That dense cluster is home to at least 30 more protostars that are being formed in close proximity to one another.

Image Credit: ESO

The SDP.81 Einstein Ring

SDP_81 Einstein RingESO’s ALMA long baseline array has produced a marvelously detailed image of a distant galaxy being gravitationally lensed. The new image shows star-forming regions, the likes of which have never been seen before in such detail in a galaxy so remote. The new observations are far more detailed than any previously made of such a distant galaxy, including those made using the Hubble Space Telescope, and reveal clumps of star formation in the galaxy equivalent to giant versions of the  Orion Nebula.

The left panel shows the foreground lensing galaxy as seen via Hubble and the gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81. The lensed galaxy forms an almost perfect Einstein Ring but is barely visible.

The center image shows the sharp ALMA image of the Einstein ring. The foreground lensing galaxy being invisible to ALMA.

On the right, the reconstructed image of the distant galaxy created using sophisticated models of the magnifying gravitational lens reveals fine structures within the ring: several dust clouds within the galaxy thought to be giant cold molecular clouds, the birthplaces of stars and planets.

Image Credits: ALMA (NRAO / ESO / NAOJ)
Y. Tamura (The University of Tokyo)
Mark Swinbank (Durham University)


Seeing into the Heart of Mira A and its PartnerMain sequence stars such as the Sun wind up as red giants. Studying red giant stars tells astronomers about the future of the Sun (in a few billion years). It also tells us about how previous generations of stars spread the elements needed for life across the Universe. One of the most famous red giants in the sky is called Mira A, part of the binary system Mira about 400 light-years from Earth.

Mira A is an old star, already spewing out the products of its life’s work into space for recycling. Mira B, Mira A’s companion, orbits A at twice the distance from the Sun to Neptune.

Mira A is known to have a slow stellar wind which gently moulds the surrounding material. Mira B is a hot, dense white dwarf with a fierce and fast stellar wind. Recent observations at millimeter wavelengths show how the interaction of the stellar winds from the two stars have created a complex nebula. The bubble at the centre is created by Mira B’s energetic wind inside Mira A’s more relaxed outflow. The heart-shaped bubble, formed some time in the last 400 years or so, is a relatively young object in astronomical terms.

Image Credit: ESO / S. Ramstedt (Uppsala University, Sweden) & W. Vlemmings (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden)

Planets Forming

ALMA image of the protoplanetary disc around HL TauriThis image from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array at the European Souther Observatory in Chile reveals extraordinarily fine detail that has never been seen before in the planet-forming disc around a young star, in this case, HL Tauri. This is one of the sharpest pictures ever made at submillimetre wavelengths. It’s an enormous step forward in the observation of how protoplanetary discs develop and how planets form.

HL Tauri’s disc appears much more developed than would be expected from the age of the system, suggesting that the planet-formation process may be faster than previously thought. Young stars are born in clouds of gas and fine dust which have collapsed under the effects of gravitation. The dense hot cores eventually ignite to become young stars. These young stars are initially cocooned in the remaining gas and dust, which eventually settles into a protoplanetary disc.

Image Credit: ESO

NGC 1433

Composite_NGC_1433This detailed view shows the central parts of the nearby active galaxy NGC 1433. The dim blue background image, showing the central dust lanes of this galaxy, comes from the Hubble Space Telescope. The other colored structures near the middle of the image are from ALMA observations. ALMA is the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array, an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile.

Image Credit: ESO / NASA / ESA

Antennae Galaxies

Antennae Galaxy Hubble_ALMAThe Antennae Galaxies (aka NGC 4038 and NGC 4039) are a distorted pair of colliding spiral galaxies about 70 million light-years away, in the constellation of Corvus (The Crow). This false color image combines observations made in two different millimeter wavelength ranges from the European Southern Observatory’s ALMA with visible light observations from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Visible light—shown here mainly in blue—reveals the newborn stars in the galaxies, ALMA’s view shows the clouds of dense cold gas from which new stars form. The ALMA observations—shown here in red, pink and yellow—were made at specific wavelengths of millimetre and submillimetre light,tuned to detect carbon monoxide molecules in the otherwise invisible hydrogen clouds, where new stars are forming. Massive concentrations of gas are found not only in the hearts of the two galaxies but also in the chaotic region where they are colliding. The total amount of gas is billions of times the mass of the Sun, a rich reservoir of material for future generations of stars.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / ESO

HH 46/47

HH 46:47This picture was assembled from combined observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and ESO’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. It reveals the throes of stellar birth in an object known as HH 46/47.

HH or Herbig-Haro objects form when particle jets shot out by newborn stars collide with surrounding matter, producing small, bright, nebulous regions. The dynamics within many HH objects are obscured from observation with visible light by the enveloping gas and dust, but the infrared and submillimeter light seen by Spitzer and ALMA, respectively, cuts through the cloud around HH 46/47. (Infrared light has longer wavelengths than what we see with our eyes, and submillimeter wavelengths are longer still.)

In this false-color image the shorter-wavelength light appears blue and longer-wavelength light, red. Blue shows gas energized by the outflowing jets. Green traces a combination of hydrogen gas molecules and dust that follows the boundary of the gas cloud surrounding the young star. The red areas are excited carbon monoxide gas.

Image Credit: NASA / ESO

Dust to Dust

SN1987AGalaxies can be remarkably dusty places, and supernovae are thought to be a primary source of that dust. However, astronomers have had little actual evidence of a supernova’s dust‐making capabilities, and they could not account for the copious amount of dust detected in young, distant galaxies. New observations by the ESO’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array have captured the remains of a recent supernova (SN1987A) brimming with freshly formed dust. If enough of this dust makes the perilous transition into interstellar space, it could explain how many galaxies acquired their dusty, dusky appearance.

Image Credit: ESO