CAS News and Highlights

Molecules are stored in ice just before star and planet formation

Astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have found evidence that just before star formation, in the central region of a pre-stellar cloud, practically all heavy molecules freeze out on top of dust grains. The ALMA observations of the L1544 cloud in the constellation Taurus showed not only a central concentration of dust grains, but also revealed that molecules containing nitrogen as well those containing carbon, oxygen and all elements heavier than helium, are stored in thick icy mantles around the dust grains. These icy mantles are rich in water and organic molecules, precursors of pre-biotic molecules. The abundances are similar to those observed in leftover objects from the formation of our Solar System. more

Ewine van Dishoeck receives Fritz Zwicky Prize

The European Astronomical Society awards the 2022 Fritz Zwicky Prize for Astrophysics & Cosmology to Prof. Ewine F. van Dishoeck (Leiden University, the Netherlands and Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics). The Fritz Zwicky Prize for Astrophysics & Cosmology honours scientists who have obtained fundamental and outstanding results related to astrophysics and/or cosmology. more

<p>Elena Redaelli receives Otto Hahn Medal</p>

For her excellent Dissertation, MPE junior scientist Elena Redaelli will receive the Otto Hahn Medal from the Max Planck Society in 2021. The prize is awarded for work on regions of our Galaxy where stars like our Sun are currently formed, being able to unveil the physical and chemical structure of interstellar molecular clouds. Her thesis on various aspects of star formation includes three peer-reviewed papers and future work with enough material for more papers as well as ideas for future observations and analysis. more

<p>Why our water is billions of years old</p>

Long-awaited review reveals journey of water from interstellar clouds to habitable worlds more

A planet-forming disk still fed by the mother cloud

Stellar systems like our own develop inside interstellar clouds of gas and dust that collapse, producing young stars surrounded by protoplanetary disks. Planets form within these protoplanetary disks, leaving clear gaps, which have been recently observed in evolved systems, at the time when the mother cloud has been cleared out. ALMA has now revealed an evolved protoplanetary disk with a large gap still being fed by the surrounding cloud via large accretion filaments. This shows that accretion of material onto the protoplanetary disk is continuing for times longer than previously thought, affecting the evolution of the future planetary system. more

Stars and planets grow up together as siblings

ALMA shows rings around the still-growing protostar IRS 63 more

<p>Max Planck Research Group for Silvia Spezzano</p>

This autumn, Silvia Spezzano will start her new Max Planck Research Group (MPRG) at MPE. Over the next five years, she will study the chemical link in-between different stages of star and planetary system formation, and provide crucial constraints to our astrochemical origins. MPRGs are a key part of support of junior scientists in the Max Planck Society, offering internationally competitive packages for personnel, start-up money, and yearly operating costs. more

GRAVITY observes young star feeding from its surrounding disk

A team of astronomers have observed for the first time the columns of matter that build newborn stars. This detailed look inside the young stellar system, using the GRAVITY instrument built at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) and operated at the ESO Very Large Telescopes, revealed that the material is guided by magnetic fields and comes from the disks surrounding these stars, the same disks that eventually give rise to planets. In fact, our Solar System would have gone through this process 5 billion years ago when it formed. more

A growing stellar system directly fed by the mother cloud

For the first time, astronomers have observed a conveyor belt from the outskirts of a star-forming dense cloud directly depositing material near a pair of young forming stars. Scientists at the German Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) and the French Institut de Radioastonomie Millimétrique (IRAM) found that gas motions in the conveyor belt, dubbed a 'streamer', mainly obey the gravitational pull of the innermost part of the core, near the protostar pair.  The streamer delivers a large amount of gas with chemicals recently produced in the mother cloud surrounding the star-forming region directly to the young protostars at the center of the core.  These results are striking evidence that the large-scale environment around forming stars has an important influence on small-scale disk formation and evolution. more

From lab to space: discovery of a new organic molecule in an interstellar molecular cloud

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

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