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Teaser 1454491067

Ultracool disk around young star contains dusty surprises

February 03, 2016
While the circumstellar disk in question has been nicknamed "the Flying Saucer," what is most mysterious about it are not extraterrestrials, but tiny particles of cosmic dust. An unusual new measurement of the disk's dust temperature using the ALMA observatory has yielded surprisingly low values, a mere 7 degrees above absolute zero (7 K). The astronomers, including Dmitry Semenov of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, found that the only viable explanations involve unusual properties of the disk's dust grains. With these unusual properties, dust disks could be quite generally more massive than previously thought, with consequences for the types of planets that can be born in such disks. [more]
Teaser 1452713358

Light and Darkness after the Big Bang: Compact galaxies reheated the early universe

January 13, 2016
What brought the dark ages directly following the Big Bang to an end? So-called "green pea" galaxies, which produce intensive UV radiation, are considered a possible explanation. Now researchers have examined a green pea in detail and found that it indeed emits sufficient radiation to explain cosmic reionization: The transition when most of the intergalactic hydrogen in the universe became separated into protons and electrons, starting 150 million years after the Big Bang. The result contributes to our knowledge about one of the least-known epochs of the universe, and has been published in the January 14 edition of the journal Nature. [more]
Teaser 1452267854

Making (galactic) history with big data: First global age map of the Milky Way

January 08, 2016
Using completely new ways of deducing the ages of so-called red giant stars from observational data, astronomers have created the first large-scale map that shows stellar ages in the Milky Way. Determining the ages of nearly 100 000 red giant stars, at distances of up to 50 000 light-years from the galactic center, the astronomers, led by Melissa Ness and Marie Martig of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, were able to test key ideas about the growth of the Milky Way. Notably, the map confirms that our home galaxy has grown inside out: in the present epoch, most old stars can be found in the middle, more recently formed ones in the outskirts. [more]
Teaser 1445935092

How stars grow into heavyweights: Astronomers find disk around young massive star

October 29, 2015
How do stars reach masses more than 100 times the mass of the Sun? It has long been suspected that gas and dust disks circlingyoung stars could play a role, funneling matter onto what will become some of the most massive stars known. Now, a teaminvolving MPIA astronomers has for the first time detected a stable disk around one of the most massive newly-forming stars in the Galaxy. Their work is published on October 29, 2015, in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. [more]
Teaser 1445934904

Astronomers find unusual moving structures in dust disk around star

October 07, 2015
Using the instrument SPHERE and the Hubble Space Telescope, a team that includes MPIA astronomers have identified unusual moving features in the dust disk surrounding the nearby star AU Microscopii. This is the first observation of such structures changing over time, and at present, the nature and origin of the features is unclear. The features could be linked to eruptions of the star AU Mic, or to (as yet unseen) planets hidden within the dust disk. The results are being published in the October 8, 2015 edition of the journal Nature. [more]
Teaser 1431628463

Against all Odds: Astronomers Baffled by Discovery of Rare Quasar Quartet

May 14, 2015
Using the W.M.  Keck observatory in Hawaii, a group of astronomers led by Joseph Hennawi of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have discovered the first quadruple quasar: four rare active black holes situated in close proximity to one another. The quartet resides in one of the most massive structures ever discovered in the distant universe, and is surrounded by a giant nebula of cool dense gas. Either the discovery is a one-in-ten-million coincidence, or cosmologists need to rethink their models of quasar evolution and the formation of the most massive cosmic structures. The results are being published in the May 15, 2015 edition of the journal Science. [more]
Teaser 1429519733

An image of a whole planetary system

April 20, 2015
An international team of astronomers which includes six researchers from MPIA has taken an image showing four planets in the system around the star HR8799. The astronomers made use of the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona. [more]
Teaser 1426604844

Galactic "rocket engine" explains unusual stellar motion in galaxies

March 19, 2015
A discovery by MPIA graduate student Athanasia Tsatsi has changed astronomers' understanding of how mergers of two galaxies can produce unusual stellar motion in the resulting elliptical galaxies, with the central region rotating in the direction opposite to that of the galaxy's other stars. Previously, such differences had been thought to be the result of an opposite ("retrograde") orientation of the galaxies prior to their merger. Looking at a simulation of a galaxy merger, Tsatsi discovered a different way of bringing about such counter-rotating cores, which involve mass loss from the bodies of these galaxies acting as a primitive galactic "rocket engine". [more]
Teaser 1429185975

Dust Disks Survive Cosmic Firework Near Young Massive Stars

March 10, 2015
Astronomers have discovered dust disks around stars in stellar clusters that recently formed near the center of the Milky Way. Because these young clusters contain very hot stars that generate energetic, intense Ultraviolet radiation, such dust disks, the sites of planet formation around young stars, were previously thought to be rapidly destroyed. The discovery that these disks can survive such hot environments much longer holds new information on when and how planets may have formed, especially billions of years ago when galaxies formed stars at a much higher rate than today and similarly extreme conditions were far more prevalent than in today’s universe. [more]
Teaser 1423730318

Astronomers close in on planets that could be masters of survival

February 12, 2015
Two independent groups of astronomers, one led by Simona Ciceri of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, have discovered an unusually massive planet which orbits a red giant star. The planet, Kepler-432b, is one of a total of just five known planets which orbit red giant stars at a fairly close distance. Previously, it had been thought that such planets would be swallowed by their host stars fairly quickly; the new discovery indicates they might survive for longer than previously thought. [more]
Teaser 1414684950

'CT Scan' of Distant Universe Reveals Cosmic Web in 3D

October 16, 2014
A team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has created the first three-dimensional map of the 'adolescent' Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. Applying a new technique analogous to x-ray computer-tomographic (CT) imaging used in medicine, the researchers measured the light from a dense grid of distant background galaxies probing the Universe from multiple locations, and then combined the data to construct a 3-D map of the intervening matter. This map, millions of light years across, provides a tantalizing glimpse of large structures in the 'cosmic web', which forms the backbone of cosmic structure. [more]
Teaser 1415272808

Uncloaking the King of the Milky Way: The Largest Star in our Home Galaxy's Largest Stellar Nursery

August 28, 2014
Astronomers led by Shiwei Wu of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have identified the most massive star in our home galaxy's largest stellar nursery, the star-forming region W49. The star, named W49nr1, has a mass between 100 and 180 times the mass of the Sun. Only a few dozen of these very massive stars have been identified so far. As seen from Earth, W49 is obscured by dense clouds of dust, and the astronomers had to rely on near-infrared images from ESO's New Technology Telescope and the Large Binocular Telescope to obtain suitable data. The discovery is hoped to shed light on the formation of massive stars, and on the role they play in the biggest star clusters. [more]
Teaser 1414686051

Doomed Planet Confirmed

August 08, 2014
Kepler-91b is doomed: In an estimated 55 million years it will be engulfed by its host star, a red giant. Recent studies, though, suggested a completely different type of doom, claiming there might not be such a thing as the planet Kepler-91b at all. Instead, according to those studies, what had been observed might instead be a fairly dim star. Now new observations with the CAFE spectrograph at Calar Alto observatory have settled the case: Kepler-91b is indeed a planet. The result also validates the method used for the original detection, an unusually detailed analysis of light received from the planet's host star. [more]
Teaser 1414080380

Finding the "Recipe for Star Formation"

April 10, 2014
Astronomers have found a new way of predicting the rate at which a molecular cloud – a stellar nursery – will form new stars. Using a novel technique to reconstruct a cloud's three-dimensional structure, the astronomers can estimate how many new stars the cloud is likely to form. The newfound "recipe" allows for direct tests of current theories of star formation. [more]
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