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  • richardmitnick 12:44 pm on February 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , ,   

    From ALMA via ESO: “ALMA’s Hole in the Universe” 

    ALMA Array

    ALMA

    20 February 2017
    No writer credit

    1
    Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/T. Kitayama (Toho University, Japan)/ESA/Hubble & NASA

    The events surrounding the Big Bang were so cataclysmic that they left an indelible imprint on the fabric of the cosmos. We can detect these scars today by observing the oldest light in the Universe. As it was created nearly 14 billion years ago, this light — which exists now as weak microwave radiation and is thus named the cosmic microwave background (CMB) — has now expanded to permeate the entire cosmos, filling it with detectable photons.

    CMB per ESA/Planck
    CMB per ESA/Planck

    The CMB can be used to probe the cosmos via something known as the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich (SZ) effect, which was first observed over 30 years ago. We detect the CMB here on Earth when its constituent microwave photons travel to us through space. On their journey to us, they can pass through galaxy clusters that contain high-energy electrons. These electrons give the photons a tiny boost of energy. Detecting these boosted photons through our telescopes is challenging but important — they can help astronomers to understand some of the fundamental properties of the Universe, such as the location and distribution of dense galaxy clusters.

    This image shows the first measurements of the thermal Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile (in blue). Astronomers combined data from ALMA’s 7- and 12-metre antennas to produce the sharpest possible image. The target was one of the most massive known galaxy clusters, RX J1347.5–1145, the centre of which shows up here in the dark “hole” in the ALMA observations. The energy distribution of the CMB photons shifts and appears as a temperature decrease at the wavelength observed by ALMA, hence a dark patch is observed in this image at the location of the cluster.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon
    Stem Education Coalition

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    NRAO Small

    ESO 50 Large

    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 11:16 am on February 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , , , O-type stars, Rotating circumstellar discs, , Supermassive stars   

    From SRON: “Supermassive stars also formed from circumstellar discs” 

    sron-bloc
    SRON

    13 February 2017
    No writer credit found

    1
    Artist’s impression of a disk around an O-type protostar. No image credit.

    Supermassive stars also appear to be formed in a process that involves rotating circumstellar discs of dust, just like their smaller siblings with a ‘normal’ mass. This was revealed in new research by 24 scientists, among whom was Floris van der Tak (SRON), who wanted to know why stars do not all evolve to be the same.

    When a sun-like star is born from a cloud of gas and dust, the dust and gas do not fall directly onto the growing baby star. Dust that comes near the star first rotates in a disc around this protostar and is then added to the star via the disc. However, besides the very frequently occurring stars like our sun, there are also stars from far more massive categories, the biggest of which is the O-type. Such stars are at least ten times heavier than our sun.

    The researchers wondered whether they could also observe the birth of these heavy types of stars somewhere in the universe, and whether discs of dust revolved around these as well. If such discs were present, then they wanted to know how the properties of the discs of baby suns differed from those of their heavier family members.

    In 2015, the birth of such a heavy O-type star with a circumstellar disc had already been observed. The 24 researchers, led by Riccardo Cesaroni, have now described four more stars. They used the ALMA telescope in Chile to observe the stars in the infrared spectrum, which allowed them to observe the rotating discs as well.

    The heavy discs weigh about half of the protostar’s mass. That is a lot: in the case of sun-like protostar, the disc weighs about 1 to 10 percent of the protostar’s mass.

    “Furthermore, such weight makes the heavy discs unstable due to their own gravity. That might explain why this type of star can be far heavier than sun-like stars,” says Van der Tak.

    The researchers published their results in the renowned journal Astrophysics & Astronomy. A pre-print is already available at http://www.arcetri.astro.it/science/starform/preprints/cesa_29.pdf

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    sron-campus

    How did the Earth and life on it evolve? How do stars and planets evolve? How did the universe evolve? What is the position of the Earth and humankind in that immense universe? These are fundamental questions that have always intrigued humankind. Moreover, people have always possessed an urge to explore and push back the boundaries of science and technology.

    Science

    Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, Dutch astronomers have seen the added value of space missions for science. Reaching beyond the Earth’s atmosphere would open up new windows on the universe and provide fantastic views of our home planet. It would at last be possible to pick up cosmic radiation that never normally reached the Earth’s surface, such as X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared radiation. A wealth of scientific information from every corner of the universe would then become available.

    The first Dutch scientific rocket experiments and contributions to European and American satellites in the early 1960s, formed the start of an activity in which a small country would develop an enviable reputation: scientific space research.

    Groundbreaking technology

    Nowadays we take for granted images of the Earth from space, beautiful photos from the Hubble Space Telescope or landings of space vehicles on nearby planets. Yet sometimes we all too easily forget that none of these scientific successes would have been possible without the people who developed groundbreaking technology. Technology that sooner or later will also prove useful to life on Earth.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:16 pm on February 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , , Black-Hole Powered Jets Forge Fuel for Star Formation, ,   

    From ALMA: “Black-Hole Powered Jets Forge Fuel for Star Formation” 

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ALMA

    14 February 2017
    Nicolás Lira T.
    Press Coordinator
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 24 67 65 19
    Cell: +56 9 94 45 77 26
    Email: nicolas.lira@alma.cl

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 202 236 6324
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

    Masaaki Hiramatsu

    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory
Tokyo, Japan

    Tel: +81 422 34 3630

    E-mail: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    Richard Hook
    Public Information Officer, ESO

    Garching bei München, Germany

    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655

    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1
    Composite image showing how powerful radio jets from the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy in the Phoenix Cluster inflated huge “bubbles” in the hot, ionized gas surrounding the galaxy (the cavities inside the blue region imaged by NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory). Hugging the outside of these bubbles, ALMA discovered an unexpected trove of cold gas, the fuel for star formation (red). The background image is from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) H.Russell, et al.; NASA/ESA Hubble; NASA/CXC/MIT/M.McDonald et al.; B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

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    Phoenix cluster. http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/The_Phoenix_Massing

    Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered a surprising connection between a supermassive black hole and the galaxy where it resides.

