The recently retired airborne observatory SOFIA looked for hints of phosphine in Venus’s sky in November 2021 with its GREAT detector (MPIfR, Cologne Univ.). A presumed detection of that molecule in the atmosphere of Venus was announced in 2020. The SOFIA researchers including Helmut Wiesemeyer from MPIfR don’t see any sign of phosphine. According to their results, if there is any phosphine present in Venus’s atmosphere at all, it’s a maximum of about 0.8 parts phosphine per billion parts everything else, much smaller than the initial estimate (NASA SOFIA Blogpost, November 29, 2022). more

Astrophysicists have analyzed publicly available data from the IceCube neutrino observatory in Antarctica. It turned out that a significant component of high-energy neutrino flux is of galactic origin, that is, it was born in the Milky Way. One of the authors, Yuri Kovalev from MPIfR (Bonn, Germany) is excited: "This opens a wonderful opportunity for studying matter in the Galaxy and galactic relativistic objects utilizing methods of multi-messenger astronomy." (Astrophysical Journal Letters Vol. 940, L41, DOI 10.3847/2041-8213/aca1ae). more

ERC Starting Grant for Dr. Vivek Venkatraman Krishnan

Discovering most exotic neutron star systems will help to understand gravity and ultra-dense matter more

The NOEMA radio telescope, located on the Plateau de Bure in the French Alps, is now equipped with twelve antennas, making it the most powerful radio telescope of its kind in the northern hemisphere. It is operated by the international institute IRAM, in which the Max Planck Society is involved (MPG Press Release, September 30, 2022). more

After graduating from the University of Bonn, Germany, Arshia Jacob completed research for her dissertation at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), graduating summa cum laude in 2021, and works as postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore since then. In her dissertation, Arshia Jacob addressed fundamental questions about the physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium based on data from various molecules and combining terahertz results with long-wavelength radio data. Her research has helped answer questions related to the chemical evolution of the Milky Way and the galactic distribution of the cosmic ray ionization rate. Her outstanding research was also recognized with the Max Planck Society’s Otto Hahn Medal and its Otto Hahn Award (Press Release of the Astronomische Gesellschaft, August 24, 2022).

Full commissioning of the Effelsberg radio telescope

Regular observations with the 100-m telescope started 50 years ago, on August 01, 1972 more

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is adjusting its science observation plans and canceling the remainder of its Southern Hemisphere deployment following damage to the aircraft caused by severe weather on Monday, July 18. SOFIA arrived in New Zealand on June 18 and had a successful and productive month of science flights. Using two instruments, HAWC+ and GREAT, SOFIA observed and studied a wide range of celestial objects and phenomena, like cosmic magnetic fields, structure of the Milky Way, and the origin of cosmic rays. (SOFIA Blogpost, July 21, 2022).

An international research team including Norbert Langer (AIfA & MPIfR Bonn) has detected a stellar-mass black hole outside the Milky Way, in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a companion of the Milky Way. The discovery was made during a six-year observing campaign with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The results have been published in the journal Nature Astronomy (University of Bonn Press Release, July 19, 2022).

Within the Orion Nebula is a massive set of stars known as the Trapezium stars. The winds from the Trapezium stars blow a bubble of dust and gas in the area in front of them, called Orion’s Veil. The majority of Orion’s Veil is sparse, with most of its gas lying in the bubble’s wall. Recent observations by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) with the German REceiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT), built by MPIfR and Cologne University, have identified some unexpected features in it (SOFIA Blogpost, July 14, 2022)

S4716 is the fastest star to date to orbit a black hole in the shortest time known so far. This star orbits Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of our Milky Way, in only four years, reaching a speed of about 8000 kilometers per second with a minimum distance of only 100 astronomical units, or 15 billion kilometers to the central source. Silke Britzen/MPIfR and Andreas Eckart, external scientific member of the MPIfR, are co-authors of the publication (Press Release Cologne University, July 05, 2022).

H2O MegaMaser emission in sources such as the prominent NGC 4258 arise from a thin gas disc surrounding the supermassive nucleus. Space Very Long Baseline Interferometry (SVLBI) experiments with the Russian-built RadioAstron Observatory in Earth orbit and the large Green Bank and Effelsberg telescopes have resulted in the detection of the regularly-spaced emitting clouds inside the disc. The paper 'Space VLBI Observations of the H2O Megamaser in NGC 4258: evidence for periodic disc instabilities' is published in Nature Astronomy on 30 June, 2022. The authors include Christian Henkel from MPIfR (ASTRON Daily Image, July 01, 2022). more

As part of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation's Henriette Herz Scouting Program, research personalities with international network connections are selected as scouts who are given the opportunity to propose up to three scientific talents from abroad for a fellowship from the Foundation. One of the scouts selected in the fourth selection round in May 2022 is Prof. Dr. Anton Zensus, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and Head of it’s Research Department "Radio Astronomy / VLBI".

After a break of two-years, SOFIA has returned to Christchurch, New Zealand for an eight-week mission. As always, demand from the astronomical community for southern sky observations is high, and the SOFIA team is working to make it happen. During the second half of this year's deployment to New Zealand, the GREAT ("German REceiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies") instrument, built by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and the University of Cologne, will conduct a variety of studies, including the study of stellar feedback in star-forming regions, namely how stars influence their surrounding regions (DSI news release, June 21, 2022, in German language). more

Award of the Czech Academy of Sciences for Cologne Professor and External Scientific Member of the MPIfR more

In a joint statement, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) announced that they have decided to discontinue flight operations by the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) in September 2022.
Germany contributed 20 percent of the airborne observatory’s operating costs and developed and built its globally unique telescope, which have enabled observations of the night sky from the fuselage of SOFIA for eight years. The highly successful spectroscopic receiver GREAT/upGREAT (German REceiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies) onboard SOFIA is jointly operated by the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie and the I. Physikalisches Institut der Universität zu Köln (DLR News, April 28, 2022).

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