In 2016, the European Astronomical Society honours former MPE director Prof. Joachim Trümper with the Tycho Brahe Prize in recognition of his visionary development of X-ray instrumentation, from balloon experiments and the discovery of cyclotron lines probing the magnetic field of neutron stars to his leadership and strong scientific involvement in the ROSAT mission.
MPE astronomers have been scouring cosmic images of X-ray emission, hunting for elusive clues that reveal the culprit responsible for violent acts that have left deep scars on the heart of the Milky Way. The prime suspect is the supermassive black hole lurking at the centre of the Milky Way, with a number of massive stars also implicated as suicide bombers.
Astronomers in Hawaii, Leiden and at MPE have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and found the clearest indications yet that planets with masses several times that of Jupiter have recently formed in the discs of gas and dust around four young stars. Measurements of the gas around the stars also provide additional clues about the properties of those planets.
Using archival data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, as well as from the XMM-Newton and Chandra X-ray telescopes, a team of astronomers at the MPE have discovered a gigantic black hole, which is probably destroying and devouring a big star in its vicinity. With a mass of 100 million times more than our Sun, this is the largest black hole caught in this act so far.
New observations of the giant elliptical galaxy, Messier 87, have revealed that it has swallowed an entire medium-sized galaxy over the last billion years. For the first time a team of astronomers at MPE and other institutes has been able to track the motions of 300 glowing planetary nebulae to find clear evidence of this event.
The Milky Way’s bar is longer, thinner, and ends closer to the Sun than previously thought. Combining several large stellar surveys, scientists at the MPE have now mapped the complete inner region of our Galaxy, containing the majority of its stars.
A systematic study of all massive galaxy clusters in the local universe provides information on the lightest elementary particles: Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics analysed an X-ray catalogue to show that there is less structure in the universe today than what is expected from the cosmic microwave background observations of the very early universe. This discrepancy can be explained, if the three neutrino families have an overall mass of about half an electron-volt.
An international team of astrophysicists has witnessed a unique event: for the first time, researchers have discovered the formation of a quadruple star system from widely separated fragments of a filamentary gas cloud in the Perseus constellation.