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Best ever image of another star’s surface and atmosphere

26 August 2017 Astronomy Now

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.

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Supermassive black holes feed on cosmic jellyfish

26 August 2017 Astronomy Now

Observations of “Jellyfish galaxies” with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed a previously unknown way to fuel supermassive black holes. It seems the mechanism that produces the tentacles of gas and newborn stars that give these galaxies their nickname also makes it possible for the gas to reach the central regions of the galaxies, feeding the black hole that lurks in each of them and causing it to shine brilliantly.

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A tale of three stellar cities

28 July 2017 Astronomy Now

Using new observations from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope, astronomers have discovered three different populations of young stars within the Orion Nebula Cluster. This unexpected discovery adds very valuable new insights for the understanding of how such clusters form.

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Dazzling spiral with an active heart

5 July 2017 Astronomy Now

ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured a magnificent face-on view of the barred spiral galaxy Messier 77. The image does justice to the galaxy’s beauty, showcasing its glittering arms criss-crossed with dust lanes — but it fails to betray Messier 77’s turbulent nature.

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First signs of weird quantum property of empty space?

30 November 2016 Astronomy Now

By studying the polarisation of light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence, first predicted in the 1930s.

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Starvation diet for supermassive black hole dims brilliant galaxy

10 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers may have solved the mystery of the peculiar volatile behaviour of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy known as Markarian 1018 some 590 million light-years away. Combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other observatories suggest that the black hole is no longer being fed enough fuel to make its surroundings shine brightly.

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SPHERE reveals protoplanetary discs being shaped by newborn planets

9 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Three teams of astronomers have made use of SPHERE, an advanced exoplanet-hunting instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, in order to shed light on the enigmatic evolution of fledgling planetary systems. The explosion in the number of known exoplanets in recent years has made the study of them one of the most dynamic fields in modern astronomy.

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Study confirms that novae are main source of lithium in the universe

3 November 2016 Astronomy Now

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.