    Powerful radio jets from the black hole – which normally suppress star formation – are stimulating the production of cold gas in the galaxy’s extended halo of hot gas. This newly identified supply of cold, dense gas could eventually fuel future star birth as well as feed the black hole itself.

    The researchers used ALMA to study a galaxy at the heart of the Phoenix Cluster, an uncommonly crowded collection of galaxies about 5.7 billion light-years from Earth.

    The central galaxy in this cluster harbors a supermassive black hole that is in the process of devouring star-forming gas, which fuels a pair of powerful jets that erupt from the black hole in opposite directions into intergalactic space. Astronomers refer to this type of black-hole powered system as an active galactic nucleus (AGN).

    Earlier research with NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory revealed that the jets from this AGN are carving out a pair of giant “radio bubbles,” huge cavities in the hot, diffuse plasma that surrounds the galaxy.

    NASA/Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    These expanding bubbles should create conditions that are too inhospitable for the surrounding hot gas to cool and condense, which are essential steps for future star formation.

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    ALMA image of cold molecular gas at the heart of the Phoenix Cluster. The filaments extending from the center hug enormous radio bubbles created by jets from a supermassive black hole. This discovery sheds light on the complex relationship between a supermassive black hole and its host galaxy. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), H. Russell et al.; B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

    The latest ALMA observations, however, reveal long filaments of cold molecular gas condensing around the outer edges of the radio bubbles. These filaments extend up to 82,000 light-years from either side of the AGN. They collectively contain enough material to make about 10 billion suns.

    4
    Artist impression of galaxy at the center of the Phoenix Cluster. Powerful radio jets from the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy are creating giant radio bubbles (blue) in the ionized gas surrounding the galaxy. ALMA has detected cold molecular gas (red) hugging the outside of the bubbles. This material could eventually fall into the galaxy where it could fuel future star birth and feed the supermassive black hole. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

    “With ALMA we can see that there’s a direct link between these radio bubbles inflated by the supermassive black hole and the future fuel for galaxy growth,” said Helen Russell, an astronomer with the University of Cambridge, UK, and lead author on a paper appearing in the Astrophysical Journal. “This gives us new insights into how a black hole can regulate future star birth and how a galaxy can acquire additional material to fuel an active black hole.”

    The AGN and Galaxy Growth Connection

    The new ALMA observations reveal previously unknown connections between an AGN and the abundance of cold molecular gas that fuels star birth.

    “To produce powerful jets, black holes must feed on the same material that the galaxy uses to make new stars,” said Michael McDonald, an astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and coauthor on the paper. “This material powers the jets that disrupt the region and quenches star formation. This illustrates how black holes can slow the growth of their host galaxies.”

    Without a significant source of heat, the most massive galaxies in the universe would be forming stars at extreme rates that far exceed observations. Astronomers believe that the heat, in the form of radiation and jets, from an actively feeding supermassive black hole prevents overcooling of the cluster’s hot gas atmosphere, suppressing star formation.

    This story, however, now appears more complex. In the Phoenix Cluster, Russell and her team found an additional process that ties the galaxy and its black hole together. The radio jets that heat the core of the cluster’s hot atmosphere also appear to stimulate the production of the cold gas required to sustain the AGN.

    “That’s what makes this result so surprising,” said Brian McNamara, an astronomer at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and co-author on the paper. “This supermassive black hole is regulating the growth of the galaxy by blowing bubbles and heating the gases around it. Remarkably, it also is cooling enough gas to feed itself.”

    This result helps astronomers understand the workings of the cosmic “thermostat” that controls the launching of radio jets from the supermassive black hole.

    “This could also explain how the most massive black holes were able to both suppress run-away starbursts and regulate the growth of their host galaxies over the past six billion years or so of cosmic history,” noted Russell.

    Additional information

    This research is presented in a paper titled ALMA observations of massive molecular gas filaments encasing radio bubbles in the Phoenix Cluster, by H.R. Russell et al., published in the Astrophysical Journal

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon
    Stem Education Coalition

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    NRAO Small

    ESO 50 Large

    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 4:27 pm on January 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , Milky-Way-Like Galaxies Seen in their Awkward Adolescent Years, , ,   

    From NRAO: “Milky-Way-Like Galaxies Seen in their Awkward Adolescent Years” 

    NRAO Icon
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory

    NRAO Banner

    December 20, 2016
    Charles Blue
    NRAO Public Information Officer
    +1 434.296.0314;
    cblue@nrao.edu

    1
    Four Milky-Way-like progenitor galaxies as seen as they would have appeared 9 billion years ago. ALMA observations of carbon monoxide (red) is superimposed on images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The carbon monoxide would most likely be suffused throughout the young galaxies. Credit. ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) C. Papovich; A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF); NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

    Spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way were not always the well-ordered, pinwheel-like structures we see in the universe today. Astronomers believe that about 8-10 billion years ago, progenitors of the Milky Way and similar spiral galaxies were smaller, less organized, but amazingly rich in star-forming material; so much so, that they would have been veritable star factories, churning out new stars faster than at any other point in their lifetimes. Now, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have found evidence to support this view. By studying four very young versions of galaxies like the Milky Way as they were seen approximately 9 billion years ago, the astronomers discovered that each galaxy was incredibly rich in carbon monoxide gas, a well-known tracer of star-forming gas. “We used ALMA to detect adolescent versions of the Milky Way and found that such galaxies do indeed have much higher amounts of molecular gas, which would fuel rapid star formation,” said Casey Papovich, an astronomer at Texas A&M University in College Station and lead author on a paper appearing in Nature Astronomy. “I liken these galaxies to an adolescent human who consumes prodigious amounts of food to fuel their own growth during their teenage years.” Though the relative abundance of star-forming gas is extreme in these galaxies, they are not yet fully formed and rather small compared to the Milky Way as we see it today. The new ALMA data indicate that the vast majority of the mass in these galaxies is in cold molecular gas rather than in stars. These observations, the astronomers note, are helping build a complete picture of how matter in Milky-Way-size galaxies evolved and how our own galaxy formed.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The NRAO operates a complementary, state-of-the-art suite of radio telescope facilities for use by the scientific community, regardless of institutional or national affiliation: the Very Large Array (VLA), the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA)*.

