The European Southern Observatory’s “Cosmic Gems” programme is an ongoing initiative to collect astronomical images of educational interest and public outreach, showcasing the institution’s powerful telescopes during periods when they cannot be used for science observations. This composite image, captured by the Very Large Telescope’s FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph, or FORS, instrument shows a patch of sky in the Crux, or Southern Cross, constellation, a particularly bright section of the Milky Way packed with stars. The use of filters brings out spectacular blues and reds.
Astronomers have discovered a new type of exotic binary star. In the system AR Scorpii a rapidly spinning white dwarf star powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star, and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio.
Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer astronomers have constructed the most detailed image ever of a star — the red supergiant star Antares. They have also made the first map of the velocities of material in the atmosphere of a star other than the Sun, revealing unexpected turbulence in Antares’s huge extended atmosphere.