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Glimpse of the earliest supernovae could reveal our cosmic origins

Astronomy News - 29 November 2023 - 9:58am

Almost every element in the universe, including those that make up our bodies, was created by a process that began when the earliest stars exploded - and now the James Webb Space Telescope may have seen signs of those supernovae

‘Early dark energy’ fails to solve mystery of cosmic expansion

Astronomy News - 27 November 2023 - 10:38am

Nature, Published online: 24 November 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-03559-5

The extra ingredient would explain why the Universe is expanding so fast now — but conflicts with data from ancient quasars.

Strange way black holes lose energy could help solve cosmic puzzle

Astronomy News - 27 November 2023 - 10:37am

The spin of black holes may be harnessed by their magnetic fields, which release hundreds of millions of times the energy of the sun and could power their enormous jets

The most powerful cosmic ray since the Oh-My-God particle puzzles scientists

Astronomy News - 24 November 2023 - 10:02am

Nature, Published online: 23 November 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-03677-0

Scientists spot a particle of intense energy, but explaining where it came from might require some new physics.

Mercury has salt glaciers that could provide the conditions for life

Astronomy News - 24 November 2023 - 10:00am

Mercury may have deep underground salt glaciers that encircle the whole planet and could possibly create the conditions necessary for life

A mysterious, incredibly energetic cosmic ray has smashed into Earth

Astronomy News - 24 November 2023 - 10:00am

A cosmic ray dubbed Amaterasu is the second most powerful one we have ever seen, beaten only by the "Oh-My-God particle". Both have baffled astronomers and defy explanation

Extremely large telescopes at risk

Astronomy News - 24 November 2023 - 9:59am
Science, Volume 382, Issue 6673, Page 857-857, November 2023.

An extremely energetic cosmic ray observed by a surface detector array

Astronomy News - 24 November 2023 - 9:58am
Science, Volume 382, Issue 6673, Page 903-907, November 2023.

With a record of applications, the results of the ESO–Chile 2023 Joint Committee are announced

Astronomy News - 23 November 2023 - 10:07am

The ESO–Government of Chile Joint Committee has announced the 20 winning projects of the 2023 call, which will distribute 563 million Chilean pesos.

The ESO–Government of Chile Joint Committee funds will be invested in initiatives dedicated to developing scientific and technological research and promoting cooperation in the astronomical field. Astronomy dissemination and education projects throughout Chile will also be financed.

This year, the Committee received 94 applications, a record number over the entire fund history, 45% more than in 2022. Of the total, 50% of the applications fall in scientific research, while 30% were proposals for the dissemination and education of astronomical science.

We are very happy with the increase in applications; this means that astronomy, and particularly this fund, is consolidated as a development tool in the Chilean community”, said Luis Chavarría, ESO representative in Chile, after the results were delivered.

Since 1996, the ESO–Government of Chile Joint Committee has been one of the main funds for the development of the area as it supports postdoctoral programmes and academic positions in astronomy in Chilean institutions. In addition, it finances national and foreign scientific visits, technology demonstrators, and educational programs for teaching and disseminating this science in the country.

The Joint Committee of ESO–Government of Chile is made up of representatives of ESO and the Government of Chile through the Directorate of Energy, Science and Technology and Innovation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation and the Chilean Astronomy Society.

The winning projects of the ESO-Government of Chile 2023 Joint Committee are:

Institution / Institución

Person Responsible / Persona responsable

Name of the project / Nombre del proyecto

Type / Tipo*

Funds in pesos / Fondos en pesos

Duration in months / Duración en meses

Universidad Diego Portales

Evelyn Johnston

Characterisation of the stellar populations in the globular cluster systems of nearby galaxies




Universidad Católica del Norte

José G. Fernández Trincado

High-precision Multi-epoch Radial Velocity and K-band elemental abundances of Chemically Anomalous Giant Stars




Instituto de Astrofisica, Universidad Andres Bello

Laurent Chemin

Kinematics and structure of the Milky Way interstellar medium with Gaia




Universidad Andrés Bello

Macarena Lagos

Precision constraints of gravity with multi-messenger observations




Universidad de Atacama

Christopher Haines

Creating capabilities at the Universidad de Atacama to enable the 4MOST-CHANCES survey