    ALMA Array

    NRAO ALMA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA
    Green Bank Observatory radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA, formerly supported by NSF, but now on its own
    NRAO VLA
    NRAO VLA

    The NRAO is building two new major research facilities in partnership with the international community that will soon open new scientific frontiers: the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), and the Expanded Very Large Array (EVLA). Access to ALMA observing time by the North American astronomical community will be through the North American ALMA Science Center (NAASC).
    *The Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) comprises ten radio telescopes spanning 5,351 miles. It’s the world’s largest, sharpest, dedicated telescope array. With an eye this sharp, you could be in Los Angeles and clearly read a street sign in New York City!

    Astronomers use the continent-sized VLBA to zoom in on objects that shine brightly in radio waves, long-wavelength light that’s well below infrared on the spectrum. They observe blazars, quasars, black holes, and stars in every stage of the stellar life cycle. They plot pulsars, exoplanets, and masers, and track asteroids and planets.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on January 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Starts Observing the Sun” This is a Blast 

    ALMA Array

    ALMA

    17 January 2017
    Nicolás Lira T.
    Press Coordinator
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 24 67 65 19
    Cell: +56 9 94 45 77 26
    Email: nicolas.lira@alma.cl

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 202 236 6324
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

    Richard Hook
    Public Information Officer, ESO

    Garching bei München, Germany

    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655

    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Masaaki Hiramatsu

    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory
Tokyo, Japan

    Tel: +81 422 34 3630

    E-mail: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    1
    This image of the entire Sun was taken at a wavelength of 617.3 nm. Light at this wavelength originates from the visible solar surface, the photosphere. A cooler, darker sunspot is clearly visible in the disk, and — as a visual comparison — a depiction from ALMA at a wavelength of 1.25 millimeters is shown. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF) | Full-disc solar image: Filtergram taken in Fe I 617.3 nm spectral line with the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Credit: NASA

    NASA/SDO
    NASA/SDO

    New images from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reveal stunning details of our Sun, including the dark, contorted center of an evolving sunspot nearly twice as large as the diameter of the Earth. These images are part of the testing and verification campaign to make ALMA’s solar observing capabilities available to the international astronomical community.

    Though designed principally to observe remarkably faint objects throughout the Universe — such as distant galaxies and planet-forming disks around young stars – ALMA is also capable of studying objects in our own Solar System, including planets, comets, and now our own Sun.

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    This ALMA image of an enormous sunspot was taken on 18 December 2015 with the Band 6 receiver at a wavelength of 1.25 millimeters. Sunspots are transient features that occur in regions where the Sun’s magnetic field is extremely concentrated and powerful. They are lower in temperature than their surrounding regions, which is why they appear relatively dark in visible light. The ALMA image is essentially a map of temperature differences in a layer of the Sun’s atmosphere known as the chromosphere, which lies just above the visible surface of the Sun (the photosphere). The chromosphere is considerably hotter than the photosphere. Understanding the heating and dynamics of the chromosphere are key areas of research that will be addressed by ALMA. Observations at shorter wavelengths probe deeper into the solar chromosphere than longer wavelengths. Hence, Band 6 observations map a layer of the chromosphere that is closer to the visible surface of the Sun than Band 3 observations. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

    During a 30-month period beginning in 2014, an international team of astronomers harnessed ALMA’s single-antenna and array capabilities to detect and image the millimeter-wavelength light emitted by the Sun’s chromosphere — the region that lies just above the photosphere, the visible surface of the Sun.

    4
    ALMA image of an enormous sunspot taken on 18 December 2015 with the Band 3 receiver at a wavelength of 3 millimeters. Sunspots are transient features that occur in regions where the Sun’s magnetic field is extremely concentrated and powerful. They are lower in temperature than their surrounding regions, which is why they appear relatively dark in visible light. The ALMA images are essentially maps of temperature differences in a layer of the Sun’s atmosphere known as the chromosphere, which lies just above the visible surface of the Sun (the photosphere). The chromosphere is considerably hotter than the photosphere. Understanding the heating and dynamics of the chromosphere are key areas of research that will be addressed by ALMA. Observations at shorter wavelengths probe deeper into the solar chromosphere than longer wavelengths. Hence, Band 6 observations map a layer of the chromosphere that is closer to the visible surface of the Sun than Band 3 observations. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

    These new images demonstrate ALMA’s ability to study solar activity at longer wavelengths than observed with typical solar telescopes on Earth, and are an important expansion of the range of observations that can be used to probe the physics of our nearest star.

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    This full map of the Sun at a wavelength of 1.25 mm was taken with a single ALMA antenna using a so-called “fast-scanning” technique. The accuracy and speed of observing with a single ALMA antenna makes it possible to produce a low-resolution map of the entire solar disk in just a few minutes. Such images can be used in their own right for scientific purposes, showing the distribution of temperatures in the chromosphere, the region of the solar atmosphere that lies just above the visible surface of the Sun. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

    “We’re accustomed to seeing how our Sun appears in visible light, but that can only tell us so much about the dynamic surface and energetic atmosphere of our nearest star,” said Tim Bastian, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia in the USA. “To fully understand the Sun, we need to study it across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including the millimeter and submillimeter portion that ALMA can observe.”

    Since our Sun is many billions of times brighter than the faint objects ALMA typically observes, the solar commissioning team had to developed special procedures to enable ALMA to safely image the Sun without damaging its sensitive electronics.

