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.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals a delicate blue group of stars — actually an irregular galaxy named IC 3583 — that sits some 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. This small galaxy is thought to be gravitationally interacting with one of its neighbours, the spiral Messier 90.
The world’s largest filled single-dish radio telescope launched at the weekend, and it relies on a piece of West Australian innovation. The 500-metre-wide telescope — known as FAST — uses a data system developed at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy in Perth and the European Southern Observatory to manage the huge amounts of data it generates.