At just 163,000 light years away, the Large Magellanic Cloud is a glittering landmark in the southern sky, among the Milky Way’s closest neighbours and an ideal target for astronomers studying galaxy formation. The European Southern Observatory’s wide-field VISTA telescope has been monitoring the LMC and its smaller sibling, the aptly named Small Magellanic Cloud, for more than a decade, using the telescope’s near-infrared vision to peer through intervening gas and dust to map out stars populating the centre of the galaxy. VISTA – the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile – is a 4.1-metre (13.45-foot) telescope that is equivalent to a 67-megapixel camera with a 13,000-mm f/3.25 mirror. The camera weighs three tonnes and features 16 infrared detectors. The telescope has allowed astronomers to analyse about 10 million stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud and determine their ages, along with the dwarf galaxy’s three-dimensional structure and faint spiral-like features.
The Very Large Telescope Interferometer at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has obtained the sharpest view ever of the dusty disc around an ageing star. For the first time such features can be compared to those around young stars — and they look surprisingly similar. It is even possible that a disc appearing at the end of a star’s life might also create a second generation of planets.
Astronomers using the VISTA telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory have discovered a previously unknown component of the Milky Way. By mapping out the locations of a class of stars that vary in brightness called Cepheids, a disc of young stars buried behind thick dust clouds in the central bulge has been found.
A spectacular new image of the Milky Way has been released to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy (ATLASGAL). The APEX telescope in Chile has mapped the full area of the galactic plane visible from the Southern Hemisphere for the first time at submillimetre wavelengths — between infrared light and radio waves.