    The result of this work is a series of images that demonstrates ALMA’s unique vision and ability to study our Sun on multiple scales.

    The ALMA Solar Development Team includes Shin’ichiro Asayama, East Asia ALMA Support Center, Tokyo, Japan; Miroslav Barta, Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Ondrejov, Czech Republic; Tim Bastian, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, USA; Roman Brajsa, Hvar Observatory, Faculty of Geodesy, University of Zagreb, Croatia; Bin Chen, New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA; Bart De Pontieu, LMSAL, USA; Gregory Fleishman, New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA; Dale Gary, New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA; Antonio Hales, Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile; Akihiko Hirota, Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile; Hugh Hudson, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK; Richard Hills, Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, UK; Kazumasa Iwai, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Japan; Sujin Kim, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Daejeon, Republic of Korea; Neil Philips, Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile; Tsuyoshi Sawada, Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile; Masumi Shimojo, NAOJ, Tokyo, Japan; Giorgio Siringo, Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile; Ivica Skokic, Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Ondrejov, Czech Republic; Sven Wedemeyer, Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo, Norway; Stephen White, AFRL, USA; Pavel Yagoubov, ESO, Garching, Germany; and Yihua Yan, NAO, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    STEM Icon
    Stem Education Coalition

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

    NRAO Small

    ESO 50

    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on January 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , , , , ,   

    From Motherboard: “An Earth-Sized Telescope is About to ‘See’ a Black Hole For the First Time” 

    motherboard

    Motherboard

    January 13, 2017
    William Rauscher

    We were perched dizzyingly high in the Chilean Andes, ringed by a herd of sixty-six white giants. Through the broad windows of the low, nondescript building in which we stood, we could see massive white radio antennas outside against the Martian-red soil of the desolate Chajnantor Plateau, their dishes thrust towards a pure blue sky.

    This is the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, also known as ALMA—one of the world’s largest radio telescope arrays, an international partnership that spans four continents. In spring of 2017, ALMA, along with eight other telescopes around the world, will aim towards the center of the Milky Way, around 25,000 light years from Earth, in an attempt to capture the first-ever image of a black hole. This is part of a daring astronomy project called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    My partner Dave Robertson and I took turns huffing from a can of oxygen to stave off the altitude sickness that can come on at 16,500 feet. Our guide Danilo Vidal, an energetic Chilean who wore his dark hair in a ponytail, pointed to a grey metal door with a glass window. “If we open that door,” said Vidal, “everyone in science will hate us for the rest of our lives.” Confused by this cryptic statement, I took another hit from the oxygen and peered through the glass, into the heart of the experiment.

    Among a small forest of processors, I could see an eggshell-white box that resembled a dorm room refrigerator. Inside was the brand-new maser, an ultraprecise atomic clock that syncs up every antenna on-site, and then syncs ALMA itself to the Event Horizon Telescope’s global network, lending so much dish-space and processing power that it effectively doubles the entire network’s resolution.

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    Christophe Jacques of the NRAO inspects the wiring on ALMA’s new hydrogen maser atomic clock during installation. Image: Carlos Padilla/NRAO/AUI/NSF

    To keep equipment from overheating, the room is kept at an absurdly low temperature—very close to absolute zero. If we opened the door, Vidal explained, emergency systems would instantly shut down the maser to protect it, and ALMA’s beating heart would stop, ruining multiple international astronomy projects, including the EHT.

    Claudio Follert, an ALMA fiber-optic specialist in his mid-fifties, was there in 2014 when the maser first arrived—he told me it was a machine he had never seen before, carried in by strange men. The men were sent by the EHT, which is based out of MIT.

    The EHT is made possible by the maser’s astonishing precision—about one billion times more precise than the clock in your smartphone.

    Designed by an international team led by MIT scientist Shep Doeleman, the EHT is the first of its kind-a global telescope network that uses a technique called interferometry to synthesize astronomical data from multiple sources, each with its own maser—including ALMA in Chile, the Large Millimeter Telescope atop the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Virginia.

    Together, these telescopes create a super-telescope that is quite literally the size of the Earth, with enough resolution to photograph an orange on the Moon.

    With ALMA recently added to this Avengers-like team of radio telescopes, the network is ten times more sensitive. As a result, Doeleman’s group believes it has the firepower to penetrate the interstellar gases that cloak their targets: supermassive black holes. Drawn into orbit by the black holes’ gravity, these gases form gargantuan clouds that yield nothing to optical telescopes.

    Faint radio signals from the black holes, on the other hand, slip through the gas clouds and are ultimately detected on Earth.

    Black holes are the folk legends of outer space. Since no light can escape them, they’re invisible to the eye, and we have no confirmation that they actually exist—only heaps of indirect evidence, particularly the gravitational wobbles in orbits of nearby stars, the behavior of interstellar gas clouds, and the gaseous jets that spew into space when an unseen source of extreme gravity appears to rip cosmic matter to shreds.

    Black holes challenge our most fundamental beliefs about reality. Visionary scientific minds, including the theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, have devoted entire books to unpacking the hallucinatory scenarios thought to be induced by black holes’ gravitational forces—imagine the bottom of your body violently wrenched away from the top, physically stretching you like a Looney Tunes character, a scenario that Thorne’s Black Holes and Time Warps paints in stomach-churning detail.

    2
    An image from the heart of the Milky Way from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The supermassive black hole is at the center. Image: NASA/CXC/MIT/F. Baganoff et al.

    NASA/Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra Telescope

    Sag A*  NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way
    Sag A* NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory 23 July 2014, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way

    Black holes are thought to lurk at the centers of galaxies including our own. Prove the existence of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, and you are one step closer to solving another mystery: the origin of humankind, and all life as we know it.

    “The black hole at the center of our galaxy has everything to do with our own origin,” said Violette Impellizzeri, an ALMA astronomer collaborating with Event Horizon Telescope. Supermassive black holes are thought to regulate the stars that surround them, influencing their formation and orbit. “Understanding how our galaxy was formed leads to our own origin directly,” she said.

