Blogs about ESO (European Southern Observatory) activities

The nebula Sh2-284 (Image ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgement: CASU)

An image captured by the OmegaCAM instrument mounted on ESO’s VST in Chile shows details of the nebula cataloged as Sh2-284. It’s part of the VST Photometric Hα Survey of the Southern Galactic Plane and Bulge (VPHAS+), a survey that included over 500 million objects in the Milky Way to improve our understanding of stars’ life cycles. Sh2-284 is a sort of star nursery whose shape was compared to that of a cat’s face and for this nicknamed “smiling cat”.

The region Lupus 2 (Image ESO/Meingast et al.)

An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” reports an overview of the results of the VISTA Star Formation Atlas (VISIONS) survey, which aimed to observe star formation regions visible from the southern hemisphere. A team of researchers assembled more than one million infrared images captured over five years by ESO’s VISTA telescope in Chile to create an atlas of five stellar nurseries in the cosmic neighborhood. This is one of the surveys focused on star formation processes with the aim of better understanding its various phases.

The Cone Nebula seen by the FORS2 instrument of VLT (Image ESO)

ESO has released an image of the Cone Nebula captured using the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument mounted on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) as part of the 60th-anniversary celebrations of this astronomical research organization’s creation. The convention to create the European Southern Observatory was signed on October 5, 1962, and led to the construction of state-of-the-art telescopes, also in collaboration with other organizations. 60 years of astronomy are also celebrated with a campaign of observations that among other things captured the image of the Cone Nebula.

The Flame Nebula with the NGC 2023 nebula on the right (Image ESO/Th. Stanke)

An article accepted for publication in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” reports an overview of the first results of an astronomical survey called ALCOHOLS concerning the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. For the occasion, ESO released images of the Orion Flame Nebula, one of the star formation areas within that complex. Researchers led by former ESO astronomer Thomas Stanke used the SuperCam instrument mounted on the APEX radio telescope to map the presence of carbon monoxide in that area. Despite its name and what it looks like in the images, the Flame Nebula is very cold, with temperatures generally just a few degrees above absolute zero.

b Centauri's system seen by SPHERE

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports the discovery of a planet in the binary system b Centauri, the most massive in which a planet has been discovered. A team of researchers used ESO’s VLT in Chile to locate the exoplanet cataloged as b Centauri (AB)b or simply b Centauri b photographing it with the SPHERE instrument. It’s a record-breaking planet also because it has a mass estimated at about ten times Jupiter’s, making it one of the most massive known planets, with an orbit that is about one hundred times farther from the two stars than Jupiter’s distance from the Sun. The researchers think that b Centauri b likely formed in another area of its system and then moved due to gravitational interactions.