News archive

News archive

ISO Data Archive Version v6.0
Published: 25 July 2003
Scientists are celebrating the thousandth scientific publication from ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO). ISO is fast becoming one of the world's most productive space missions, even though its operational life ended in 1998.
Published: 23 July 2003
Asteroids in our Solar System may be more numerous than previously thought, according to the first systematic search for these objects performed in the infrared, with ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO. The ISO Deep Asteroid Search indicates that there are between 1.1 million and 1.9 million 'space rocks' larger than 1 kilometre in diameter in the so-called 'main asteroid belt', about twice as many as previously believed. However, astronomers think it is premature to revise current assessments of the risk of the Earth being hit by an asteroid.
Published: 5 April 2002
Planet-like bodies with liquid water formed very early in the history of the Solar System, or so scientists used to think. That scenario may now be due for revision after a finding with ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO.
Published: 16 January 2002
Nature enjoys teasing us. Stars are stars and planets are planets, you may think. In reality it is not as clear-cut as that with the discovery of more and more objects that are neither star nor planet. An Italian team, using observations by ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, has obtained the first detailed evidence that these ambiguous star-planet 'missing links' form in the same manner as stars, tipping the balance in favour of a stellar origin.
Published: 13 November 2001
The impressive rho Ophiuchi cloud is one of the heavenly meeting points for astronomers in search of young stars. Located 540 light-years away in the constellation of Ophiucus, in the celestial equator, this dusty region is the nest of more than one hundred newborn stars. But ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, has also found a surprise hidden in the dust: 30 brown dwarfs, elusive and ambiguous objects considered to be 'failed stars' because they have too little mass to shine as stars. Relatively few of these brown dwarfs have been identified so far, so finding one is like winning a trophy. With this discovery ISO has turned the rho Ophiuchi region into a favourite game reserve for brown-dwarf hunters.
Published: 25 October 2001
Centuries ago it was commonly believed that comets carried disease in their tails. Nowadays we know the only 'disease' you can get from a comet is a cold - if you stay out too long at night watching it! But these old beliefs were not completely wrong: comet tails do contain an extremely poisonous chemical compound - hydrogen cyanide. Now a team of Dutch and German astronomers using ESA's Infrared Space Observatory and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Hawaii have discovered that this poison can help them to understand the birth of massive stars - its presence is a sign that a massive baby star has begun to warm up.
Published: 10 October 2001
This is such an unusual view of the impressive M16 nebula, also known as 'The Eagle', that even the most devoted sky-lovers will be surprised. It shows exactly what in the best known pictures of this famous nebula remains invisible: huge amounts of the cold dust that enshrouds newborn stars.
Published: 7 September 2001
Radio galaxies and quasars look different and have been traditionally classified as different objects. But for quite some time now, many astronomers have suspected that those differences are not real but are only apparent, a 'visual illusion' which arises because of our special observation point from the Earth.
Published: 22 May 2001
The search for water in space goes on. Using ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), Spanish and Italian astronomers have for the first time measured the total amount of water in cold regions of our galaxy. This is especially interesting because these regions are the birthplace of stars like the Sun, and Solar Systems like our own. These new measurements show that water is more abundant than expected - in fact it is the third most abundant molecule in the regions which were studied.
Published: 11 April 2001
Although a space telescope will, and should, be remembered mainly for its discoveries, its technology and the way it was operated also provide invaluable information for the future. Last week, scientists met to discuss and analyse in detail this other less obvious legacy left by ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, a pioneer in infrared space astronomy. Future missions will certainly learn from both the successes and the 'could-have-done-better' aspects, said the representatives from the next ESA, NASA and Japanese infrared space telescopes at a workshop in Spain. Thanks to ISO, there are now more than a hundred new well-understood infrared sources for calibration, including asteroids and planets.
Published: 19 February 2001
The first 'ringed molecule' found around starsLife as we know it is based on the ability of the carbon atom to form ring-shaped molecules. But rings of carbon are not exclusive to Earth, as experts in space chemistry now know. A Spanish team of astronomers that observed with ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) report this week the first detection in interstellar space of benzene, the ring molecule par excellence. They think benzene is produced by stars at a specific stage of evolution, and that it is an essential chemical step towards the synthesis of more complex organic molecules whose true nature is still unclear -although their fingerprints are very conspicuous in the Universe. In industry, benzene is obtained from petroleum and has many uses.