    Scientists estimate the mass of Sagittarius A* to be four million times that of our Sun, yet its diameter is roughly equal to the distance from our sun to Mercury—not much, in cosmic terms. The resulting density produces gravity so strong that space and time distort around it, making it invisible.

    The current theory, espoused by Thorne, is that the distance from the center of a black hole, known as the singularity, to its edge, known as the event horizon, becomes so warped that it nears infinite length, and light simply runs out of energy as it tries to escape.

    It took Doeleman, the project leader at MIT, to decide that in order to see the unseeable, you would first have to create a new kind of vision. With ALMA as part of the giant EHT network, we can take a radio “photograph” of the matter that orbits Sagittarius A*—called the accretion disk—and finally see the black hole in shadow: its first-ever portrait.

    • Vidal and Follert, the guide and fiber-optic specialist, led us out onto the plateaus. There was work to do: one of the antennas was hobbled by a damaged radio receptor.

    It was blindingly bright and windy, not to mention dry—Chajnantor is located in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, if you don’t count the poles. Completely inhospitable for human beings, Chajnantor is an ideal setting for a radio telescope: the elevation puts it closer to the stars, and the strikingly low water vapor keeps the cosmic signals pristine.

    For some, like ALMA’s crew, as well as Doeleman, the extreme environment is part of the attraction. “I just love getting to the telescopes,” he said. At 50, Doeleman is fresh-faced, with glasses and thinning hair that make him look every part the bookish scientist. His outgoing personality and entrepreneurial vigor reflect an explorer’s spirit more at home in the field than behind a desk.

    Doeleman regularly travels to each EHT site around the world, many of them located in extreme environments like the Andes or the Sierra Negra. “The adventure part is what motivates me—driving along dirt roads, up the sides of mountains, to install new instruments, doing observations that have never been done before. It’s a little bit like Jacques Cousteau—we’re not sitting in armchairs in our offices.”

    Outside on Chajnantor, I felt light-headed. I tried to keep my breathing steady: low oxygen can quickly wreck your mental faculties. On the plateau, Dave and I were dwarfed by ALMA’s antennas, which blocked out the desert sun. They felt powerful and eerie, like Easter Island statues. Even when standing directly beneath these behemoths, it wasn’t clear how they were controlled—the white dishes seemed to twist and pivot without warning.

    3
    Using a technique called interferometry, ALMA’s antennas can be configured to act as one giant antenna, and ALMA itself can be synced up with telescopes worldwide. Image: Dave Robertson

    An ALMA antenna is useless when one of its radio receptors is out of tune. We followed Follert up several steel ladders, boots clanging on metal, until we were in a low-ceilinged maintenance room inside one of the antennas. We helped him remove the damaged receptor, a long metal cylinder resembling a futuristic bazooka.

    Vidal drove us back down the mountain to the Operations Support Facility (OSF), ALMA’s headquarters, so we could see the lab where receptors are maintained.

    Per strict international regulations, Vidal was required to breathe through an oxygen tube as he drove, lest the high altitude cause him to lose consciousness behind the wheel.

    As we descended, Vidal radioed at regular intervals to identify our location. All around us the mountain slopes were red, rocky and barren—no wonder that NASA regularly deploys expeditions to this desert to replicate conditions on Mars.

    Located at 9,000 ft, the OSF is where ALMA’s staff call home: a total of 600 scientists working in shifts are based here, including engineers and technicians, from over 20 countries. The working conditions can be extreme. Staff hole up in weeklong shifts separated from friends and family, and endure the short and long-term health risks of high elevation, including a stroke or pulmonary edema, where fluid fills your lungs and you suffocate.

    It is thus maybe not surprising to find out that the entire staff are monitored regularly by medical personnel, and that emergency oxygen and a hyperbaric chamber are on-hand.

    They unwind by exercising and watching movies, although certain sci-fi flicks are frowned upon. “We need a break from space sometimes,” said Follert. Alcohol consumption on site is strictly forbidden—have even a tipple and you risk amplifying the physical effects of high elevation.

    4
    Aerial picture of ALMA’s Operations Support Facility. Image: Carlos Padilla/NRAO/AUI/NSF

    The close teamwork at ALMA is absolutely essential for the life of the observatory. Detecting cosmic radio signals, including those sent from a black hole, requires constant cooperation across teams, who must obsessively calibrate, maintain and repair their instruments to fend off unwanted noise.

    ALMA and the other telescopes on the EHT will soon turn towards the center of the Milky Way to tune in to the black hole’s narrow radio frequency. The data that ALMA collects will be so large, it cannot be transferred online. Instead, physical hard drives will shipped by “sneakernet”: loaded into the belly of a 747 and flown directly to MIT.

    When ALMA’s data is correlated with the other telescopes later this year, Sagittarius A* should appear against the glowing gas of the accretion disk. Maybe.

    Actually, said Doeleman, “we don’t know what we’re going to see. Nature can be cruel. We may see something boring. But we’re not married to one outcome—we’re going to see nature the way nature is.”

    See the full article here .

    The full EHT:

    Event Horizon Telescope Array

    Event Horizon Telescope map

    The locations of the radio dishes that will be part of the Event Horizon Telescope array. Image credit: Event Horizon Telescope sites, via University of Arizona at https://www.as.arizona.edu/event-horizon-telescope.

    Arizona Radio Observatory
    Arizona Radio Observatory/Submillimeter-wave Astronomy (ARO/SMT)

    ESO/APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment (APEX)

    CARMA Array no longer in service
    Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA)

    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)
    Atacama Submillimeter Telescope Experiment (ASTE)

    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

    IRAM NOEMA interferometer
    Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique (IRAM) 30m

    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA
    James Clerk Maxwell Telescope interior, Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

    CfA Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
    Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO

    Future Array/Telescopes

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array, Chile

    Plateau de Bure interferometer
    Plateau de Bure interferometer

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL
    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

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    The future is wonderful, the future is terrifying. We should know, we live there. Whether on the ground or on the web, Motherboard travels the world to uncover the tech and science stories that define what’s coming next for this quickly-evolving planet of ours.

