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).

Dwarf galaxies like “Wolf-Lundmark-Melotte” (WLM) are known to be pristine probes of the early Universe, especially when they are isolated and not interacting with massive galaxies. Observations of WLM with the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa have revealed its strong interaction with the intergalactic medium. An international team including Gyula Józsa from the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie has discovered that the neutral hydrogen gas of the galaxy is getting removed by the ram pressure caused by the movement of the galaxy through the intergalactic medium, thought to be a tenuous layer of gas residing between galaxies, the first time that an interaction with such a low-density medium has been discovered. This could revolutionize our understanding of dwarf galaxy evolution and formation.  The team concludes that either these nearly “empty” inter-galactic regions are not really empty, or that the WLM galaxy is dark matter deficient (OdP Press Release, April 27, 2022, original paper by Y. Yang et al., Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters, Vol. 660, L11, April 27, 2022).

Space urgently needs special legal protection similar to that given to land, sea and atmosphere to protect its fragile environment, a study argues. Michael Kramer, President of the Astronomische Gesellschaft and Director at MPIfR, is one of the co-authors of the study led by Andy Lawrence (Univ. of Edinburgh).
An influx of space debris in orbital space – around 100 kilometers above the earth’s surface – caused by the rapid growth of so-called satellite mega-constellations is endangering this precious ecosystem, researchers say.
The installation of these huge clusters of hardware, some with up to tens of thousands of satellites delivering broadband to Earth, are congesting space and rocket launches are also polluting the atmosphere.
Pieces of broken satellites, which travel at enormous speeds through orbital space threaten working satellites in their path, the paper says.
Furthermore, streaks from satellite flares, which cause light pollution, are increasingly disrupting research. The giant Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, which aims to carry out a 10-year Legacy Survey of Space and Time, has been badly affected, for example.
Space is an important environment for all professional astronomers, amateur stargazers and indigenous peoples and the scientific, economic and cultural benefits of space should be carefully considered against these damaging environmental impacts (AG Press Release, April 22, 2022).

The SOFIA flying observatory is a joint U.S.-German project (NASA & DLR). Although the nominal German project share is "only" 20%, the German side provides almost 50% of the instruments currently in operation with GREAT (German REceiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, jointly operated by MPIfR and I. Phys. Inst. of Cologne Univ.), FIFI-LS (Field-Imaging Far-Infrared Line-Spectrometer) and FPI+ (Focal Plane Imager Plus). This is reflected by the fact that between 2009 and 2019, 45% of the peer-reviewed SOFIA publications are based on observations with these instruments. These include publications in the renowned science journal "Nature" such as the first detection of helium hydride (HeH+) - the first type of molecule in the universe - with the German GREAT instrument. With the same instrument, in addition to observations of astronomical objects, researchers can in parallel determine the concentration of atomic oxygen in the Earth's mesosphere and lower thermosphere, which is important in these layers for atmospheric models and climate change predictions (SOFIA/USRA Status Report report "Future & Prospects", 52 pages, 34 MB pdf file, April 13, 2022).

Using the MeerKAT radio telescope in the Karoo region of South Africa, an international team of researchers including Hans-Rainer Klöckner from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (Bonn, Germany) discovered a powerful megamaser - a radio-wavelength laser indicative of colliding galaxies. This megamaser, dubbed “Nkalakatha” by the authors, is the most distant such object found so far.
The source was found in the framework of the LADUMA (“Looking at the Distant Universe with the MeerKAT Array”) project, one of the big MeerKAT science experiments, which is performing a sensitive search for neutral hydrogen gas in galaxies in one area of the sky, looking for sources very far from us, both in space and in time (ICRAR News Release, April 07, 2022).

Event Horizon Telescope 2022

Observing campaign in March 2022: world-wide radio telescope network performs observations with 11 participating telescopes more

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