Press Releases

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Probing the three-dimensional structure of a protoplanetary disk

February 07, 2017
Astronomers have detected three-dimensional structures in the protoplanetary disk around the young star TW Hydrae. Their pioneering reconstruction uses both the light reflected by dust and light emitted by certain gas molecules to reconstruct the disk’s physical structure – a step forward from previous images of such disks that could not distinguish density variations from chemical or thermodynamic patterns. The pattern, a ring-shaped gap, could either indicate the presence of a planet or instabilities that could form a planet. [more]
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Witnessing the wild phase of star formation

February 05, 2016
Have you ever seen a stellar embryo? A research team that includes an MPIA astronomer has inspected the birth places of stars: the FU Orionis objects, a class of very young stellar objects. These protostars are surrounded by large asymmetrical disks, indicating a short, violent episode during the early formation of the star. By employing the 8m Subaru Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii, four of those disks have now been imaged with extreme resolution, thereby allowing the astronomers to identify their structure. The results are being published in the journal 'Science Advances'. [more]
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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]
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SPHERE auf der Jagd nach Exoplaneten Revolutionäres Instrument liefert erste Bilder am ESO-Very Large Telescope

June 05, 2014
Die Suche nach Planeten außerhalb unseres Sonnensystems und die Beantwortung der Fragen nach ihrer Entstehung und ihrer möglicherweise erdähnlichen Natur zählen zu den spannendsten Herausforderungen der modernen Astrophysik. Fast alle der mehr als 1000 bisher entdeckten Exoplaneten wurden jedoch nur indirekt nachgewiesen – direkte Bilder waren Mangelware. Mit SPHERE steht den Astronomen nun aber ein außergewöhnliches High-Tech-Instrument zur Verfügung, mit dem sich gezielt Aufnahmen von Exoplaneten und Staubscheiben neu entstehender Planetensysteme gewinnen lassen. Erste Bilder von SPHERE am Very Large Telescope (VLT) der Europäischen Südsternwarte (ESO) in Chile demonstrieren die enorme Leistungsfähigkeit des Instruments, das von zwölf Partnern entwickelt wurde – darunter auch das Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (MPIA) in Heidelberg als Co-PI-Institut. [more]
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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. It will also enable telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (ALMA) to estimate the star-formation activity in more distant molecular clouds, and thus to create a map of star births within our home galaxy. The results will be published in the April 11, 2014 edition of the journal Science. [more]
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