Highlights

Press releases of research results of the group

By combining two of the most powerful radio telescopes on Earth, an international team of researchers led by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, created the most sensitive maps of the radio emission of large parts of the Northern Galactic plane so far. The data were taken with the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico in two different configurations and the 100-m Effelsberg telescope near Bonn. This provides for the first time a radio survey covering all angular scales down to 1.5 arc-seconds, the apparent size of a tennis ball lying on the ground and seen from a flying plane. Contrary to previous surveys, GLOSTAR observed not only the radio continuum in the frequency range from 4-8 GHz in full polarization, but simultaneously also spectral lines that trace the molecular gas (from methanol and formaldehyde) and atomic gas via radio recombination lines. more
The flying observatory SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) has successfully completed its observation flights from Cologne Bonn Airport. On board, amongst others, were scientists from the University of Cologne and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, who gained new insights into the formation of new stars during the observations. more
An international research team including a number of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, used the APEX submillimeter telescope in 5100 m altitude in Chile to map an extended part of the Southern Galactic plane covering an area of more than 80 square degrees. Spectral lines emitted from several molecules, including the rare isotopologues 13CO and C18O of the carbon monoxide molecule, probed the moderately dense component of the interstellar medium. The resulting survey, called SEDIGISM (Structure, Excitation and Dynamics of the Inner Galactic Interstellar Medium), reveals a wide range of structures, from individual star-forming clumps to giant molecular clouds and complexes. This survey allows us to constrain the large-scale distribution of cold molecular gas in the inner Galaxy and ultimately unravel the structure of the Milky Way. more

The Distances of the Stars

November 19, 2020
In 1838, Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel won the race to measure the first distance to a star other than our Sun via the trigonometric parallax – setting the first scale of the Universe.
Recently, Mark Reid and Karl Menten, who are engaged in parallax measurements at radio wavelengths, revisited Bessel’s original publications on “his” star, 61 Cygni, published in the Astronomische Nachrichten (Astronomical Notes).  While they could generally reproduce the results obtained by Bessel and two contemporary 19th century astronomers, the eminent Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve and Thomas Henderson, they discovered why some of these early results were statistically inconsistent with modern measurements.
Out of reverence for Bessel, Reid and Menten decided to publish their findings also in the Astronomische Nachrichten. Founded in 1821, it was one of the first astronomical journals in the world and is the oldest that is still being published. more
Observations of magnetic fields in interstellar clouds made of gas and dust indicate that these clouds are strongly magnetized, and that magnetic fields influence the formation of stars within them. A key observation is that the orientation of their internal structure is closely related to that of the magnetic field.
To understand the role of magnetic fields, an international research team led by Thushara Pillai, Boston University & Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany, observed the filamentary network of the dense gas surrounding a young star cluster in the solar neighboorhood, with the HAWC+ polarimeter on the airborne observatory SOFIA at infrared wavelengths. Their research shows that not all dense filaments are created equal. In some of the filaments the magnetic field succumbs to the flow of matter and is pulled into alignment with the filament. Gravitational force takes over in the denser parts of some filaments and the resulting weakly magnetized gas flow can feed the growth of young stellar clusters like a conveyor belt.

The results are published in this week’s issue of “Nature Astronomy“. more
An international team of astronomers including Gisela Ortiz-Leon from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn discovered a Saturn-like planet orbiting a small, cool starby detecting the "wobble" in the star’s motion caused by the gravitational pull of the planet. This is the first time that this technique is successfully employed with observations obtained at radio wavelengths. For their observations, the researchers used a network of radio antennas that are linked together to form a continent-size radio telescope. The discovery was possible thanks to the extremely high precision measurements of the star’s position that can only be achieved with such a radio telescope network. more
HeH+ was the first molecule that formed when, almost 14 billion years ago, falling temperatures in the young Universe allowed recombination of the light elements produced in the Big Bang. At that time, ionized hydrogen and neutral helium atoms reacted to form HeH+.

Despite its importance in the history of the early Universe, HeH+ has so far escaped detection in astrophysical nebulae. Operating the GREAT far-infrared spectrometer onboard the flying observatory SOFIA, an international research team led by Rolf Güsten from the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany, reports the unambiguous detection of the molecule towards the planetary nebula NGC 7027.

