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Teaser 1441959671

Inaugurating a galaxy-shaped building

December 16, 2011
The spectacular galaxy-shaped building of the Haus der Astronomie, Heidelberg's new Center for Astronomy Education and Outreach has been inaugurated. [more]
Teaser 1446649942

Adaptive optics at Europe's flagship telescope looks back on a decade of successful observations

November 25, 2011
Ten years ago today, NACO became operational: the first adaptive optics system of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). Adaptive Optics allows astronomers to remove the stars' twinkling – disturbances due to the Earth's atmosphere –, allowing for extremely sharp images of celestial objects. NACO looks back on a decade of scientific results, including the first direct image of an exoplanet and insight into the surroundings of our home galaxy's central black hole. [more]
Teaser 1441959825

Magnetic fields set the stage for the birth of new stars

November 16, 2011
Astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have, for the first time, measured the alignment of magnetic fields in gigantic clouds of gas and dust in a distant galaxy. Their results suggest that such magnetic fields play a key role in channeling matter to form denser clouds, and thus in setting the stage for the birth of new stars. The work will be published in the November 24 edition of the journal Nature (online version: November 16). [more]
Teaser 1441978543

Unusually productive dwarf galaxies pose a riddle,
but could solve another

November 10, 2011
Using the Hubble Space Telescope, a team of astronomers led by Arjen van der Wel of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg has looked back into the early universe to discover a population of small, young galaxies that produce new stars at an extraordinary rate. For current models of galaxy formation, this high star production rate is difficult to explain. It could, however, serve to solve another dwarf galaxy riddle: The unusual distribution of Dark Matter within these cosmic objects. The results will be published in the November 10 edition of the Astrophysical Journal. [more]
Teaser 1441978541

No time for change: Cosmic weight watching reveals black hole-galaxy history

September 30, 2011
Using state-of-the-art technology and sophisticated data analysis tools, a team of astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has developed a new and powerful technique to directly determine the mass of an active galaxy at a distance of nearly 9 billion light-years from Earth. This pioneering method promises a new approach for studying the co-evolution of galaxies and their central black holes. First results indicate that for galaxies, the best part of cosmic history was not a time of sweeping changes. [more]
Teaser 1442478065

Avoiding Nemesis: Does the impact rate for asteroids and comets vary periodically with time?

August 01, 2011
Is the Earth more likely or less likely to be hit by an asteroid or comet now as compared to, say, 20 million years ago? Several studies have claimed to have found periodic variations, with the probability of giant impacts increasing and decreasing in a regular pattern. Now a new analysis by Coryn Bailer-Jones from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), published in the Monthly Notes of the Royal Astronomical Society, shows those simple periodic patterns to be statistical artifacts. His results indicate either that the Earth is as likely to suffer a major impact now as it was in the past, or that there has been a slight increase impact rate events over the past 250 million years. [more]
Teaser 1442492446

When the dust clears: New observations of solar systems in the making

February 17, 2011
New observations with the SUBARU Telescope in Hawaii show the protoplanetary disks surrounding two young stars in unprecedented detail. This is the first time that disk structures comparable in size to our own solar system have been resolved this clearly, revealing features such as rings and gaps that are associated with the formation of giant planets. The observations are part of a systematic survey to search for planets and disks around young stars using HiCIAO, a state-of-the-art high-contrast camera designed specifically for this purpose [more]
Teaser 1442927289

Galaxy mergers not the major feeding mechanism for giant black holes

January 05, 2011
A new study has obtained unexpected new insight into the feeding habits of the giant black holes, which are responsible for the emissions of some of the brightest objects in the universe: active galactic nuclei. Previous models had often assumed that mergers between galaxies are instrumental in driving matter into these black holes. But this systematic study of 1400 galaxies – the largest sample ever examined for the purpose – presents strong evidence that, at least for the past eight billion years, black holes have acquired their food more peacefully. The new study will be published in the Astrophysical Journal on January 10. [more]
Teaser 1442926776

An exoplanet from another galaxy

November 18, 2010
Astronomers have discovered the first exoplanet that originated in another galaxy.  The planet's host star belongs to a dwarf galaxy which was swallowed up by our home galaxy, the Milky Way, billions of years ago. Remarkably, the Jupiter-like planet orbits a star nearing the end of its life. It appears to have survived the star's "Red giant" stage, which offers a tantalizing glimpse of one possible fate of our own Solar System in the distance future. The results are being published on November 18 in Science Express. [more]
Teaser 1442927289

New astronomical phenomenon: 
Coreshine provides insight into stellar births

September 23, 2010
Science is literally in the dark when it comes to the birth of stars, which occurs deep inside clouds of gas and dust: These clouds are completely opaque to ordinary light. Now, a group of astronomers has discovered a new astronomical phenomenon that appears to be common in such clouds, and promises a new window onto the earliest phases of star formation. The phenomenon – light that is scattered by unexpectedly large grains of dust, which the discoverers have termed “coreshine” – probes the dense cores where stars are born. The results are being published in the September 24, 2010 edition of the journal Science. [more]
Teaser 1443090902

Spirals eat dwarfs:
Galactic tendrils shed light on evolution of spiral galaxies

September 07, 2010
Spiral galaxies grow by swallowing smaller dwarf galaxies. As they are digested, these dwarf galaxies are severely distorted, forming structures such as surreal tendrils and stellar streams that surround their captors. Now, for the first time, a new survey has detected such tell-tale structures in galaxies more distant than our immediate galactic neighbourhood. This opens up the possibility of testing our current views of galaxy evolution in a new way. [more]
Teaser 1443092288

Otto Hahn Medal for Surhud More

June 18, 2010
One of the recipients of this year's Otto Hahn Medal is Dr. Surhud More. He is being honoured for his innovative research on the dark matter halos that surround galaxies, carried out during his time as a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg. The Otto Hahn Medal is awarded by the Max Planck Society to outstanding junior scientists. [more]
Teaser 1443615359

Astronomers' first "movie of the sky":
Pan-STARRS survey starts science mission

June 16, 2010
The Pan-STARRS project has begun a unique program of observing three quarters of the night sky: the systematic search for astronomical objects that change over time. Its data will enable astronomers to search for dangerous asteroids on a possible collision course with Earth, but also to tackle some of astronomy's deepest mysteries: Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Scientists of the Max Planck Institutes for Astronomy and for Extraterrestrial Physics are involved in a number of the survey's key projects, including searches for extra-solar planets, for "failed stars" known as Brown Dwarfs, and for distant active galaxies. [more]
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