The Medusa Nebula

ESO’s Very Large Telescope images the Medusa NebulaESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile captured this image of the Medusa Nebula (also known Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274). As the star at the heart of this nebula made its final transition into the final stage of its existence, it blew off its outer layers into space, forming this colorful cloud. The Sun will go through a similar process in a few billion years.

Image Credit: ESO

A 3D View of a Galactic Merger

This animation shows a #D rendering of a gas halo observed by ESO’s Very Large Telescope superimposed over an older image of a galaxy merger obtained with ESO’s Atacama Large Millimeter Array. The halo of hydrogen gas is shown in blue, and the ALMA data is shown in orange. The halo is bound to the galaxy, which contains a quasar at its center. The gas in the halo provides the perfect food source for the supermassive black hole at the centre of the quasar.

The redshift on these objects is 6.2, meaning we see them as they were 12.8 billion years ago.

Video Credit: ESO

Missing Lithium

The globular star cluster Messier 54Most of the light chemical element lithium now present in the Universe was produced along with hydrogen and helium during the Big Bang but in much smaller quantities. Astronomers have calculated how much lithium they expect to find in the early Universe and from this work out how much they should see in old stars. But the calculations don’t match the observed values. There is about one-third of lithium in stars that we expect to see in our galaxy, The Milky Way.

This new image from the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory the globular cluster Messier 54, a star cluster that doesn’t belong to the Milky Way but is part of a small satellite galaxy, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy. A team of astronomers has used the VLT to measure how much lithium there is in a selection of stars in Messier 54. They find that the levels are close to those in the Milky Way. So, whatever it is that got rid of the lithium seems not to be specific to the Milky Way.

Image Credit: ESO

Visible and Invisible

Cat's PawThis comparison of infrared and visible views of the Cat’s Paw Nebula uses images taken by two of the telescopes belonging to the European Southern Observatory. The visible light image (right) was taken with the Wide Field Imager on the 2.2-m MPG/ESO telescope at La Silla in Chile. The new infrared image (left) was taken with the VISTA telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory. In the infrared, the dust that hides many stars is almost transparent, allowing many more stars to be seen.

Image Credit: ESO / J. Emerson / VISTA
Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

Looking at an Exoplanet

The SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory has captured a series of images showing the passage of the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b around its parent star. SPHERE observed Beta Pictoris b directly, seeing it emerge from its passage in front of its parent star. The planet orbits its star at about the same distance as between the Sun and Saturn, approximately 1.3 billion km, making it the most closely orbiting exoplanet ever to have been directly imaged. In spite of the distance from its star, planet is still hot, around 1500 C.

Image Credit: ESO

The Medusa Nebula

ESO’s Very Large Telescope images the Medusa NebulaESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile captured this image of the Medusa Nebula (also known Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274). As the star at the heart of this nebula made its final transition into the final stage of its existence, it blew off its outer layers into space, forming this colorful cloud. The Sun will go through a similar process in a few billion years.

Image Credit: ESO

Thor’s Helmet

Thor's HelmentNGC 2359 (aka Thor’s Helmet) is an emission nebula in the constellation Canis Major. The nebula is about 15,000 light-years away and 30 light-years across. The central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. This image was taken by the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

Image Credit: ESO