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.
The first results have been released from a major new dark matter survey of the southern skies using ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The VST KiDS survey will allow astronomers to make precise measurements of dark matter, the structure of galaxy halos, and the evolution of galaxies and clusters.
An international team of astronomers has discovered glowing gas clouds surrounding distant quasars. The new survey of these active galaxies indicates that haloes around quasars are far more common than expected. The properties of the haloes in this surprising find are also in striking disagreement with currently accepted theories of galaxy formation in the early universe.
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.