ESA’s INTEGRAL observatory saw the microquasar V404 Cygni flaring in June last year, which helped a team of astronomers led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics to discover electron-positron pair plasma from the black hole’s immediate surrounding. In such a binary system, a stellar black hole swallows matter from a companion star, but also ejects a two-sided jet. An accretion disk can be seen in X-ray emission, while radio observations show escaping plasma clouds in jets far out. The relation between accretion and ejection is completely unknown, as are processes which happen close to the black hole. Radiation near the black hole should be energetic enough to produce electrons and their anti-matter partners, the positrons, creating so-called ‘pair plasma’. The INTEGRAL data now showed a clear signature of this materialisation of radiation into pair plasma, as the escaping positrons emit a characteristic gamma-ray signal. This was discovered by the Max Planck scientists. [more]
The complex optics being developed at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics for the near-infrared instrument NISP aboard the Euclid space telescope has passed its Critical Design Review and will now enter the construction phase. From 2020 onwards and with the help of this instrument as well as an imaging camera for visible light, the Euclid satellite is expected to map the universe more accurately than ever before. Scientists will thus be able to track the history of the universe more accurately and to get valuable insights into the mysterious components of the universe, "dark energy" and "dark matter". [more]
In its September meeting, the American Physical Society (APS) nominated MPE senior scientist Roland Diehl for a Fellowship. This is recognition of his outstanding contributions to astrophysics, in particular for his observations of gamma-ray radiation from radioactive elements in space, and his pioneering contributions to gamma-ray telescopes and analysing gamma-ray observations in general. [more]
An international team of astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics has 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. [more]
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 Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics 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. The results of this study are published in this month’s issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. [more]
The World Cultural Council honours Ewine van Dishoeck, Professor for molecular Astrophysics at the Leiden University and External Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), with this year’s Albert Einstein World Award of Science. This prize is awarded to scientists for their outstanding achievements, which bring scientific progress and benefit to mankind. Furthermore, the European Astronomical Society (EAS) elected Ewine van Dishoeck as the Lodewijk Woltjer Lecturer 2015. In this capacity she will give a lecture at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) at the end of June. The EAS recognizes with the prize her outstanding career, especially her work in the field of star- and planet-formation. [more]
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 Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have now mapped the complete inner region of our Galaxy, containing the majority of its stars. Because the bar is also oriented more towards the Sun, it ends much closer to us, and therefore has a greater influence on the motion of stars near the Sun.The Milky Way’s bar also gets thinner away from the centre of the galaxy. Near the end of the bar it becomes so thin that the scientists have termed the bar super-thin, and believe that the thinness of this new component is probably related to younger stars that were born with low velocities about one billion years ago.
The Galaxies Research Group in the Department of Astronomy at UT Austin has elected MPE researcher Stijn Wuyts to receive the 2014-15 Beatrice Tinsley Research Scholar Award. This competitive award includes an invitation for a stay in Texas and to give a special talk at the University of Texas, Austin. [more]