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ESOcast 57: ESO´s VLT Celebrates 15 Years of Success

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This is the ESOcast! Cutting-edge science and life behind the scenes at ESO, the European Southern Observatory. On 25 May 1998, the first of the VLT’s four Unit Telescopes achieved first light. In the 15 years since, the Very Large Telescope has observed the Universe with unprecedented detail. Here are a few of our favourite images. This spectacular image of a large spiral galaxy was obtained on 21 September 1998. It is one of VLT’s first images. This infrared image of a stellar nursery proved that low-mass stars like the Sun can be formed in violent starburst episodes. A famous spiral galaxy that resembles a Mexican hat, hence the name. This infrared/optical image reveals what’s hidden behind a thick cloud of obscuring dust. A composite of 81 VLT images of the Orion Nebula, the most dramatic nearby stellar nursery. The VLT takes a look inside the “Pillars of Creation” using the infrared instrument ISAAC. A whimsical dark nebula formed of collapsing gas and dust and lit up by a nearby star. One of the sharpest images ever taken from the ground of the ringed planet. A mysterious nebula, created by intense radiation from one of the hottest known stars. A picture-perfect spiral galaxy with a well-defined central bar and long tentacle-like arms. The VLT took the first image ever of a planet outside our Solar System. The red spot is the planet, orbiting a brown dwarf. A spiral galaxy revealed in detail by the powerful eye of the VLT. A very active star-forming galaxy. The numerous white spots in the ring are star-forming regions. A mysterious galaxy that might have swallowed a lesser companion. Thousands of new stars are being formed inside it. This cosmic “bird” is actually the result of the merger of three distinct galaxies. A deep look by the VLT into a small, distant patch of the Universe is like diving into a pool full of coloured shapes. Thanks to the VLT, astronomers are revealing the secrets of the supermassive black hole lurking at the centre of our Milky Way. A star 100 times larger than the Sun, captured in this sharp image from the VLT interferometer. A beautiful star cluster, imaged in just a few seconds of exposure time, thanks to the VLT’s huge mirror. A cosmic factory where stars form frantically from clouds of gas and dust. A huge star-forming region, where clouds of gas and dust are illuminated by the intense radiation from hot young stars. An enormous collision of several galaxy clusters where all kinds of strange phenomena are unleashed. Stellar winds from young stars dramatically shape the clouds of gas and dust from which they were born. A pair of galaxies located 50 million light-years away. They look close together, but are some 100 000 light-years away from each other. With this image the central parts of this stellar nursery are revealed in extraordinary detail. This very sharp VLT infrared image allowed astronomers to discover many unknown features in one of the closest star incubators to Earth. The public chose to image this object with the VLT as the result of a contest held to celebrate ESO’s 50th anniversary. A dying star is casting the outer parts of its atmosphere out into space, as a final colourful gesture before retirement. The black clumps set against a pink background of glowing gas are known as Bok globules. They are being eroded by the brilliant radiation from the hot young stars around them. Happy 15th birthday VLT! ESOcast is produced by ESO, the European Southern Observatory. ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the pre-eminent intergovernmental science and technology organisation in astronomy designing, constructing and operating the world’s most advanced ground-based telescopes.

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 50 seconds
Year: 2013
Country: Germany
Language: English
Producer: Lars Lindberg Christensen
Director: Herbert Zodet
Views: 239
Posted by: esoastronomy on May 15, 2013

May 25 2013 is an important anniversary for the Very Large Telescope – it is exactly fifteen years since the first light on the first of its four Unit Telescopes. Since then the four original giant telescopes have been joined by the four small Auxiliary Telescopes that form part of the VLT Interferometer (VLTI). The VLT is one of the most powerful and productive ground-based astronomical facilities in existence. In 2012 more than 600 refereed scientific papers based on data from the VLT and VLTI were published. This ESOcast shows spectacular images from the VLT for every year of its operation.

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