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The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time  — around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. As the gaseous shell of this planetary nebula expands and grows dimmer, it will slowly disappear from sight. This stunning planetary nebula was imaged by one of the VLT’s most versatile instruments, FORS2. The instrument captured the bright, central star, Abell 36, as well as the surrounding planetary nebula. The red and blue portions of this image correspond to optical emission at red and blue wavelengths, respectively. An object much closer to home is also visible in this image — an asteroid wandering across the field of view has left a faint track below and to the left of the central star. And in the far distance behind the nebula a glittering host of background galaxies can be seen.

A Fleeting Moment in Time

The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time — around 10,000 years, a blink of...
Abell S1063, a galaxy cluster, was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as part of the Frontier Fields programme. The huge mass of the cluster — containing both baryonic matter and dark matter — acts as cosmic magnification glass and deforms objects behind it. In the past astronomers used this gravitational lensing effect to calculate the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters. A more accurate and faster way, however, is to study the intracluster light (visible in blue), which follows the distribution of dark matter. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Faint starlight in Hubble images reveals distribution of dark matter

Astronomers using data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have employed a revolutionary method to detect dark matter in galaxy clusters. The method allows...
This image illustrates all three classes of the telescopes planned for the southern hemisphere at ESO's Paranal Observatory, as viewed from the centre of the array. This rendering is not an accurate representation of the final array layout, but it illustrates the enormous scale of the CTA telescopes and the array itself. Credit: CTA/M-A. Besel/IAC (G.P. Diaz)/ESO

ESO to host Cherenkov telescope Array-South at Paranal

ESO’s Director General and the Managing Director of the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) Observatory have signed the agreement needed for CTA’s southern hemisphere array...
While testing a new subsystem on the SPHERE planet-hunting instrument on ESO’s Very Large telescope, astronomers were able to capture dramatic details of the turbulent stellar relationship in the binary star R Aquarii with unprecedented clarity — even compared to observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This image is from the SPHERE/ZIMPOL observations of R Aquarii, and shows the binary star itself, as well as the jets of material spewing from the stellar couple. Credit: ESO/Schmid et al.

Dancing with the Enemy

While testing a new subsystem on the SPHERE planet-hunting instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers were able to capture dramatic details of the...
The telescopes of the SPECULOOS Southern Observatory gaze out into the stunning night sky over the Atacama Desert, Chile. Credit: ESO/ P. Horálek

First Light for SPECULOOS

The SPECULOOS project has made its first observations at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. SPECULOOS will focus on detecting Earth-sized...
The VISIR instrument on ESO’s VLT captured this stunning image of a newly-discovered massive binary star system. Nicknamed Apep after an ancient Egyptian deity, it could be the first gamma-ray burst progenitor to be found in our galaxy. Apep’s stellar winds have created the dust cloud surrounding the system, which consists of a binary star with a fainter companion. With 2 Wolf-Rayet stars orbiting each other in the binary, the serpentine swirls surrounding Apep are formed by the collision of two sets of powerful stellar winds, which create the spectacular dust plumes seen in the image. The reddish pinwheel in this image is data from the VISIR instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), and shows the spectacular plumes of dust surrounding Apep. The blue sources at the centre of the image are a triple star system — which consists of a binary star system and a companion single star bound together by gravity. Though only two star-like objects are visible in the image, the lower source is in fact an unresolved binary Wolf-Rayet star. The triple star system was captured by the NACOadaptive optics instrument on the VLT. Credit:ESO/Callingham et al.

Cosmic Serpent

The VISIR instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured this stunning image of a newly discovered massive triple star system. Nicknamed Apep after...
Simulation of Material Orbiting close to a Black Hole

Most detailed observations of material orbiting close to a Black Hole

ESO Gravity is a four-way beam combination second generation instrument for the VLTI. Its main operation mode makes use of all four 8m Unit...
This vivid picture of an active star forming region — NGC 2467, otherwise known as the Skull and Crossbones nebula — is as sinister as it is beautiful. This image of dust, gas and bright young stars, gravitationally bound into the form of a grinning skull, was captured with the FORS instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). Whilst ESO’s telescopes are usually used for the collection of science data, their immense resolving power makes them ideal for capturing images such as this — which are beautiful for their own sake. Credit:ESO

The Pirate of the Southern Skies

FORS2, an instrument mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has observed the active star-forming region NGC 2467 — sometimes referred to as the Skull...
An international team of astronomers using the VIMOS instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope have uncovered a colossal structure in the early Universe. This galaxy proto-supercluster — which they nickname Hyperion — was unveiled by new measurements and a complex examination of archive data. This is the largest and most massive structure yet found at such a remote time and distance — merely 2 billion years after the Big Bang. This visualization shows Hyperion and is based on real data. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada & Olga Cucciati et al.

Largest Galaxy Proto-Supercluster Found

An international team of astronomers using the VIMOS instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope have uncovered a titanic structure in the early Universe. This...

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