CAS News and Highlights

Laboratory experiments performed at the Centre for Astrochemical Studies (CAS) of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Munich, together with astronomical observations conducted by the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), lead to the identification of a new molecule in the molecular cloud known as G+0.693-0.027, close to the Galactic centre. The newly discovered molecule is called propargylimine: according to the experts, this chemical species may play a fundamental role in the formation of amino acids, among the key ingredients for life as we know it. more

High-resolution observations of a young star forming system clearly unveil a pair of proto-stars at their earliest stages of evolution deeply embedded within the source IRAS 16293-2422 in the Ophiuchus molecular cloud. The team led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics used the ALMA interferometer not only to pin down the source configuration, but also to measure the gas and stellar kinematics, determining the mass of the young binary. The two close proto-stars are somewhat heavier than previously thought and they revolve around each other once in about 400 years. more

High-resolution images of a young stellar binary system for the first time reveal a complex network of accretion filaments nurturing two proto-stars at the centre of the circum-binary disk. With these observations, an international team of astronomers led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics was able to identify a two-level accretion process, circum-binary disk to circumstellar disk to stars, constraining the conditions leading to the formation and evolution of binary star systems. more

How do stars and planets form? Scientists are now one step closer to pinning down the conditions for the formation of proto-stellar disks. Observations of three systems in the early stages of star formation in the Perseus cloud revealed that the profile of the angular momentum in these systems is between that expected for a solid body and pure turbulence, indicating that the influence of the core extends further out than previously thought. These findings could lead to more realistic initial conditions for numerical simulations of disk formation. more

Water trapped in dust grains from which the Earth formed can explain the current large amount of water on Earth. This is suggested by scientists from the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom, based on calculations and simulations. The research will appear in two articles in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. more

Ten observatories in six European countries teamed up for recent observations of a stellar occultation by the dwarf planet Haumea, which surprisingly show a narrow and dense ring orbiting the dwarf planet. In addition, the astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and more than 50 further institutions were able to constrain the size, shape and density of Haumea,which are closer to theoretical predictions than previous estimates but still puzzling. more

For the first time, an international team of astronomers led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) has observed a molecular outflow being launched from beyond the disk surrounding a young stellar object. Outflows carry away excess angular momentum and it has been proposed that these disk winds should be launched from a wide region in the protoplanetary disk. The recent observations now show that the outflows are asymmetric and that they are launched beyond the edge of the disk, at the position of the landing site of the in-falling material. more

The first release of results from the Green Bank Ammonia Survey (GAS) are now being published in the Astrophysical Journal. A team from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, the University of Toronto and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics are aiming to map all Gould Belt star-forming regions visible from the northern hemisphere in the light of key molecular tracers. Accompanying the first data release, this impressive image shows ammonia molecules in a filament along a star formation region in the Orion Nebula. more

Astronomers led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and using the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory report the discovery of a spectacular extended jet from a young brown dwarf. With masses too low to sustain hydrogen fusion in their interiors, brown dwarfs occupy the mass range between stars and giant planets. While young stars are commonly found to launch jets that extend over a light year or more, this is the first jet with a similar extent detected from a brown dwarf. The result lends new insight into how sub-stellar objects form. more

For a long time the formation of protostellar disks – a prerequisite to the formation of planetary system around stars – has defied theoretical astrophysicists: In a dense, collapsing cloud of gas and dust, the magnetic field would be dragged to the centre as well resulting in a braking effect. Hardly any rotationally supported disk can form this way, unless the tiny grains are removed from the cloud by growing or coagulating into bigger grains. This is the result from a new study published by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and other institutions. The more realistic simulations now take into account non-ideal magneto-hydrodynamics and ionization chemistry to form a rotationally supported protostellar disk. more

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