ESO

Artist's concept of a supermassive black hole surrounded by galaxies within a cosmic web (Image ESO/L. Calçada)

An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters” reports a study on a group of six galaxies surrounding a supermassive black hole which date back to an early epoch when the universe was less than a billion years old. A team of researchers led by Marco Mignoli of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), Bologna, used ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) to observe that structure which turned out to be complex as it includes filaments of matter that extend for a distance over 300 times the size of the Milky Way. The gas that concentrates in that structure forms what have been likened to the threads of a spider’s web, and that gas could be responsible for the development of a supermassive black hole in such a remote time.

The galaxy NGC 1365 seen by MUSE (Image ESO/TIMER survey)

ESO has published an image of the galaxy NGC 1365, also known as The Great Barred Spiral Galaxy, captured with the MUSE instrument mounted on the VLT in Chile. The nickname is due to its particular shape with two structures running from its center that extend to its borders. It’s an uncommon type of galaxy since about 15% of galaxies belong to it while spiral ones are common. In this case, there’s a second bar inside the main one. The observations conducted with MUSE will help to understand the dynamics of the stars within NGC 1365 and its supermassive black hole.

Artist's concept of a luminous blue variable star (ESO/L. Calçada)

An article published in the “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” reports the mysterious disappearance of a massive star of the luminous blue variable type in the Kinman dwarf galaxy. A team of researchers led by Andrew Allan of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, detected the disappearance of that star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. Additional observations and research of archival data to try to better understand the events led to believe that the most likely possibilities are a transformation that led to a sharp drop in brightness, maybe dimmed even more due to the dust that covered it, and its direct collapse into a black hole without a supernova explosion.

Artistic representation of an extreme horizontal branch star with a giant star spot

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” reports a study on stars of a particular type since they’re much smaller than the Sun but much hotter and therefore blue. A team of researchers led by Yazan Al Momany of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, Padua, used various instruments on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and NTT (New Technology Telescope) in Chile to study stars of that type discovering the equivalent of sunspots but even three thousand times larger in size. In some of these spots, flares have been observed that are millions of times more intense than the Sun’s which indicate the presence of very intense magnetic fields.

Artist's concept of the HR 6819 system

An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” reports the discovery of a black hole in a triple system known as HR 6819. A team of researchers led by ESO’s Thomas Rivinius used the FEROS spectrograph on the MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope at La Silla to examine that system in a study on binary systems, surprisingly discovering the presence of a third object identified as a black hole. It’s the closest black hole to the solar system, but according to the researchers it could be the tip of the iceberg, and there could be many others like that, as predicted by theoretical models.