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Betelgeuse – a giant with blemishes

June 29, 2020
Gigantic star spots are probably the reason for the recent drop in brightness of the red giant star [more]

From dust to, possibly, life: New experiments show complex astrochemistry on thin ice covering dust grains

June 05, 2020
Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) and the University of Jena have obtained a clearer view of nature's tiny deep-space laboratories: tiny dust grains covered with ice. Instead of regular shapes covered thickly in ice, such grains appear to be fluffy networks of dust, with thin ice layers. In particular, that means the dust grains have considerably larger surfaces, which is where most of the chemical reactions take place. Hence, the new structure has fundamental consequences for astronomers' view of organic chemistry in space – and thus for the genesis of prebiotic molecules that could have played an important role for the origin of life on Earth. [more]

They grow up so fast: New observations show that massive disk galaxies formed exceptionally early in cosmic history

May 20, 2020
In our 13.8 billion-year-old universe, most disk galaxies like our Milky Way were thought to form gradually, reaching their large mass relatively late. But now astronomers led by Marcel Neeleman from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, using the ALMA observatory, have found a massive rotating disk galaxy, seen when the universe was only ten percent of its current age. The observation shows that some disk galaxies must have formed much more quickly. This supports earlier computer simulations that had indicated the role of a quick, "cold" mode of galaxy formation. The results have been published in the journal Nature. [more]

Precise tracking of star shows how the Milky Way’s central black hole curves space in its neighborhood

April 16, 2020
Einstein’s theory of general relativity and Newton’s theory of gravitation make slightly different predictions when it comes to objects orbiting a central mass. Now a consortium of researchers, led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) and including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), has for the first time detected the so-called Schwarzschild precession, a specific general-relativistic effect that changes the orbit of a body around a central mass, for a star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The effect depends in part on the curvature of space around the central mass. [more]

A puzzle piece from stellar chemistry could change our measurements of cosmic expansion

March 05, 2020
Astronomers led by Maria Bergemann (Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy) have performed chemical measurements on stars that could markedly change the way cosmologists measure the Hubble constant and determine the amount of so-called dark energy in our universe. Using improved models of how the presence of chemical elements affects a star’s spectrum, the researchers found that so-called supernovae Type Ia have different properties than previously thought. Based on assumption about their brightness, cosmologists have used those supernovae to measure the expansion history of the universe. In light of the new results, it is now likely those assumptions will need to be revised. [more]
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