Published: 21 January 2001
Astronomers have so far detected about 50 planets orbiting other stars. They are all giant, Jupiter-like planets, made mostly of gas, and their formation process is still unclear. ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, now sheds some light on this problem. Observing with ISO, a Dutch-US team of astronomers has detected a key ingredient for planet making in the faint disks of matter that surround three nearby stars: the gas molecular hydrogen. The discovery, published in the January 4th issue of Nature, is relevant because current theories about the formation of giant planets were built on the assumption that the gas was 'not' present in the kind of disks observed by ISO. These models will now have to be reviewed. They said, for instance, that Jupiter-like planets had to form in just a few million years, but the ISO result implies that the process can take up to 20 million years.
Published: 3 January 2001
ESA's ISO Archive celebrates its 1000th userCyberspace is increasingly breaking the frontiers of space and time... in the most universal sense. The Internet provides astronomers with quick short cuts to the most distant places in the Universe. Simply by allowing free access through the web to the images and data gathered by powerful telescopes, light that has travelled many thousand million years is now at your fingertips. A rapidly growing number of researchers are currently using this new resource, and in the process making valuable 'stored-up' discoveries. ESA's ISO (Infrared Space Observatory) Archive - one of the youngest of these astronomical databases - has recently celebrated the registration of 'user number 1000', who happens to be a young Spanish astronomer. He is convinced that "web-accessible databases are completely changing the way we do astronomy".
Published: 25 October 2000
ESA's infrared space telescope has once again detected a new molecule in the 'chemistry labs' of the Universe, the clouds of gas and dust in the space amid the stars. The newly-detected molecule is the methyl radicalCH3, a so-called 'free-radical' whose existence in the gas in space had been predicted by Nobel winner Gerhard Herzberg, who died last year. ISO has already made the first detections in space of at least ten newmolecules in the gas and solid-state phases. According to the authors --from Germany, the Netherlands and Australia--, CH3 is one of the most important tracers for the formation of complex carbon-based molecules.
Published: 10 July 2000
The Milky Way's centre is the busy core of a metropolis, crowded with huge populations of stars frantically dancing to the rhythm of gravitation. These stars are precious for astronomers: they hold many clues to unveil the past and future history of our galaxy. But the galactic centre has remained a fairly unexplored place so far, due to the thick dust covering it.
Published: 7 June 2000
A team from the Observatoire de Paris using ESA's infrared space telescope ISO has measured variations in the thermal flux of the Pluto-Charon system, which prove that the temperature of Pluto's surface is not uniform. The coldestregions have a temperature of about -235 degrees Centigrade, while the warmest may reach -210 degrees. The measurements provide indications about its physical nature.
Published: 29 May 2000
The European Space Agency's ISO telescope was the first space observatoryrevealing the infrared 'face' of the Universe with high sensitivity, andby so doing pictured thousands of objects whose true nature is stillunknown. This month a network of European astronomers will try to learnmore about these new ISO sources, by observing many of them with about adozen ground-based telescopes, mainly at the observatories in theCanary Islands (Spain)."ISO has worked as a 'scoop' finder, and nowthere's a whole set of telescopes following up the news", says MartinKessler, ISO Project Scientist. The new ISO sources will soon also be observed with ESA's recently launched X-ray telescope, XMM-Newton.
Published: 24 May 2000
The earliest stages of formation of planetary systems remain very poorly known because of thethick layers of opaque dust that hid them. The European Space Agency's infrared spacetelescope, ISO, has measured the size of a proto-planetary system, surrounding a newly-born star, a Spanish team ofastronomers report in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science. ISO sees a very young'baby-star' surrounded by a disk of the same diameter as Jupiter's orbit, in which planetsare likely to form in the future.
Published: 27 April 2000
ESA scientists at the UNESCO forum in The Hague: 'Water, a fragile gift fromStars to planets'The water that we drink and that fills the world's oceans comes from thestars, as the detection of huge amounts of water in many regions of theuniverse by ESA's infrared space telescope, ISO, has recently proved.This fact opened the one-day session on 'Water and Space' organised byESA and UNESCO at a World Water Forum being held in The Hague (NL).
Published: 20 March 2000
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