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

Second Star to the Right …


tinkerbell_eso… and straight on ’til morning. Just follow Tinker Bell. This image from the ESO‘s Very Large Telescope shows a rare merger of three galaxies. The system, which bears a resemblance to Tinker Bell, is composed of two massive spiral galaxies and a third irregular galaxy.

The image is a multi-band composite of infrared data from the  VLT combined with archive images from Hubble. The VLT data allowed astronomers to not only see the two previously known galaxies, but to identify a third, an irregular, massive galaxy that seems to form stars at a frantic rate.

Image Credit: ESO

R Sculptoris


This image, which was taken by the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory, shows an extremely small section of the sky: approximately 20×20 milliarcseconds. For comparison, Jupiter as seen from Earth has an angular size of roughly 40 arcseconds. The ghostly image is of a distant, pulsating red giant star known as R Sculptoris, which is 1200 light-years away in the constellation of Sculptor. It’s a carbon-rich asymptotic giant branch star that is nearing the end of its life. As the end comes, low- and intermediate-mass stars cool off, create extended atmospheres, and lose a lot of their mass—before becoming spectacular planetary nebulae.

One odd feature of R Sculptoris is its dominant bright spot which seems to be two or three times brighter than the rest of the star. Astronomers speculate that R Sculptoris is surrounded by giant “clumps” of stellar dust that are peeling away from the shedding star. This bright spot is probably a region around the star with less dust, allowing more light to escape.

Image Credit: ESO