The governing body of the European Southern Observatory, the ESO Council, has approved ESO’s budget for 2012. This includes preparatory work on the road to the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) site at Cerro Armazones and the start of development of some very challenging optical components for the telescope. With several ESO Member States now having committed their part of the required additional funding, the final approval for the whole E-ELT programme is expected in mid-2012. Read the full article »»»»
Europe’s state-of-the-art Very Large Survey Telescope - VST – in Paranal, Chile, has captured some of the most detailed images ever taken of a spiral galaxy. The Silver Coin Galaxy, known to scientists as NGC 253, gleams about 11.5 million light years away in the southern constellation of Sculptor.
One light year is the distance that light travels in 365 Earth days, about 9.46 trillion kilometres or 5.87 trillion miles. NGC 253 is labelled a “starbust” galaxy because it is a stellar nursery where super-hot young stars have ignited, forming what look like bright clumps dotting its spiral.
The radiation streaming from these giant blue-white babies makes the surrounding hydrogen gas clouds glow green in the images captured by the telescope, the European Southern Observatory – ESO – said in a statement. Read the full article »»»»
Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have discovered a gas cloud with several times the mass of the Earth accelerating fast towards the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. This is the first time ever that the approach of such a doomed cloud to a supermassive black hole has been observed. The results will be published in the 5 January 2012 issue of the journal Nature.
During a 20-year programme using ESO telescopes to monitor the movement of stars around the supermassive black hole - eso0846, formally known as Sgr A*  Sagittarius A - at the centre of our galaxy, a team of astronomers led by Reinhard Genzel at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics – MPE – in Garching, Germany, has discovered a unique new object fast approaching the black hole.
Over the last seven years, the speed of this object has nearly doubled, reaching more than 8 million km/h. It is on a very elongated orbit  and in mid-2013 it will pass at a distance of only about 40 billion kilometres from the event horizon of the black hole, a distance of about 36 light-hours . This is an extremely close encounter with a supermassive black hole in astronomical terms. Read the full article »»»»
In the world of Cosmology and Astronomy, SCUBA  was doubtlessly one of the most important instruments ever built. SCUBA has served the scientific community well, it seems however Astronomers have outgrown her.
SCUBA is mounted on what is the world’s largest submillimetre telescope at the Joint Astronomy Centre on the island of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, move over SCUBA, SCUBA 2 Read the full article »»»»
Astronomers with NASA’s Kepler mission have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in a “habitable zone” around a star not unlike our own.
The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light years away, about two-and-a-half times the size of Earth, with a temperature of about 22 degrees Celsius, allowing liquid water to exist on the surface. Its year is about 290 days long. This is the first time the Kepler mission has detected a potentially habitable world orbiting a Sun-like star, scientists reported in findings to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. Read the full article »»»»
The human senses are a marvel of natural design but they are limited by their physical qualities. Perfectly adapted to life on the surface of the planet Earth, not so great if you want to listen to faint stars on the other side of the universe. Luckily enough one of humanities greatest survival techniques is making use of other sensory systems.
Whether it be listening for the bark of a guard dog to pointing the largest telescope in the world at just the right bit of the sky humanity has always made use of tools to extend our senses. The latest addition to our extra sensory abilities is the Worlds Largest Millimeter / Sub-Millimeter Radio Telescope in Chile, The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub millimeter Array – ALMA – sits upon the high planes of the Chajnantor plateau in northern Chile.
At an altitude of 5000 meters.in the middle of an isolated plateau the ALMA telescope has one of the clearest sky to look through. The array itself consists of 66 individual radio telescopes networked together, with their combined power being pointed at a single point they are able to produce the highest resolution images possible of the furthest reaches of our universe. Helping us look at the coldest darkest parts of the Universe with new clarity. ALMA joins other great names such as Hubble and SDO in our list of most valuable scientific instruments, or was that most popular scientific instruments :: Read the full article »»»»
On March 28 2011, NASA’s Swift telescope detected several bright bursts of X-rays coming from a patch of the sky where no such rays have been detected before. NASA said the galaxy is so far away, it took the light from the event approximately 3.9 billion years to reach Earth. The event was the start point of one of te most destructive events any place in this big bad universe, the destruction of a star by a black hole. Thanks to the barely funded NASA it’s wonderfilled technology, hardware and associated ubergeeks, humanity now has some pretty amazing graphics of this inter-galactic spectacular !
Two teams of scientists, led by David Burrows of Pennsylvania State University and Ashley Zauderer of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, say the bursts observed were probably chunks of a star that was ripped apart as it wandered too close to the black hole. Scientists have witnessed the aftermath of this event many times over, but never have they seen the destruction from the onset. The source of the high-energy emissions has been named Swift J1644+57. It has been identified as a previously dormant black hole in the Draco constellation 3.9 billion light years from Earth. Read the full article »»»»