Universidad de Chile

Laura Pérez

The Role of Gas and Solids in Young and Old Protoplanetary Disks: Insights from ALMA




Universidad de Santiago de Chile

Valeria Olivares

Advancing gender equality in USACH's pioneering astrophysics and data science degree




Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María

Rory Smith & Antonio Montero

Bringing Astronomy & Physics closer together  at USM San Joaquin




Universidad de Valparaíso

Alfredo Vega

Taller de Pintura Cósmica




Universidad de Talca

Caddy Cortés

Escuela para Futuras Científicas




Sociedad Chilena de Astronomía 

Vania Rodríguez

"Expedición Los Lagos 2024: llevando la astronomía a todos los rincones"




Corporación Privada para la Divulgación de la Ciencia y Tecnología

María Constanza Silva Troncoso

“Revisión y actualización del contenido educativo y museográfico del Salón de Astronomía del Museo de Ciencia y Tecnología”




Universidad Central de Chile

Juan Aldebarán Magaña Zapata

Astronomía en el Espectro




Universidad de Santiago de Chile

Carla Hernández Silva

Equipo Pedagógico CIRAS: cerrando brechas entre la astronomía y el aula III




Museo Interactivo Mirador

Sergio Vásquez Godoy

Observatorio de difusión de la astronomía en Chile




Universidad de Concepción

Pablo Solano

The Cosmic Dust Experiment: improving the optical system for astrochemical desorption studies




Sociedad Chilena de Astronomía (SOCHIAS)

Jeremy Tregloan-Reed

Chilean Representation to the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal




Sociedad Chilena de Astronomía (SOCHIAS)

Virginia Cuomo

SOCHIAS grant “BECA ADELINA” for student participation at conferences and short period visits




Universidad de Chile

Patricio Rojo

First Chilean Astrobiology Workshop




Universidad de Atacama

Lorenzo Morelli






  1. Postdoctoral programs in astronomy (Maximum annual salary per researcher $24.240.000 (Chilean pesos). Additional expenses such as travel, equipment, health insurance or others)
  2. Strengthen academic institutions by financing positions of full professors, associate professors or assistant professors.
  3. Pilot training programs for the teaching and dissemination of astronomy in Chile
  4. Programmes for the development and construction of technological instrumental systems for astronomy
  5. Other programmes
  6. Support for extended scientific visits of one to three months for postdocs, researchers or senior academics (budget may include per-diem and partial or total help with air tickets)

JWST ends game of hide and seek with methane

Astronomy News - 23 November 2023 - 10:06am

Nature, Published online: 22 November 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-03500-w

The space telescope has helped to determine the atmospheric composition of an exoplanet using the light spectrum of its host star. Spectral changes as the planet orbits the star reveal the long-sought presence of exoplanetary methane.

Methane throughout the atmosphere of the warm exoplanet WASP-80b

Astronomy News - 23 November 2023 - 10:05am

Nature, Published online: 22 November 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06687-0

Transmission and emission spectra of the 825 K warm Jupiter WASP-80b taken with the NIRCam instrument of the JWST show strong evidence of CH4 at greater than 6σ significance

This astronomy centre just achieved gender parity. Here’s how it happened

Astronomy News - 23 November 2023 - 10:05am

Nature, Published online: 23 November 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-03678-z

Education, female leadership and gender-balanced hiring policies were key.

Bright satellites are disrupting astronomy research worldwide

Astronomy News - 22 November 2023 - 10:07am

Nature, Published online: 21 November 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-03610-5

A team of amateur and professional astronomers has determined that a satellite one-third of the size of a tennis court is one of the brightest objects in the sky — with dire consequences for ground-based astronomy.

