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Teaser 1474462380

Reconstructing the cosmic history of star formation: ALMA takes stock of the fuel for star formation in distant galaxies

September 22, 2016
A study by a large international team led by Fabian Walter of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, using the millimeter telescope ALMA, has traced the raw building blocks of star formation back in time to an era about 2 billion years after the big bang, yielding clues as to the history of star formation in our universe. The study targeted one of the best studied regions of the sky: the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), first imaged in depth by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003/2004. This is the first time a millimeter wave image that includes spectral information has been taken of this portion of the HUDF, sufficient to show galaxies whose light took up to 11 billion light years to reach us.  [more]
Teaser 1471848835

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

August 24, 2016
Astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting the nearest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri. The planet, designated Proxima Centauri b, is in the habitable zone of its star, where liquid water could exist. The discovery is the result of a patient search using the radial velocity method, which searches for tiny wobbles of a star caused by an orbiting planet. In addition to newly acquired data, the analysis uses spectra taken by MPIA astronomer Martin Kürster and colleagues between 2000 and 2007. [more]
Teaser 1468944453

Gigantic X-shaped structure throws (infrared) light on Galactic history

July 19, 2016
Two astronomers have produced the first direct images of a gigantic X-shaped distribution of stars in the center of the Milky Way. The collaboration shows the value of open science: it began when Dustin Lang (University of Toronto) tweeted an image he had recently created. From the tweet, Melissa Ness (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy) recognized the image's significance for reconstructing the history of our home galaxy. The X-shaped distribution indicates that the bulge of stars surrounding the center of the galactic disk was formed through dynamical interactions of stars, not by the merger of smaller galaxies with our own. [more]
Teaser 1462263848

The secret life of the Orion Nebula: Dancing filaments and a possible new way to form large star clusters

May 11, 2016
Whole clusters of stars, including some of the most massive specimens, can form in comparatively short time. Based on an examination of a filament of gas and dust that includes the well-known Orion nebula, Amelia Stutz and Andrew Gould of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy propose a new model for this quick mode of star formation. They provide evidence that the filament in question is a flexible structure, held together by gravity and stabilized by magnetic fields, and undulating back and forth. This and the locations and properties of nearby star clusters suggest instabilities similar to those known in plasma physics could be responsible for the quick formation of star clusters. [more]
Teaser 1460659285

A nursery for Earths or Super-Earths: Most detailed image yet of inner regions of protoplanetary disk

March 31, 2016
For the first time, observations of a protoplanetary disk around a distant star have shown structures as small (astronomically speaking) as the inner Solar system. The observations show an infant planetary system around the star TW Hydrae: a protoplanetary disk with ring-like structures, separated by gaps that could indicate the presence of planets. The images, taken with the ALMA observatory, show details in the inner part of the protoplanetary disk, including a gap at the same distance from the star as Earth is from the Sun. This gap could indicate the presence of a planet on an Earth-like orbit around TW Hydrae. [more]
 
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