How to weigh a quasar

September 22, 2021

Testing a new, direct method for determining the masses of supermassive black holes more

Using radio data from the ALMA observatory and physical modelling, astronomers led by Kamber Schwarz (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and University of Arizona) have managed to determine the mass of a potential “planet factory,” the protoplanetary disk around the star GM Aurigae. From their reconstruction, which includes a determination of the disk’s temperature profile, the astronomers deduce that the factory may just have started production: in an unstable region, conditions should be right to form a giant gas planet. The results showcase the increasing ability of astronomers to probe physical properties of planet formation as it happens. more

Young, still growing Jupiter-like exoplanet surrounded by material with enough mass to form three Earth moons more

First measurement of isotopes in the atmosphere of an exoplanet more

Laboratory astrophysicists led by Jiao He (Max Planck Institut for Astronomy) have found a new mechanism that could explain how complex organic molecules form in interstellar clouds – a key open question in astrochemistry. The mechanism depends on unusual properties uncovered in experiments with artificial "cosmic chemistry labs" – simplified models of the ice-covered dust grains that facilitate chemical reactions in outer space. The transition to so-called "polycrystalline" carbon monoxide ice could allow embedded molecules and radicals to cluster within the ice, paving the way for more complex chemical reactions. The results have been published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. more

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