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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 very close encounter

15 August 2017 Astronomy Now

Back in October 2012, the near-Earth asteroid 2012 TC4 had a close encounter with Earth. It passed our planet at a distance only a quarter of that between the Earth and the Moon. In October 2017, this small asteroid, with a size of only about 15 to 30 metres, will return for another very close fly-by, making it the perfect object to test the asteroid detection and tracking network.

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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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Exoplanet hunter sees first light at La Silla Observatory

19 July 2017 Astronomy Now

The MASCARA station at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has achieved first light. This new facility will seek out transiting exoplanets as they pass in front of their bright parent stars and create a catalogue of targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations.

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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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See the sharpest-ever view of giant Betelgeuse

30 June 2017 Astronomy Now

This orange blob shows the nearby star Betelgeuse, as seen by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. This is the first time that ALMA has ever observed the surface of a star and this first attempt has resulted in the highest-resolution image of Betelgeuse available.

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Ingredient of life found around infant Sun-like stars

9 June 2017 Astronomy Now

ALMA has observed stars like the Sun at a very early stage in their formation and found traces of methyl isocyanate — a chemical building block of life. This is the first ever detection of this prebiotic molecule towards solar-type protostars, the sort from which our Solar System evolved.