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ESO Calendar 2013

European Southern Observatory


Cover

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ESO’s VLT reveals the Carina Nebula’s hidden secrets

A dusting of snow in the Atacama Desert

The Pencil Nebula

Artist’s impression of the E-ELT

VISTA’s look at the Helix Nebula

La Silla from base to summit

Wide-field view of NGC 253 from the VLT Survey Telescope

This image of the Carina Nebula, a region of massive star formation in the southern skies, was taken in infrared light using the HAWK-I camera on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Many previously hidden features, scattered across a spectacular celestial landscape of gas, dust and young stars, have emerged.

The domes of ESO’s Very Large Telescope sit atop Cerro Paranal, basking in the sunlight of another glorious cloudless day. But something is different about this picture: a fine layer of snow has settled across the desert landscape. This isn’t something you see every day: quite the opposite in fact, as the Atacama Desert gets almost no precipitation.

This strange and beautiful structure is the Pencil Nebula, NGC 2736, a supernova ­remnant in the constellation of Vela (The Sails). The glowing filaments were created from material ejected in a supernova explosion that took place about 11 000 years ago. The brightest part resembles a pencil, hence the name, and the whole structure looks a little like a traditional witch’s broom. This picture was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.

Artist’s impression of the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) in its enclosure on Cerro Armazones, a 3060-metre mountaintop in Chile’s Atacama Desert. The 39-metre E-ELT will be the l­argest optical/ infrared telescope in the world — the world’s biggest eye on the sky. Operations are planned to start early in the next decade, and the E-ELT will tackle some of the biggest scientific challenges of our time.

ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) has captured this unusual view of the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293), a planetary nebula located 700 light-years away. The coloured picture was created from images taken through Y, J and K infrared filters. While bringing to light a rich background of stars and galaxies, the telescope’s infrared vision also reveals strands of cold nebular gas that are mostly obscured in visible images of the Helix.

A view of the La Silla mountain from base to summit. La Silla Observatory, ESO’s first observatory site, can be seen on the summit. At the foot of La Silla is Camp Pelicano, in the narrow valley Quebrada Pelicano. The small oasis seen here provides the obser­ vatory’s water. ESO installed its original base camp in Pelicano in the mid-1960s.

The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) has captured in sharp detail the beauty of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253. This new portrait is probably the best wide-field view of this object and its surroundings ever taken. It demonstrates that the VST, the newest telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, provides broad views of the sky while also offering impressive image quality. Luminous regions of ongoing star formation are spread throughout NGC 253, which is pumping out new stars at a furious pace.

Credit: ESO/T. Preibisch

Credit: ESO/S. Guisard (www.eso.org/~sguisard)

The design for the E-ELT shown here is preliminary.

Credit: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (josefrancisco.org)

Credit: ESO Credit: ESO/INAF-VST Acknowledgement: A. Grado/L. Limatola/ INAF–Capodimonte Observatory

Credit: ESO Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

July

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September

October

November

December

ESO

The cool clouds of Carina

APEX stands sentry on Chajnantor

Thor’s Helmet Nebula imaged on the occasion of ESO’s 50th Anniversary

VISTA before sunset

Icy penitents by moonlight on Chajnantor

The southern Milky Way above ALMA

European Southern Observatory

Observations made at submillimetre wavelengths with the APEX telescope — shown here in orange tones, combined with a ­v isible-light image — reveal the cold dusty clouds from which stars form in the Carina Nebula. This site of violent star formation, which plays host to some of the highestmass stars in our galaxy, is an ideal arena in which to study the interactions between these young stars and their parent clouds.

The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope looks skyward during a bright, moonlit night on Chajnantor, one of the highest and driest observatory sites in the world. The beautiful sky is a testament to the excellent conditions offered by this site, which is also home to the ALMA observatory. On the left shine the stars in the tail of the constellation Scorpius (The Scorpion). In the centre, Sagittarius (The Archer) looms over APEX’s dish.

This VLT image of the Thor’s Helmet Nebula was taken on the occasion of ESO’s 50th Anniversary, 5 October 2012, with the help of Brigitte Bailleul — winner of the Tweet Your Way to the VLT! competition. The observations were broadcast live over the internet from the Paranal Observatory in Chile. This object, also known as NGC 2359, lies in the constellation of Canis Major (The Great Dog). The helmet is a cosmic bubble, blown as the wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble’s centre sweeps through the surrounding molecular cloud.

Here VISTA’s enclosure appears in front of a seemingly endless mountain range, which stretches to the horizon. As sunset approaches, the mountains cast longer shadows, which slowly cover the brownish tones that colour the magnificent landscape that surrounds Paranal. Soon, the Sun will drop below the horizon, and the telescopes at Paranal will start another night of observations.

These striking ice and snow formations are known as penitentes (Spanish for “penitents”). Although they look like bizarre sculptures, the penitentes are natural ­m arvels created by specific physical conditions in high-­a ltitude regions, such as here on the 5000-metre Chajnantor Plateau, the site of the Atacama Large Millimeter/­ submillimeter Array (ALMA).

The antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), set against the splendour of the Milky Way. The richness of the sky in this picture attests to the unsurpassed conditions for astronomy on the 5000-metre-high Chajnantor plateau, in Chile’s Atacama region.

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Credit: ESO/APEX/T. Preibisch et al. (Submillimetre); N. Smith, University of Minnesota/NOAO/AURA/NSF (Optical)

Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)

Credit: ESO/B. Bailleul

2013

Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org) Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)

Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org)

Moon phases are indicated in Universal Time. Produced by the ESO education and Public Outreach Department.


A dusting of snow in the Atacama Desert

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The Pencil Nebula

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Artist’s impression of the E-ELT

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VISTA’s look at the Helix Nebula

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La Silla from base to summit

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Wide-field view of NGC 253 from the VLT Survey Telescope

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The cool clouds of Carina

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APEX stands sentry on Chajnantor

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Thor’s Helmet Nebula imaged on the occasion of ESO’s 50th Anniversary

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VISTA before sunset

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Icy penitents by moonlight on Chajnantor

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The southern Milky Way above ALMA

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