The results are published in this week’s issue of Nature. more
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration — was set up to capture the first images of a black hole. Today, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers including scientists from both, the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany, and the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM) reveal that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a black hole.

The results are published in a series of papers in this week’s issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters. more
The first unambiguous observation of a radioactive molecule, 26AlF, was made in the ancient nova-like object CK Vul (or Nova Vul 1670), which - most likely - is a stellar-merger remnant. The eruption of the object was observed between 1670-1672 in Europe. The interest in this object has been recently rejuvenated by the discovery of molecular gas of a very peculiar isotopic composition in the remnant.

An international research team led by Tomasz Kamiński from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and including Karl Menten from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, announces the findings, as Advanced Online Publication in Nature Astronomy (2018 July 30). more

The 12 m radio telescope APEX in Chile has been outfitted with special equipment including broad bandwidth recorders and a stable hydrogen maser clock for performing joint interferometric observations with other telescopes at wavelengths as short as 1.3 mm and the goal to obtain the ultimate picture of the black hole shadow. The addition of APEX to the so-called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which until recently consisted of antennas only in the northern hemisphere, reveals new and unprecedented details in the structure of Sgr A* at the centre of the Milky Way. The increased angular resolution provided by the APEX telescope now reveals details in the asymmetric and not point-like source structure, which are as small as 36 million km. This corresponds to dimensions that are only 3 times larger than the hypothetical size of the black hole (3 Schwarzschild radii).

The findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal (2018, vol. 859, no. 1. DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357). more
Gisela Ortiz won the prize of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for the best 2017 astronomy thesis for Division A (Fundamental Astronomy) for her thesis „Ultra-high precision astrometry with centimeter and millimeter very long baseline interferometry“ at the Instituto de Radioastronomía y Astrofísica, Mexico. She is now a Humboldt postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. more
ALMA and APEX discover massive conglomerations of forming galaxies in the early Universe more
Mapping Spiral Structure for an Improved Picture of our Home Galaxy more
ATLASGAL Survey of Southern Milky Way Completed more
The “Atacama Pathfinder Experiment” in Chile starts its second decade more

APEX and Effelsberg observations unravel mystery of Nova Vul 1670 more
Magnetic Fields are crucial in shaping the Cradles of Massive Stars more
First series of flights uses German receiver GREAT more

The Age of Stellar Nurseries

November 17, 2014
Astrochemical Dating with Molecular Line Observations from SOFIA und APEX more
Detection of iso-propyl cyanide with ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array more
4.7 Terahertz Spectroscopy with SOFIA, the airborne observatory more
APEX reveals cradles of massive star-formation throughout our Galaxy more

SOFIA Has Gone South

July 18, 2013
Airborne Observatory Investigates the Southern Sky from New Zealand more
Picture Release No. 1321 of European Southern Observatory (ESO). A dramatic new image of cosmic clouds in the constellation of Orion reveals what seems to be a fiery ribbon in the sky. The orange glow represents faint light coming from grains of cold interstellar dust, at wavelengths too long for human eyes to see. It was observed by the MPIfR-built & ESO-operated Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) in Chile. more
After 3.5 years the liquid helium coolant on board of ESA's Herschel Space Observatory has finally run out. This means that the molecule hunter HIFI - one of its three instruments - has ceased to collect spectra. But the scientific heritage is impressive already. Thanks to HIFI, scientists now much better understand the cosmic cycle of gas which leads to for instance the birth of stars and planets, and the role (water) molecules play. more
An international team of astronomers, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and from the University of Cologne, successfully identified two titanium oxides in the extended atmosphere around a giant star. The object VY Canis Major is one of the largest stars in the known universe and close to the end of its life. The detection was made using telescope arrays in the USA and in France. more
The ALMA telescope installation begins delivering images of fresh planets, young stars, and distant galaxies. more

Stellar baby boom

March 13, 2013
Astronomers observe starburst galaxies in early space with the ALMA telescope – and discover the most distant detection of water published to date more
Fundamental properties of molecules have not changed during the past seven billion years more
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