News archive

News archive

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
Silicate crystals, the most abundant minerals on Earth, are also found in great quantities around old stars and in protoplanetary discs -the discs where planets form. This finding, presented today at a press conference at ESA's Villafranca station in Madrid, is considered by experts in space chemistry as one of the main results of ESA's infrared space telescope, ISO.
Published: 3 February 2000
Press conference 4 FebruaryThe stars are the chemical factories of the Universe: they synthesise intheir cores new chemical elements that combine in the stellar outskirtsto produce new molecules, and these will become part of the raw materialout of which more stars, planets, and maybe even living organisms willform. ESA's infrared space telescope, ISO, has identified many of thesecompounds in space. About 150 astronomers, including many experts in space-chemistry, will present and discuss results in the field at ESA's Villafranca station, in Madrid, Spain, from 2 to 4 February.
Published: 30 January 2000
The clouds of gas and dust grains in interstellar space contain complex organic molecules made of hundreds of chained carbon atoms. The European Space Agency's infrared space telescope, ISO, has detected these molecules in many different environments and is now unveiling the chemical paths leading to their formation in space. A group of Spanish astronomers have detected for the first time outside the Solar System two molecules that could be the precursors for the formation of the more complex organic compounds. The newly found molecules, detected in two very old stars, are diacetylene and triacetylene (C4H2 and C6H2).
Published: 19 January 2000
Chemical synthesis of complex organic molecules, the most basic 'buildingblocks' for life, can occur rapidly in stellar environments, according toresults obtained with the European Space Agency's infrared spaceobservatory, ISO, and presented last Saturday at the AmericanAstronomical Society meeting in Atlanta by a team of astronomers.
Published: 16 January 2000
In 1843 the stellar system Eta Carinae suffered a violent explosion which caused it to become, in just a few decades, an amazingly beautiful nebula with two huge round blobs of material symmetrically distributed. For years astronomers have been looking for the cause of the explosion, and to explain the strange hourglass shape. A team of astronomers using ESA's infrared space telescope, ISO, have now succeeded, putting the blame firmly on a previously undetected very massive 'donut' of dust which squeezes the nebula at its centre. They publish their discovery in the current issue of the journal Nature (2 December).
Published: 2 December 1999
The Milky Way is a fairly quiet galaxy now, but some thousands of millions years ago it was quite a different story. ESA's infrared space observatory, ISO, has taken pictures of the 'golden age' of galaxy formation, the epoch when galaxies were taking the shape we see now, and has unveiled more than a thousand very active young galaxies in which non-stop star-formation machines are at work. The results, being presented at a workshop at Ringberg Castle in Germany (8-12 November 1999), show that the ancestors of today's galaxies were much more active than hitherto thought, with many more stars being born.
Published: 4 November 1999
Moon Craters Help us to Understand How Extrasolar Planets FormMore than a dozen planets orbiting other 'suns' have been found in the last few years, but... are they the rule or the exception? The European Space Agency's infrared space observatory, ISO has shown that the formation of extrasolar planets must be a very common event.
Published: 30 September 1999
Icy cores of giant planets revealed by ISOUranus and Neptune are very different from Jupiter and Saturn, according to examinations of the giant planets by ESA's infrared space telescope, ISO. Jupiter and Saturn are mainly balls of gas but the more distant Uranus and Neptune contain relatively large cores of ice. This difference is confirmed by French and German astronomers who used ISO to measure heavy hydrogen in the planet's atmospheres. Although the result fits well with current ideas about planetary origins, it casts doubt on the part played by comets.
Published: 27 September 1999
Galaxies are known to have much more matter than telescopes can currentlysee. Up to 90% of the total mass of the galaxies is simply missing: ithas to be there, astronomers know, but it remains undetected. Is thisso-called 'dark matter' made up of exotic, virtually undetectableparticles, or is it merely ordinary matter hidden to instruments for somereason? A new result obtained by a Dutch team with the European SpaceAgency's infrared space telescope, ISO, favours the last idea.
Published: 17 August 1999
What if it's cloudy on the morning of August 11? That is the question.Thousands, maybe millions of eclipse-lovers must now be worrying overthis dark thought. Well, here's something to make them feel envious.Irish ESA astronomer Leo Metcalfe will chase the eclipse whilst flying high through acloud-free sky, on board a plane that is likely to be one of thefirst meeting the lunar shadow. The plane will take off from Dublin andwill try to stretch the duration of the millennium's last eclipse by halfa minute, from 2 to 2.5 minutes. Not much, but enough to boost theemotion of a bunch of lucky adventurous scientists.
Published: 3 August 1999
What causes new stars to form inside clouds of gas and dust in space? A team of astronomers using the European Space Agency's infrared space observatory, ISO, believes they have taken a big step towards answering this question. They announced today in Chicago (US), at the American Astronomical Society meeting, the first ever space-based detection of weak magnetic fields in a distant region in which stars are being formed. The differences between these magnetic fields and those from regions with no star formation have revealed what could be the key factor in triggering the birth of new stars.
Published: 2 June 1999
Near-Earth Asteroids - asteroids whose orbits bring them close to Earth - very likely originate from collisions between larger asteroids thatorbit the Sun between the planets Mars and Jupiter. This result, obtained byESA's infrared space telescope, ISO, was presented yesterday at the workshop onISO results on Solar System, held at ESA's Villafranca SatelliteTracking Station in Spain. Other findings related to the atmosphere of Mars and the giant planets - Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus - were also presented during a press conference yesterday morning.
Published: 11 May 1999
Most chemical elements in the Universe are produced in the stars, and thus the stars' environments act as huge chemical factories. The European Space Agency's infrared space telescope, ISO, has detected, in the dust surrounding a star, the chemical signature of a mysterious compound made of carbon, whose nature is being actively debated by astronomers all over the world. While some say it could be a very tiny diamond, others think it is the famous football-shaped molecule called "fullerene" or "buckyball". If either of these hypotheses is confirmed it will be interesting news for industry as well.
Published: 23 April 1999
The fate of the Universe depends on the total amount of existing matter.New clues on this value have been obtained by an international team ofastronomers using the European Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, bymeasuring for the first time the abundance of a particular chemicalelement, deuterium, in a very active star-forming region in the Orionnebula. Their result confirms that the total amount of normal matter isnot enough to stop the expansion of the Universe and cause it to collapseinto a Big Crunch in the future.
Published: 3 March 1999

Researchers who feel they have an astronomical scoop based on data from the European infrared space telescope, ISO, must now work against the clock. They risk being overtaken by other groups, especially now that the ISO Data Archive, a goldmine of discoveries filled with nearly 30 000 scientific  ISO observations, is open and easily...

Published: 27 February 1999
If you want an asteroid named after you, make a valuable scientific contribution to the study of these rocky mini-planets of the Solar System. That is what 32 year old ESA astronomer Thomas Müller did, and now the International Astronomical Union has rewarded him by giving the name 'Thomasmüller' to asteroid number 8793.
Published: 16 February 1999
Why are some stars 'born' with only 10% of the mass of our Sun while at the other extreme, some may have 50 times as much material.
Published: 1 December 1998
In astronomy, looking far into space means also looking back in time. This is what ISO has been doing during its so-called 'deep surveys':observation programmes to detect the faintest and farthest objects ever seen at infrared wavelengths.
Published: 28 October 1998
Most young stars are surrounded by discs of dust and gas which in a fewmillion years will probably condense to form planets. This is one of theresults presented today during the international ISO meeting being held inParis this week, "The Universe as seen by ISO".
Published: 23 October 1998
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