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Published on Monday, 12 July 2010 09:20
The Sculptor Galaxy revealed by VISTA. (ESO/J Emerson/VISTA/Cambridge Astron. Surv. Unit)


The European Southern Observatory’s new UK-designed and built VISTA telescope is now conducting its first observing campaign. This image of the Sculptor Galaxy shows off the capabilities of this world-record instrument: with a mirror over 4m in diameter, it is the largest survey telescope yet built.

The Sculptor Galaxy was discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1783 and, while it is visible with binoculars, it is very dusty. VISTA, at infrared wavelengths, can see through the dust to the intense star-formation within. The image shows the galaxy (13 million light-years away) almost edge on, with spiral arms clearly visible and a bright core, plus many cooler stars that are barely detectable in visible light.

Astronomers will also use VISTA to examine the numerous cool red giant stars in the Sculptor Galaxy halo, to measure the composition of some of the small dwarf satellite galaxies, and to search for new objects such as globular clusters and ultra-compact dwarf galaxies through the dust.

Find out more here.