High-energy observations with the INTEGRAL space observatory have revealed a surprising signal of gamma-rays from the surface of material ejected by a recent supernova explosion. This result challenges the prevailing explosion model for type Ia supernovae, indicating that such energetic events might be ignited from the outside as well – rather than from the exploding dwarf star’s centre. The scientists from the Max Planck Institutes for Extraterrestrial Physics and for Astrophysics present their findings in the current edition of Science to the astronomical community.
An international team of astronomers including researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has discovered that the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy NGC 5548 has recently undergone strange, unexpected behaviour rarely seen in the heart of active galaxies. The researchers detected a clumpy gas stream flowing quickly outward and blocking 90 percent of the X-rays emitted by the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy. This activity may provide new insights into the interaction of supermassive black holes and their host galaxies.
After more than seven years of development and construction, the last of the eight mirror modules for the eROSITA X-ray telescope was completed on Friday, 8 November 2013. The Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics leads the development and construction of the entire telescope, including its various components, in an international cooperation.
Unusual structures have been found in the central region of the Coma cluster, a large collection of thousands of galaxies located about 300 million light years from Earth. Observations with the X-ray satellites Chandra and XMM-Newton led by Jeremy Sanders from Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics revealed remarkably long arms that tell astronomers about the collisions between Coma and other galaxy clusters over the last billion years.
During its five-year primary mission, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has given astronomers an increasingly detailed portrait of the universe's most extraordinary phenomena, from giant black holes in the hearts of distant galaxies to thunderstorms on Earth. But its job is not done yet. On Aug. 11, Fermi entered an extended phase of its mission -- a deeper study of the high-energy cosmos. This is a significant step toward the science team's planned goal of a decade of observations, ending in 2018. MPE scientists use data from both instruments on-board Fermi, one of which was built jointly by MPE and colleagues abroad.
The Gamma-ray burst Monitor (GBM) onboard NASA’s Fermi satellite detected a very intense signal on 27 April from the brightest Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB) in decades. Several other space-based instruments including Fermi’s main instrument, the Large Area Telescope (LAT), discovered this event simultaneously. The GRB lasted so long that a record number of telescopes on the ground were able to catch it while space-based observations were still ongoing. The event is labeled GRB 130427A, indicating its date of occurrence.
The massive stellar clusters accompanying our galaxies as well as other galaxies have passed through a more complex evolution than previously thought. New observations have found evidence for several generations of stars, which can now be explained by a research team from MPE, the observatory of the University of Geneva, and the French science organisation CNRS. In their scenario, some of the first generation stars are much more massive than the left-over stars seen today. Their fast evolution up to violent supernova explosions will have substantial influence on the formation of the following stellar generations.
The Nova monitoring campaign in our neighbouring Andromeda galaxy yielded an extremely bright X-ray source, XMMU J004243.6+412519. Follow-up observations at radio wavelengths point at the existence of an energetic jet of particles ejected by the massive central object. This indicates that this source is indeed powered by a stellar-mass black hole gaining mass at a high rate, close to the theoretical maximum. By monitoring and analysing both the emission from the accretion disk and the material ejected in the jet, the astronomers can learn more about the processes around a stellar mass black hole.
On 21 September, the gamma-ray burst monitor (GBM) instrument onboard the Fermi satellite detected its 1000th cosmic explosion. It lasted for around 3 seconds, and consisted of a single large pulse of gamma-rays. Automatically detected by the GBM, an alert was sent to the ground that was then relayed to a worldwide team of astronomers just a few seconds later.
This week, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation announced that Patricia Schady, astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), will receive the Sofja Kovalevskaja Prize. Financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the prize is awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the scientific achievements of exceptionally promising young scientists and young researchers from abroad to allow them to establish an independent junior research group at research institutions in Germany.
