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Teaser 1438691886

Most distant gravitational lens helps weigh galaxies
– but also deepens a galactic mystery

October 17, 2013
A team of astronomers led by Arjen van der Wel from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) has found the most distant gravitational lens yet – a galaxy that, as predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, deflects and intensifies the light of an even more distant object. The discovery provides a rare opportunity to directly measure the mass of a distant galaxy. But it also poses a mystery: Lenses of this kind should be exceedingly rare. Given this and recent other finds, astronomers either have been phenomenally lucky – or, more likely, they have underestimated substantially the number of small, very young galaxies in the early universe. [more]
Teaser 1438691788

Blurring the lines between stars and planets:
Lonely planets offer clues to star formation

October 09, 2013
Astronomers including Niall Deacon of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) captured an image of an unusual free-floating planet. As the object has no host star, it can be observed and examined much easier than planets orbiting stars, promising insight into the details of planetary atmospheres. Can an object with as low a mass as this have formed directly, in the same way that stars form? Independent observations by a group led by MPIA's Viki Joergens suggest that this is the case: They discovered that a similar but much younger free-floating object is drawing material from its surrounding just like a young star. This has important consequences for star formation models in general. [more]
Teaser 1438691722

Astronomers Observe Distant Galaxy Powered by Primordial Cosmic Fuel

October 02, 2013
Astronomers have detected cold streams of primordial hydrogen, vestigial matter left over from the Big Bang, fueling a distant star-forming galaxy in the early Universe. Profuse flows of gas onto galaxies are believed to be crucial for explaining an era 10 billion years ago, when galaxies were copiously forming stars. To make this discovery, the astronomers – a team led by Neil Crighton (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and Swinburne University) – made use of a cosmic coincidence: a bright, distant quasar acting as a "cosmic lighthouse" illuminates the gas flow from behind. Their results have just been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. [more]
Teaser 1438691603

One step closer to imaging distant Solar systems: Subaru telescope snaps image of "cold Jupiter" GJ 504 b

August 05, 2013
A group of astronomers including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has taken an important step towards producing images of distant planetary systems that are similar to our own Solar system: Using the Subaru telescope on Hawai'i, they took an image of the jupiter-like planet GJ 504b. This is the first image of a planet orbiting a Sun-like star (spectral type G), and it is the coldest and could also be the lightest planet yet imaged. [more]
Teaser 1438691556

Star-formation like there is no tomorrow: NGC 253 and the limits to galactic growth

July 24, 2013
Astronomers have long assumed that when a galaxy produces too many stars too quickly, it greatly reduces its capacity for producing stars in the future. Now, a group of astronomers that includes Fabian Walter from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy were able to obtain the first detailed images of this type of self-limiting galactic behavior: an outflow of molecular gas, the raw material needed for star formation, that is coming from star-forming regions in the Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253). The study, which uses the newly commissioned telescope array ALMA in Chile, is published in the journal Nature on July 25, 2013. [more]
Teaser 1438691507

The most exciting candidates for habitable exoplanets yet

April 18, 2013
An international team of scientists analyzing data from NASA's Kepler mission, which includes Lisa Kaltenegger from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, has announced the discovery of the first small, potentially rocky Kepler planets, orbiting in the Habitable Zone of their star. The planets, called Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f, orbit a star that is slightly smaller and cooler than our own Sun. Going by their radii, these planets should be rocky, making them our best candidates for habitable planets out there yet. Analysis by Dr. Kaltenegger indicates that both planets lie in their host star's habitable zone – where liquid water is possible, the necessary precondition for life as we know it. [more]
Teaser 1438691447

Pinpointing the most fertile galaxies in the universe

April 17, 2013
Using the compound telescope ALMA, a team of researchers has pinpointed the positions of more than 100 of the most fertile star-forming galaxies. The precise position measurements clear up a mystery about the observed productivity of these objects. They also show that previous studies of these objects have often suffered from mis-identifications, and how precise measurements like these new results avoid this kind of error. [more]
Teaser 1438691377

In Orion, Herschel finds the youngest stars yet

March 19, 2013
A group of astronomers led by Amelia Stutz of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg has used both the Herschel Space Observatory and the submillimeter telescope APEX to discover and characterize the youngest known protostars yet: stellar embryos still deeply embedded in unexpectedly dense dust cocoons. The discovery promises new insights into the earliest stages of star formation, and consequently into the way our home star, the Sun, came into being. The work will be published in the Astrophysical Journal. [more]
Teaser 1438691296

Novel approach in hunt for cosmic particle accelerator 

February 14, 2013
A team of astronomers led by Sladjana Nikolić from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has observed the supernova remnant SN 1006, probing in unprecedented detail the region where the gas ejected during the supernova meets the surrounding interstellar matter. Such remnants have long been thought to be the source of cosmic ray particles hitting Earth. The observations show, for the first time, the presence of "seed particles", possible precursors of such cosmic rays. The novel approach used by the astronomers promises further insights as to how supernovae remnants act as cosmic particle accelerators. The results will be published on February 14, 2013 in the journal Science. [more]
Teaser 1438691273

TW Hydrae: There's more to astronomers' favorite planetary nursery than previously thought

January 30, 2013
Using ESA's Herschel Space Telescope, astronomers including Thomas Henning from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg have used a new method to determine the mass of the planetary nursery around the star TW Hydrae. At a distance of merely 176 light-years from Earth, this is the closest star that is currently forming new planets – hence one of the most important objects for astronomers studying planet formation. The precise new measurement shows a much larger mass for TW Hydrae's disk than in previous studies, indicating that the system could be forming planets similar to those of our own Solar System. The study is published in the January 31 issue of the journal Nature. [more]
Teaser 1438765596

Giant black hole could upset galaxy evolution models

November 28, 2012
A group of astronomers led by Remco van den Bosch from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) have discovered a black hole that could shake the foundations of current models of galaxy evolution. At 17 billion times the mass of the Sun, its mass is much greater than current models predict – in particular in relation to the mass of its host galaxy. This could be the most massive black hole found to date. [more]
Teaser 1453193033

Rare image of Super-Jupiter sheds light on planet formation

November 19, 2012
An infrared imaging search with the Subaru telescope has captured a rare image of a "Super-Jupiter" around the massive star κ Andromedae. The gas giant has a mass about 13 times that of Jupiter, while the host star has a mass 2.5 times that of the Sun. There are strong indications that this planet formed in a manner similar to ordinary, lower-mass exoplanets: in a "protoplanetary disk" of gas and dust that surrounded the newborn star. This makes the planet an important test case for current models of planet formation and their predictions about planets around massive stars. [more]
Teaser 1438776085

CALIFA survey publishes intimate details of 100 galaxies

October 31, 2012
The Calar Alto Legacy Integral Field Area survey (CALIFA survey) has published a first set of data, offering views of one hundred galaxies in the local Universe at an unprecedented level of detail. The new data represent the first large-scale effort at "two plus one" mapping of galaxies: for every pixel within each two-dimensional image, a detailed ("spectral") analysis can be performed, providing information about dynamics and chemical composition. These, in turn, yield key information that will allow scientists to reconstruct the structure and dynamics of galaxies, as well as their evolution over time. [more]
Teaser 1438780585

Dark clouds, young stars, and a dash of Hollywood

October 30, 2012
New results from space telescope's explorations of stellar birthplaces [more]
Teaser 1440582955

50 years of Brown Dwarfs

October 17, 2012
The community of astronomers is celebrating an amazing discovery with an international conference at Ringberg Castle nearby the Tegernsee in Germany from October 21.-24. The conference is organized by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg. [more]
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