Pictures of the galaxy SDP.81. On the left a picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. In the middle, the galaxy as an Einsetin ring and on the left as it's seen after being processed to eliminate the gravitational lensing distorsion (Image ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ)/Y. Tamura (The University of Tokyo)/Mark Swinbank (Durham University))

ESO’s telescope ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) in Chile allowed to take the most detailed images ever obtained of a galaxy called HATLAS J090311.6+003906 or SDP.81. It’s about 11.4 billion light years from Earth and its light is distorted by the phenomenon called gravitational lensing. A galaxy between it and the Earth distorts its light with its huge gravity and the result is that we see an almost perfect ring, called an Einstein ring.

Image of the Medusa Nebula captures using the VLT telescope (Image ESO)

The most detailed image ever obtained of the Medusa Nebula was taken using ESO’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) in Chile. It reveals in a much better way the filaments of glowing gas that make it up. Those are snake-like filaments that led to the nickname Medusa with which is commonly known, inspired by the myth of the creature with snakes in place of hair. This nebula shows what might happen to the Sun some billion years in the future.

Image of the HL Tauri system taken by the ALMA telescope (Image ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

Last October a picture of the system HL Tauri captured by ESO’s ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) telescope was published. It showed a disk of dust that is slowly coalescing and was one of the sharpest images ever made at sumbillimetric wavelengths. According to many scientists there are planets that are forming in the system but others were skeptical and that created a debate. Now a team of astrophysicists from the University of Toronto led by Daniel Tamayo brought new evidence that there really are planets forming, published in the journal “Astrophysical Journal”.

The sky around the star 51 Pegasi (Image ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2)

A team of astronomers used the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) instrument at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile to obtain for the first time a direct detection of the spectrum of visible light from an exoplanet. It’s 51 Pegasi b, already well known by astronomers because it was the first exoplanet discovered among those orbiting a star on the main sequence.

Artist impression of the protoplanetary disc surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in its outer reaches (Image B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF))

For many years, scientists have known that complex molecules can form in space, including some important in the birth of life forms. This month, two studies have been published that prove the presence of various molecules of this type in an infant solar system and even in protostellar clouds in which Sun-like stars are formed together with their planets.