The European Astronomical Society (EAS) awards the 2016 MERAC Prize for the Best Doctoral Thesis in the category “New Technologies” to MPE scientist Oliver Pfuhl for his thesis on an innovative design of two subsystems for the VLTI instrument GRAVITY: the fibre coupler and the guiding system. The MERAC Prize Committee was impressed by the high quality of the nominated candidates for the three MERAC Prizes of 2016. The official ceremony will take place during the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) to be held in Athens, Greece on 4 – 8 July 2016.
Scientists at the MPE have revisited the all-sky survey carried out by the ROSAT satellite, to create a new image of the sky at X-ray wavelengths. Along with this the revised and extended version of the catalogue of bright and faint point-like sources will be released, the “2RXS catalogue”.
ESA’s INTEGRAL observatory saw the microquasar V404 Cygni flaring in June last year, which helped a team of astronomers led by MPE to discover electron-positron pair plasma from the black hole’s immediate surrounding.
Zooming in on black holes is the main mission for the new GRAVITYinstrument, built by a large team of European astronomers and engineers led by the MPE, and now installed at ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. During its first observations, GRAVITY successfully combined starlight using all four Auxiliary Telescopes.
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.