    Motherboard is a multi-platform, multimedia publication, relying on longform reporting, in-depth blogging, and video and film production to ensure every story is presented in its most gripping and relatable format. Beyond that, we are dedicated to bringing our audience honest portraits of the futures we face, so you can be better informed in your decision-making today.

     
    • Jim Ruebush 1:51 pm on January 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting. I look forward to seeing results. The radio telescopes at Atacama are the subject of a blog post of mine a few years ago. http://bit.ly/2jpp7hl

      Only 2 miles from my home in Iowa is a radio telescope part of the VLBA. I’ve been fortunate to go up inside and stand in the dish. What fun.

      Keep up the good work and posts.

      Like

  • richardmitnick 11:11 am on December 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , , First Light for Band 5 at ALMA   

    From ALMA and ESO: “First Light for Band 5 at ALMA” 

    ALMA Array

    ALMA

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    21 December 2016
    Leonardo Testi
    European ALMA Programme Scientist, ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6541
    Email: ltesti@eso.org

    Robert Laing
    ESO ALMA Scientist
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6625
    Email: rlaing@eso.org

    Nicolás Lira T.
    Education and Public Outreach Coordinator
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 24 67 65 19
    Cell: +56 9 94 45 77 26
    Email: nicolas.lira@alma.cl

    Richard Hook
    Public Information Officer, ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    Masaaki Hiramatsu
    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory Tokyo, Japan
    Tel: +81 422 34 3630
    E-mail: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 202 236 6324
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

    With the First Light for Band 5, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has begun observing in a new range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This has been made possible thanks to new receivers installed at the telescope’s antennas, which can detect radio waves with wavelengths from 1.4 to 1.8 millimeters — a range previously untapped by ALMA. This upgrade allows astronomers to detect faint signals of water in the nearby Universe.

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile has begun observing in a new range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This has been made possible thanks to new receivers installed at the telescope’s antennas, which can detect radio waves with wavelengths from 1.4 to 1.8 millimetres — a range previously untapped by ALMA. This upgrade allows astronomers to detect faint signals of water in the nearby Universe.

    ALMA observes radio waves from the Universe, at the low-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum. With the newly installed Band 5 receivers, ALMA has now opened its eyes to a whole new section of this radio spectrum, creating exciting new observational possibilities.

    The European ALMA Programme Scientist, Leonardo Testi, explains the significance: “The new receivers will make it much easier to detect water, a prerequisite for life as we know it, in our Solar System and in more distant regions of our galaxy and beyond. They will also allow ALMA to search for ionised carbon in the primordial Universe.”

    2
    The compound view shows a new ALMA Band 5 view of the colliding galaxy system Arp 220 (in red) on top of an image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (blue/green). With the newly installed Band 5 receivers, ALMA has now opened its eyes to a whole new section of this radio spectrum, creating exciting new observational possibilities and improving the telescope’s ability to search for water in the Universe. This image is one of the first taken using Band 5 and was intended to verify the scientific capability of the new receivers. Credit: ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

    It is ALMA’s unique location, 5000 metres up on the barren Chajnantor plateau in Chile, that makes such an observation possible in the first place. As water is also present in Earth’s atmosphere, observatories in less elevated and less arid environments have much more difficulty identifying the origin of the emission coming from space. ALMA’s great sensitivity and high angular resolution mean that even faint signals of water in the local Universe can now be imaged at this wavelength [1].

    The Band 5 receiver, which was developed by the Group for Advanced Receiver Development (GARD) at Onsala Space Observatory, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, has already been tested at the APEX telescope in the SEPIA instrument. These observations were also vital to help select suitable targets for the first receiver tests with ALMA.

    The first production receivers were built and delivered to ALMA in the first half of 2015 by a consortium consisting of the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) and GARD in partnership with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which contributed the local oscillator to the project. The receivers are now installed and being prepared for use by the community of astronomers.

    6
    Band 5 receiver integrated with receivers for all the other current ALMA Bands (3 to 10). Credit: N. Tabilo – ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO).

    To test the newly installed receivers observations were made of several objects including the colliding galaxies Arp 220, a massive region of star formation close to the centre of the Milky Way, and also a dusty red supergiant star approaching the supernova explosion that will end its life [2].

    7
    This picture shows one of the Band 5 receiver cartridges built for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Extremely weak signals from space are collected by the ALMA antennas and focussed onto the receivers, which transform the faint radiation into an electrical signal. The Band 5 receivers detect electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths between about 1.4 and 1.8 millimeters (211 and 163 gigahertz). The receivers were originally designed, developed, and prototyped by Onsala Space Observatory’s Advanced Receiver Development group, based at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, in collaboration with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, and the European southern Observatory (ESO), under the European Commission (EC) supported Framework Programme FP6 (ALMA Enhancement). Band 5 of ALMA achieved first fringes in July 2015 and first science observations were made in late 2016. Credit: Onsala Space Observatory/Alexey Pavolotsky

    To process the data and check its quality, astronomers, along with technical specialists from ESO and the European ALMA Regional Centre (ARC) network, gathered at the Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden, for a “Band 5 Busy Week” hosted by the Nordic ARC node [3]. The final results have just been made freely available to the astronomical community worldwide.

