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.
An international team of astronomers used European Southern Observatory telescopes to complement other earth- and space-based instruments as part of the XXL survey of galaxy clusters. The ESO team measured the precise distances to the galaxy clusters, providing the 3-D view of the cosmos required to perform accurate measurements of dark matter and dark energy.
Observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered a new class of “dark” globular star clusters around the giant galaxy Centaurus A. These mysterious objects look similar to normal clusters, but contain much more mass and may either harbour unexpected amounts of dark matter, or contain massive black holes — neither of which was expected nor is understood.
Lithium, like the majority of chemical elements, can trace its origins back to astrophysical phenomena, but its point of genesis was unclear. Recently, a group of researchers detected enormous quantities of beryllium-7 — an unstable element which decays into lithium — inside nova V5668 Sgr, which suggests that novae are the main source of lithium in the galaxy.