Strange nebula changes colour rhythmically like a mood lamp

Astronomy News - 22 November 2023 - 10:06am

A mysterious, star-like object seems to be making its nebula change colour and brightness in a rhythmic way every four years

NASA’s Webb Reveals New Features in Heart of Milky Way

Astronomy News - 21 November 2023 - 10:05am
4 Min Read NASA’s Webb Reveals New Features in Heart of Milky Way Sagittarius C (NIRCam) Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and S. Crowe (University of Virginia).

The latest image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows a portion of the dense center of our galaxy in unprecedented detail, including never-before-seen features astronomers have yet to explain. The star-forming region, named Sagittarius C (Sgr C), is about 300 light-years from the Milky Way’s central supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*.

Image: Sagittarius C (NIRCam) The NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) instrument on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s reveals a portion of the Milky Way’s dense core in a new light. An estimated 500,000 stars shine in this image of the Sagittarius C (Sgr C) region, along with some as-yet unidentified features. A large region of ionized hydrogen, shown in cyan, contains intriguing needle-like structures that lack any uniform orientation.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and S. Crowe (University of Virginia).

“There’s never been any infrared data on this region with the level of resolution and sensitivity we get with Webb, so we are seeing lots of features here for the first time,” said the observation team’s principal investigator Samuel Crowe, an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “Webb reveals an incredible amount of detail, allowing us to study star formation in this sort of environment in a way that wasn’t possible previously.”

“The galactic center is the most extreme environment in our Milky Way galaxy, where current theories of star formation can be put to their most rigorous test,” added professor Jonathan Tan, one of Crowe’s advisors at the University of Virginia.


Amid the estimated 500,000 stars in the image is a cluster of protostars – stars that are still forming and gaining mass – producing outflows that glow like a bonfire in the midst of an infrared-dark cloud. At the heart of this young cluster is a previously known, massive protostar over 30 times the mass of our Sun. The cloud the protostars are emerging from is so dense that the light from stars behind it cannot reach Webb, making it appear less crowded when in fact it is one of the most densely packed areas of the image. Smaller infrared-dark clouds dot the image, looking like holes in the starfield. That’s where future stars are forming.

Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) instrument also captured large-scale emission from ionized hydrogen surrounding the lower side of the dark cloud, shown cyan-colored in the image. Typically, Crowe says, this is the result of energetic photons being emitted by young massive stars, but the vast extent of the region shown by Webb is something of a surprise that bears further investigation. Another feature of the region that Crowe plans to examine further is the needle-like structures in the ionized hydrogen, which appear oriented chaotically in many directions.

“The galactic center is a crowded, tumultuous place. There are turbulent, magnetized gas clouds that are forming stars, which then impact the surrounding gas with their outflowing winds, jets, and radiation,” said Rubén Fedriani, a co-investigator of the project at the Instituto Astrofísica de Andalucía in Spain. “Webb has provided us with a ton of data on this extreme environment, and we are just starting to dig into it.”

Image: Sagittarius C Features Approximate outlines help to define the features in the Sagittarius C (Sgr C) region. Astronomers are studying data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to understand the relationship between these features, as well as other influences in the chaotic galaxy center.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Samuel Crowe (UVA)

Around 25,000 light-years from Earth, the galactic center is close enough to study individual stars with the Webb telescope, allowing astronomers to gather unprecedented information on how stars form, and how this process may depend on the cosmic environment, especially compared to other regions of the galaxy. For example, are more massive stars formed in the center of the Milky Way, as opposed to the edges of its spiral arms?

“The image from Webb is stunning, and the science we will get from it is even better,” Crowe said. “Massive stars are factories that produce heavy elements in their nuclear cores, so understanding them better is like learning the origin story of much of the universe.”

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Media Contacts

Laura, Rob
NASA’s  Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Leah Ramsay , Christine Pulliam

Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.


Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.

