Teaser 1443790335

Fire without smoke: Tracking down the most primitive black holes in the universe

March 17, 2010
Astronomers have found what appear to be the two most primitive black holes in the universe. Located at a distance of 12,7 billion light-years from Earth, we see these black holes or, more precisely, the bright galactic nuclei powered by these black holes, as they were 12,7 billion years ago, less than a billion years after the big bang. The existence of such primitive black holes had long been surmised, but until now, none had been observed. The results will be published in the March 18, 2010 issue of the journal Nature. [more]
Teaser 1444136829

Probing exoplanet chemistry without the need for space telescopes

February 04, 2010
A group of astronomers, which includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, has successfully tested a new method for probing the chemical composition of the atmospheres of planets that orbit distant stars. The technique can be used by comparatively small telescopes on the ground, making exoplanet chemistry more widely accessible than ever before. First observations have yielded a fundamentally new result about exoplanet atmospheres. The results have been reported in the February 4, 2010 issue of the journal Nature. [more]
Teaser 1444136831

First Direct “Chemical Fingerprint” of an Exoplanet orbiting a Sun-Like Star

January 13, 2010
Astronomers have obtained the first direct spectrum – a “chemical fingerprint” – of a planet orbiting a distant, Sun-like star, providing direct data about the composition of the planet's atmosphere. Such “chemical fingerprinting” is a key technique in the search for habitable planets around other stars. As such, the result represents a milestone in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe. More directly, results like this are expected to provide new insight into how planets form. [more]
Teaser 1444990982

First image of cool extrasolar planet candidate around Sun-like star

December 03, 2009
First observations with the world's newest planet-hunter instrument, HiCIAO, have revealed a faint companion to the star GJ 758, resulting in what could be the first image of a cool extrasolar planet orbiting a Sun-like star. With an estimated mass of 10 – 40 times Jupiter's mass, GJ 758 b is either a giant planet or a lightweight brown dwarf. Its orbit is somewhat larger than Neptune's, and its temperature of 600 K makes it the coldest companion to a Sun-like star ever resolved in an image. [more]
Teaser 1444990995

Galaxy formation: Andromeda caught in the act

September 02, 2009
A new survey provides the most comprehensive and detailed picture yet of galaxy formation in action. It shows the remains of smaller galaxies that have been ingested by the Andromeda galaxy, one of our closest cosmic neighbours. [more]
Teaser 1453193102

Infant Galaxies: Small and Hyperactive

February 05, 2009
When galaxies are born, do their stars form everywhere at once, or only within a small core region? Recent measurements provide the first concrete evidence that star-forming regions in infant galaxies are indeed small – but also hyperactive, producing stars at astonishingly high rates. This is the conclusion drawn from recent observations of one of the most distant known galaxies: a so-called quasar with the designation J1148+5251. Light from this galaxy takes 12.8 billion years to reach Earth; in turn, astronomical observations show the galaxy as it appeared 12.8 billion years ago, providing a glimpse of the very early stages of galactic evolution, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. The observers, an international team of researchers led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, made use of the IRAM Interferometer, a German-French-Spanish radio telescope, to obtain images of a very special kind: They recorded the infrared radiation emitted by J1148+5251 at a specific frequency associated with ionized carbon atoms, which is a reliable indicator of ongoing star formation. The resulting images show sufficient detail to allow, for the first time, the measurement of the size of a very early star-forming region. With this information, the researchers were able to conclude that, at the time, stars were forming in the core region of J1148+5251 at record rates – any faster, and star formation would have been in conflict with the laws of physics. The results will be published in the February 5 issue (Volume 457, No. 7230) of the journal Nature. [more]
Teaser 1457624538

Strong Galaxy-wide Star Formation in the Distant Universe

January 23, 2008
An international team of astronomers from France, Germany, the USA and India has observed for the first time the cool molecular gas in ordinary massive galaxies in the young, distant universe. The scientists discovered much more of  it than being observed in galaxies in the local universe. This gas is the building material for stars still nowadays born in normal, undisturbed and not active galaxies in our local universe. The observations have been made with the millimeter interferometer located at the Plateau de Bure (France). The Institute for Radio Astronomy in the Millimeter regime (IRAM) in Grenoble is operating this telescope. [more]
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