    7
    This picture shows one of the Band 5 receiver cartridges built for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Extremely weak signals from space are collected by the ALMA antennas and focussed onto the receivers, which transform the faint radiation into an electrical signal. The Band 5 receivers detect electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths between about 1.4 and 1.8 millimeters (211 and 163 gigahertz). The receivers were originally designed, developed, and prototyped by Onsala Space Observatory’s Advanced Receiver Development group, based at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, in collaboration with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, and ESO, under the European Commission (EC) supported Framework Programme FP6 (ALMA Enhancement). Band 5 of ALMA achieved first fringes in July 2015 and the first science observations were made in late 2016. Credit: Onsala Space Observatory/B. Billade

    Team member Robert Laing at ESO is optimistic about the prospects for ALMA Band 5 observations: “It’s very exciting to see these first results from ALMA Band 5 using a limited set of antennas. In the future, the high sensitivity and angular resolution of the full ALMA array will allow us to make detailed studies of water in a wide range of objects including forming and evolved stars, the interstellar medium and regions close to supermassive black holes.”
    Notes

    [1] A key spectral signature of water lies in this expanded range — at a wavelength of 1.64 millimetres.

    [2] The observations were performed and made possible by the ALMA Extension of Capabilities team in Chile.

    [3] The ESO Band 5 Science Verification team includes: Elizabeth Humphreys, Tony Mroczkowski, Robert Laing, Katharina Immer, Hau-Yu (Baobab) Liu, Andy Biggs, Gianni Marconi and Leonardo Testi. The team working on processing the data included: Tobia Carozzi, Simon Casey, Sabine König, Ana Lopez-Sepulcre, Matthias Maercker, Iván Martí-Vidal, Lydia Moser, Sebastien Muller, Anita Richards, Daniel Tafoya and Wouter Vlemmings.

    See the full ESO article here .
    Seethe full CfA article here .
    See the full ALMA article here .

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    ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

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    ESO 50 Large

    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 10:09 pm on December 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , Texas A&M-Led Study Helps Prove Galaxy Evolution Theory   

    From Texas A&M: “Texas A&M-Led Study Helps Prove Galaxy Evolution Theory” 

    Texas A&M logo

    Texas A&M

    1
    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), as captured in phenomenal panorama from 5,000 meters at Chilean Altiplano — the highlands of the Andes Mountains. The Milky Way was passing through its zenith at that very moment, and Zodiacal light is also visible in the lower part of the image, with Venus shining through as well. (Credit: Yuri Beletsky, Carnegie Observatories.)

    “We used ALMA to detect adolescent versions of the Milky Way and found that such galaxies do indeed have much higher amounts of molecular gas, which would fuel rapid star formation. I liken these galaxies to an adolescent human who consumes prodigious amounts of food to fuel their own growth during their teenage years.”
    Dr. Casey Papovich, Texas A&M astronomer

    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at  Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

    2
    Composite image of the molecular gas (indicated in red), superimposed on Hubble Space Telescope images of the four young Milky Way-like galaxies studied by Texas A&M astronomer Casey Papovich and his collaborators using ALMA. These Hubble images are much sharper than the images of the gas from ALMA. Therefore, while the gas appears as a halo here, Papovich says it is more likely to be co-spatial with the starlight in the galaxies. (Credit: National Radio Astronomy Observatory.)

    Everyone has a backstory, even our own Milky Way galaxy. And much like social media, the picture is not always as pretty as it appears on the current surface, says Texas A&M University astronomer Casey Papovich.

    Papovich notes that large disk galaxies like our own Milky Way were not always the well-ordered, pinwheel-like, spiral structures we see in the universe today. On the contrary, he and other international experts who specialize in galaxy formation and evolution believe that about 8-to-10 billion years ago, progenitors of the Milky Way and similar disk/spiral galaxies were smaller and less organized, yet highly active in their youth.

    In previous NASA and National Science Foundation-funded research, Papovich and his collaborators showed that these younger versions of such galaxies were churning out new stars faster than at any other point in their lifespans, suggesting that they must be amazingly rich in star-forming material. And now, they have compelling evidence — the galactic equivalent of a smoking gun.

    Using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) — a huge, highly sophisticated radio telescope array situated at 16,500 feet altitude in the high desert of Chile — a Papovich-led team of astronomers studied four very young versions of galaxies like the Milky Way that are 9 billion light-years distant, meaning the team could see them as they looked approximately 9 billion years ago. They discovered that each galaxy was incredibly rich in carbon monoxide — a well-known tracer of molecular gas, which is the fuel for star formation.

    The team’s findings are reported in a paper posted to arXiv and set to be published in the inaugural issue of Nature Astronomy in January.

    “We used ALMA to detect adolescent versions of the Milky Way and found that such galaxies do indeed have much higher amounts of molecular gas, which would fuel rapid star formation,” said Papovich, lead author on the paper and a member of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. “I liken these galaxies to an adolescent human who consumes prodigious amounts of food to fuel their own growth during their teenage years.”

    In addition to Papovich, the research team also includes fellow Texas A&M astronomers Ryan Quadri and Kim-Vy Tran, as well as astronomers from Leiden Observatory in Holland, Swinburne University and Macquarie University in Australia, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), the University of Texas at Austin, Lyon Observatory in France and the Max Plank Institute for Astronomy in Germany.

    Though the relative abundance of star-forming gas is extreme in these galaxies, Papovich says they are not yet fully formed and rather small compared to the Milky Way as we see it today. The new ALMA data indicate that the vast majority of the mass in these galaxies is in cold molecular gas rather than in stars — a situation that Papovich says is reversed at present in our Milky Way, where the mass in stars outweighs that in gas by a factor of 10 to 1. These observations, he notes, are helping build a complete picture of how matter in Milky-Way-size galaxies evolved and how our own galaxy formed.

    “Most stars today exist in galaxies like the Milky Way, so by studying how galaxies like our own formed, we’ve come to understand the most typical locations of stars in the universe,” said Papovich, a member since 2008 of the Texas A&M Department of Physics and Astronomy, where he is a co-holder of the Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68 Chair in Experimental Physics. “Our current research shows that Milky Way-mass galaxies appear to accumulate most of their gas during their first few billion years of history. At that stage, they have most of the fuel they need to produce the stars they currently encompass in the present.”

