In the Perseus arm of the Milky Way, in the constellation of Puppis, a half dozen vast “bubbles” of hydrogen gas, heated by intense ultraviolet radiation from nearby O-type stars, provide spectacular backdrops for stellar nurseries where new stars are being born. This glowing cloud, known as SH 2-305, is an emission nebula, or HII region, illuminated by at least two O-type stars and probably several others. Such stars live fast and die young, shining a million times brighter than the Sun with up to around 90 times the mass. This image was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Cosmic Gems programme, an initiative to gather engaging imagery when science observations are not possible.
First light for new exoplanet-hunting telescopes
ALMA detects most distant signs of oxygen in the universe
An international team of astronomers has used the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) to detect glowing oxygen in a distant galaxy seen just 700 million years after the Big Bang. This is the most distant galaxy in which oxygen has ever been unambiguously detected, and it is most likely being ionised by powerful radiation from young giant stars.
First light for future black hole probe
Zooming in on black holes is the main mission for the newly installed GRAVITY instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. During its first observations, GRAVITY successfully combined starlight using all four 1.8-metre Auxiliary Telescopes. The first observations using GRAVITY with the four 8-metre VLT Unit Telescopes are planned for later in 2016.