An international team led by researchers at the University of California and at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (Bonn, Germany) set a new record with observations at the W. M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii: the brightest radiation outburst so far of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way (Sgr A*). This discovery was made possible by the high sensitivity and high resolution near-infrared camera NIRC2 at one of the two 10-m telescopes on Mauna Kea. Gunther Witzel, researcher at the MPIfR and contributing author of the study, has analyzed the variable brightness of Sgr A* since 2008:”In 24 years of observations we’ve never seen Sgr A* that bright. This is a very extraordinary observation.” Sgr A* is known as a highly variable source at the center of our Galaxy. However, the nature and origin of the variable emission is not fully understood. It is commonly explained to be created by the heated matter in the direct vicinity of the supermassive black hole shortly before it is accreted. The recently observed outburst is twice the brightness of the previous record. In the course of 90 minutes it then decreased by a factor of 75, the most dramatic evolution observed so far. It remains unclear if and in what way this observation is related to objects like the star S0-2 or the gas cloud G2 which very recently (in 2018 and 2014, respectively) went through closest approach and might have contributed large amounts of gas to the accretion stream. Anton Zensus, director at the Max Planck Institute and director of the board of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), pointed out the importance of this observation: “Extreme states of Sgr A* shed light on the physical processes at work. These observations provide complementary information for our ongoing effort to image the black hole at heart of our Milky Way with the EHT.“ The publication will be published in the Astrophysical Journal (Press Release UCLA, 11. September 2019).
In a detailed study of a star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of our Galaxy, researchers report that Einstein’s theory of general relativity (GR) accurately describes motion around this massive structure. Tuan Do, Andrea Ghez and their colleagues including Gunther Witzel from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, report novel spectral data and expanded analyses. The findings are presented in this week’s issue of the magazine „Science“ (UCLA Press Release, 25 July 2019).
Two years ago the first object of interstellar origin was found in our solar system. Compared to known asteroids and comets in the solar system, „Oumuamua“ shows some unusual properties. An international team of scientists including Susanne Pfalzner (FZ Jülich & MPIfR) shows in a new publication in „Nature Astronomy“ the natural origin of this first interstellar visitor (Press Release, University of Maryland, 01 July 2019). [more]
Richard Wielebinski, retired Director at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) receives the badge of honour for 50 years membership at the annual meeting of MPG in Hamburg on Thursday, 27 June 2019. He was appointed Director of the MPIfR in 1969. [more]
The 70th annual meeting of the Max Planck Society (MPG) takes place in Hamburg (June 25-27, 2019). 28 young scientists receive MPG’s Otto Hahn Medal, including Andrew Cameron from MPIfR Bonn for the successful search for new pulsars and the discovery of a new binary pulsar as a laboratory for testing the theory of general relativity (MPG Announcement, 26 June 2019).
The 2019 Merac Prize of the European Astronomical Society (EAS) in Observational Astrophysics is awarded to Dr. Evan Keane (SKA Organisation, UK, formerly MPIfR, Bonn) for investigations of the Transient Radio Sky and the discovery of the second Lorimer burst, now known as Fast Radio Bursts. Evan's work has been conducted at the Square Kilometer Array Organisation, United Kingdom, and at the Max Planck Institut für Radioastronomie, Germany and Swinburne University of Technology, Australia (EAS Announcement, 25 June 2019). [more]
The Max Planck Society (MPG) presents portraits of the first nine Lise Meitner Group Leaders including Laura Spitler from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn. Her research focuses on Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), short, one-off bursts of radio radiation that last a few milliseconds at (presumably) extragalactic distances (MPG Announcement, 25 June 2019). [more]
The NSF Diamond Achievement Award will be presented for the first time to Event Horizon Telescope project, an international team of researchers who recently captured the first-ever image of a black hole. "The award is an incentive for more than 200 members of the EHT team", says Anton Zensus, chair of the EHT board and Director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie. The institute is strongly involved in the project with more than 30 scientists from all three directoral groups, the Bonn correlator, the APEX telescope and the BlackHoleCam project (NSF press release, May 09, 2019). [more]
A bright „guest star“ is showing up in the night sky: comet 46P/Wirtanen. The airborne observatory SOFIA observed the comet in the nights from December 13 to 19 with the GREAT (German REceiver for Astronomy at Terahertz frequencies) instrument, built by MPIfR and Cologne University. In parallel, 46P/Wirtanen was observed with the APEX telescope in Chile (Clemens Plank, DLR Science Blog, December 2018, in German language). [more]
Two German stamps within the „Astrophysics“ series are issued on Tuesday, December 18, 2018. They have values of Euro 1.45 each and show a photo of the antennas of the ALMA Observatory at 5100 m altutude in Chile and a simulation of the ILLUSTRIS code for galaxy formation (HITS, Heidelberg).
Funding of the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 956, entitled „Conditions and Impact of Star Formation - Astrophysics, Instrumentation and Laboratory Research“, has just been extended for another period of 4 years. CRC 956 explores basic star-formation processes and with that is contributing to worldwide exchange of extended knowledge between researchers. It is jointly run by the I. Physikalische Institut der Universität Köln, the Argelander-Institut für Astronomie der Universität Bonn and the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie in Bonn. [more]