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Speeding binary star discovered approaching galactic escape velocity

14 April 2016 Astronomy Now

There are about two dozen so-called hypervelocity stars known to be escaping our Milky Way galaxy, but PB 3877 is the first wide binary star found to travel at such a high speed. The results of a new study challenge the commonly accepted scenario that hypervelocity stars are accelerated by the supermassive black hole at the galactic centre.

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Gazing into the furnace: VST captures the Fornax Cluster

13 April 2016 Astronomy Now

This new image from the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile captures a spectacular concentration of galaxies known as the Fornax Cluster, which can be found in the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Fornax (The Furnace). The cluster plays host to a menagerie of galaxies of all shapes and sizes, some of which are hiding secrets.

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First light for future black hole probe

13 January 2016 Astronomy Now

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.

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Galaxy cluster survey yields 3-D view of universe’s dark side

18 December 2015 Astronomy Now

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.

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Strange globular cluster recalls Milky Way’s infancy

14 December 2015 Astronomy Now

When our galaxy was born, around 13,000 million years ago, a plethora of clusters containing millions of stars emerged. But over time, they have been disappearing. However, hidden behind younger stars that formed later, some old and dying star clusters remain, such as the so-called E 3. European astronomers have now studied this testimony to the beginnings of our galaxy.

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VLT studies mysterious dwarf galaxy born in cosmic collision

9 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The spectacular aftermath of a 360 million year old cosmic collision is revealed in great detail in new images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Among the debris is a rare and mysterious young dwarf galaxy. This galaxy is providing astronomers with an excellent opportunity to learn more about similar galaxies that are expected to be common in the early universe, but are normally too faint and distant to be observed by current telescopes.

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Ageing hypergiant star’s weight loss secret revealed

25 November 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured the most detailed images ever of the hypergiant star VY Canis Majoris. These observations show how the unexpectedly large size of the particles of dust surrounding the star enable it to lose an enormous amount of mass as it begins to die. This process, understood now for the first time, is necessary to prepare such gigantic stars to meet explosive demises as supernovae.