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) has released the largest-ever three-dimensional map of massive galaxies and distant black holes, which will help astronomers explain the mysterious "dark matter" and "dark energy" that scientists know makes up 96 per cent of the universe. Early last year, the SDSS-III released the largest-ever image of the sky; the new data have begun to expand this image into a full three-dimensional map. "Data Release 9" (DR9), released last week, publically releases the data from the first two years of this six-year project.
Solar system X-ray research has experienced a boost during the last two decades. Before 1996, Sun, Earth, Moon, and Jupiter were the only solar system X-ray sources known. Since then, this number has considerably increased, including now also Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, the Jovian moons Io and Europa, the Io plasma torus, the rings of Saturn, two asteroids, as well as comets as an unexpected new class, and even the heliosphere itself. This article outlines the sequence of discoveries, describes how the X-ray emissions originate, explains their importance, and concludes with an outlook.
The use of stars, planets and stellar constellations for navigation was of fundamental importance for mankind for thousands of years. Now a group of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching have developed a new navigation technique using the periodic signatures of neutron stars. With this method, future spacecraft will be able to navigate across the universe - independently from Earth. Team member Prof. Werner Becker presented their work at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester end of March.
Detailed observations show that the first ultraluminous X-ray source detected in our neighbouring Andromeda galaxy is due to a stellar mass black hole swallowing material at very high rates. An international team of astronomers, including scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, have now published their findings in two papers. The emission of the ultraluminous source probably originates from a system similar to X-ray binaries in our galaxy with matter accreting onto a black hole, which is at least 13 times more massive than our Sun. Unlike X-ray binaries in our own Milky Way, however, this source is much less obscured by interstellar gas and dust, allowing detailed investigations also at low X-ray energies.
During the early morning hours of 23rd October 2011, at about 4 am CEST, the research satellite ROSAT plunged back to Earth and disappeared – without a trace – in the Indian Ocean. This was the last stage for one of the most successful satellite missions of X-ray astronomy. During its eight years of active live, the X-ray observatory ROSAT detected more than 150 000 mainly unknown X-ray sources; some 4000 scientists from 24 countries used its data for more than 4200 papers in refereed journals, which were cited over 140 000 times.
An international team of astronomers led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has used the brief but brilliant light of a distant gamma-ray burst as a probe to study the make-up of very distant galaxies. Surprisingly the new observations revealed two galaxies in the young Universe that are richer in the heavier chemical elements than the Sun. The two galaxies may be in the process of merging. Such events in the early Universe will drive the formation of many new stars and may be the trigger for gamma-ray bursts.
As of mid-September, there are 1000 citations for each of two papers published by the high-energy group at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics: The ROSAT source catalogue and the paper describing the focal plane instruments for the three X-ray mirror systems on board the XMM-Newton satellite.
The Skinakas Observatory has been in existence for 25 years and this was celebrated end of May on top of the Ida mountains. Founded in 1986 by the University of Crete, the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas FORTH and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, it is used both for the training of students and basic astronomical research. Today the Skinakas Observatory has three telescopes: a 1.3m Ritchey Chrétien telescope, a 0.6m and a 0.3m telescope. The 0.6m fully robotic telescope is a joined project of the University of Crete and the University of Tübingen, Germany. [more]
A gamma-ray burst detected by NASA's Swift satellite in April 2009 has been newly unveiled as a leading candidate for the most distant object in the Universe. At an estimated distance of 13.14 billion light years, the burst lies far beyond any known quasar and is potentially more distant than any previously known galaxy or gamma-ray burst. Multiple lines of evidence in favour of a record-breaking distance for this burst, known as GRB 090429B after the date when it was discovered (April 29, 2009), are presented in a paper by an international team of astronomers, including scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.
Astronomers working with data from several observatories, including the VLT and XMM-Newton, have discovered the most distant, mature galaxy cluster yet. The cluster is seen as it was when the Universe was only about a quarter of its current age. In contrast to other structures observed in the young Universe, this object is already in its prime, as is evident from its diffuse X-ray emission and evolved population of galaxies. This shows that fully-grown galaxy clusters were already in place this early in cosmic history.