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Seeing Sagittarius C in a New Light

Astronomy News - 21 November 2023 - 10:04am
The NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) instrument on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s reveals a portion of the Milky Way’s dense core in a new light. An estimated 500,000 stars shine in this image of the Sagittarius C (Sgr C) region, along with some as-yet unidentified features. A large region of ionized hydrogen, shown in cyan, contains intriguing needle-like structures that lack any uniform orientation.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and S. Crowe (University of Virginia)

A star-forming region, named Sagittarius C (Sgr C), is seen in exceptional detail in this image from Nov. 20, 2023, thanks to the Near-Infrared Camera instrument on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. An estimated 500,000 stars shine in this image of the Sgr C region, along with some never-before-seen features astronomers have yet to explain.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, and S. Crowe (University of Virginia)

ALMA achieves its highest resolution observations

Astronomy News - 20 November 2023 - 10:17am

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner, has achieved the highest resolution observations since it began operations. During a technical test, a team of experts from the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) in Chile, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in the USA, and ESO, imaged an evolved star with a resolution of 5 milliarcseconds. This shows ALMA can be used by astronomers to observe objects in detail equivalent to seeing a 10-metre-long bus on the Moon.

ALMA consists of 66 antennas which can be arranged in different positions across the high-altitude Chajnantor plateau in Chile. Each is equipped with receivers that allow it to observe radio waves in different frequency ranges, or bands. ALMA’s resolution increases both as the maximum separation between antennas increases and as the frequency of the observations increases. The new images were obtained with the most extended configuration possible for the ALMA array, with a maximum separation between its antennas of 16 km. They were made using the Band 10 receivers, which allow ALMA to observe at frequencies as high as 950 GHz, the highest possible for the array.

Since the observations push ALMA’s capabilities to the extreme, they were incredibly challenging to conduct. While Band 10 receivers have been available at ALMA since 2014, astronomers had to wait for the validation of a novel calibration technique, called band-to-band, to be able to conduct the new observations. They did so during a technical test in 2021 when they observed an evolved Milky Way star, R Leporis, using a bright galactic core as a calibrator, which, while distant, appears nearby R Leporis in the sky. The results are published today in the Astrophysical Journal.

This result has been achieved with significant support from ESO staff, who were involved in the test observations, the previous experiments in the lead up to this final technical achievement, and the development of the new calibration technique.

More Information

This result was presented in a paper titled “ALMA High-frequency Long Baseline Campaign in 2021: Highest Angular Resolution Submillimeter Wave Images for the Carbon-rich Star R Lep” to appear in the Astrophysical Journal (doi:10.3847/1538-4357/acf619).

The team is composed of Y. Asaki (JAO; NAOJ; SOKENDAI), L. Maud (ESO; Leiden University), H. Francke (JAO), H. Nagai (NAOJ), D. Petry (ESO), E. B. Fomalont (NRAO), E. Humphreys (JAO; ESO), A. M. S. Richards (University of Manchester), K. T. Wong (IRAM; Uppsala University), W. Dent (JAO), A. Hirota (JAO; NAOJ), J. M. Fernandez (Lowell Observatory), S. Takahashi (NAOJ), and A. S. Hales (JAO; NRAO).

A previous technical study, leading to the 2021 Campaign can be found in: “ALMA High-frequency Long-baseline Campaign in 2019: Band 9 and 10 In-band and Band-to-band Observations Using ALMA's Longest Baselines”, published in the Astrophysical Journal in August 2023 (doi: 10.3847/1538-4365/acd6f1).

ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada), NSTC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ.

Aligned grains and scattered light found in gaps of planet-forming disk

Astronomy News - 20 November 2023 - 10:16am

Nature, Published online: 15 November 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06648-7

Deep, high-resolution polarization observations of HL Tau at 870  µm show gaps that have polarization angles with a notable azimuthal component and a higher polarization fraction than the rings.

Minutes-duration optical flares with supernova luminosities

Astronomy News - 20 November 2023 - 10:15am

Nature, Published online: 15 November 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06673-6

Observations of optical flares from AT2022tsd (the ‘Tasmanian Devil’) show that they have durations on the timescale of minutes, occur over a period of months, are highly energetic, are probably nonthermal and have supernova luminosities.

Mysterious ‘Tasmanian devil’ space explosion baffles astronomers

Astronomy News - 20 November 2023 - 10:15am

Nature, Published online: 15 November 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-03569-3

Scientists still can’t explain what is causing unusually bright explosions in space — but a surprising observation might offer clues.