The Southern Owl Nebula planetary nebula (Photo ESO)

It’s nicknamed the Southern Owl Nebula and its an extraordinarily symmetrical and round planetary nebula. Using ESO’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) in Chile now it’s been possible to capture an extraordinary image of this dying star and what’s left around it. The result gives the impression of a sphere lit up like a ghost in the darkness of space.

This artist’s impression shows a supernova and associated gamma-ray burst driven by a magnetar (Image ESO)

An article published in “Nature” describes the research conducted by an international team led by Jochen Greiner of the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany who studied a gamma-ray burst (GRB) detected on December 9, 2011 by NASA’s Swift satellite and called GRB 111209A. It was an exceptional phenomenon because it lasted more than three hours when gamma-ray bursts typically last from a few seconds to a few minutes. It was the first case of GRB associated with a supernova, called SN 2011kl, which produced a magnetar, a neutron star with an incredibly strong magnetic field.

Artistic impression of the galaxy CR7 (Image ESO/M. Kornmesser)

An article accepted for publication in “The Astrophysical Journal” describes the discovery of a galaxy called CR7 seen as it was at the time of the early universe in which first-generation stars were found. This research was carried out mainly using ESO’s Very Large Telescope but data collected by the W. M. Keck Observatory, the Subaru Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope were also used.

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.