    The presence of extensive gas reservoirs backs up the team’s previous observations that provided the first tangible pictures showcasing the unprecedented life story of Milky Way galaxy evolution. Among other details, their prior study revealed a stellar birth rate 30 times higher than it is in the Milky Way today — roughly one per year, compared to about 30 each year 9.5 billion years ago.

    “Thanks to ALMA and other innovative instruments that allow us to peer 9 billion years into the past to analyze galaxies that are likely similar to the progenitor of our own Milky Way galaxy, we can actually prove what our observations show,” Papovich said.

    Papovich and his team recently have been awarded more highly competitive time with ALMA to study the temperature and density of the star-forming gas, allowing them to measure and map its transitions and phases and ideally the related impacts within the galaxies.

    “This will begin to tell us how these galaxies formed stars at such a rapid pace, compared to conditions at present,” he said.

    Papovich, Quadri and Tran are among roughly two dozen astronomers around the world who have spent years studying carefully selected distant galaxies similar in mass to the progenitor of our own Milky Way that were found in two deep-sky program surveys of the universe, the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) and the FourStar Galaxy Evolution Survey (ZFOURGE). Beyond ALMA, the team’s research has used observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory.

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope
    “NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Telescope
    NASA/Spitzer Telescope

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft
    ESA/Herschel spacecraft

    The Hubble images from the CANDELS survey also provided structural information about galaxy sizes and how they evolved. Far-infrared light observations from Spitzer and Herschel helped the astronomers trace the star-formation rate.

    See the full article here .

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    Home to more than 50,000 students, ranking as the sixth-largest university in the country, with more than 370,000 former students worldwide.
    Holds membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities, one of only 62 institutions with this distinction.
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  • richardmitnick 3:00 pm on December 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, ALMA Finds Compelling Evidence for Pair of Infant Planets around Young Star, , , ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Finds Compelling Evidence for Pair of Infant Planets around Young Star” 

    ALMA Array

    ALMA

    09 December 2016
    Nicolás Lira T.
    Education and Public Outreach Coordinator
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 24 67 65 19
    Cell: +56 9 94 45 77 26
    Email: nicolas.lira@alma.cl

    Laura Pérez
    Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy
    Bonn, Germany
    Email: lperez@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 202 236 6324
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

    Masaaki Hiramatsu
    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory Tokyo, Japan
    Tel: +81 422 34 3630
    E-mail: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    Richard Hook
    Public Information Officer, ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
    Cell: +49 151 1537 3591
    Email: rhook@eso.org

    1
    Composite image of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star HD 163296. The inner red area shows the dust of the protoplanetary disk. The broader blue disk is the carbon monoxide gas in the system. ALMA observed that in the outer two gaps in the dust, there was a significant dip in the concentration of carbon monoxide, suggesting two planets are forming there. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); A. Isella; B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

    Astronomers now know that our galaxy is teeming with planets, from rocky worlds roughly the size of Earth to gas giants bigger than Jupiter. Nearly every one of these exoplanets has been discovered in orbit around a mature star with a fully evolved planetary system.

    New observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) contain compelling evidence that two newborn planets, each about the size of Saturn, are in orbit around a young star known as HD 163296. These planets, which are not yet fully formed, revealed themselves by the dual imprint they left in both the dust and the gas portions of the star’s protoplanetary disk.

    2
    ALMA image of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star HD 163296 as seen in dust. New observations suggested that two planets, each about the size of Saturn, are in orbit around the star. These planets, which are not yet fully formed, revealed themselves by the dual imprint they left in both the dust and the gas portions of the star’s protoplanetary disk. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); A. Isella; B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

    Previous observations of other young star systems have helped to reshape our understanding of planet formation. For example, ALMA’s images of HL Tauri and TW Hydrae revealed striking gaps and prominent ring structures in the stars’ dusty disks. These features may be the tantalizing first signs that planets are being born. Remarkably, these signs appeared around much younger stars than astronomers thought possible, suggesting that planet formation can begin soon after the formation of a protoplanetary disk.

    “ALMA has shown us amazing images and never-before-seen views of the rings and gaps around young stars that could be the hallmarks of planet formation. However, since we were only looking at the dust in the disks with sufficient detail, we couldn’t be sure what created these features,” said Andrea Isella, an astronomer at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and lead author on a paper published in Physical Review Letters.

    In studying HD 163296, the research team used ALMA to trace, for the first time, the distribution of both the dust and the carbon monoxide (CO) gas components of the disk at roughly the same level of detail.

    These observations revealed three distinct gaps in HD 163296’s dust-filled protoplanetary disk. The first gap is located approximately 60 astronomical units from the central star, which is about twice the distance from our Sun to Neptune (An astronomical unit – AU – is the average distance from the Earth to the Sun.). The other two gaps are 100 AU and 160 AU from the central star, well beyond the extent of our solar system’s Kuiper Belt, the region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

    Using ALMA’s ability to detect the faint millimeter-wavelength “glow” emitted by gas molecules, Isella and his team discovered that there was also an appreciable dip in the amount of CO in the outer two dust gaps.

    By seeing the same features in both the gas and the dust components of the disk, the astronomers believe they have found compelling evidence that there are two planets coalescing remarkably far from the central star. The width and depth of the two CO gaps suggest that each potential planet is roughly the same mass as Saturn, the astronomers said.

    In the gap nearest to the star, the team found little to no difference in the concentration of CO gas compared to the surrounding dusty disk. This means that the innermost gap could have been produced by something other than an emerging planet.

    4
    Artist impression of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star HD 163296. By studying the dust (ruddy brown) and carbon monoxide gas (light blue) profiles of the disk, astronomers discovered tantalizing evidence that two planets are forming in the outer two dust gaps in the disk. Credit: B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

    “Dust and gas behave very differently around young stars,” said Isella. “We know, for example, that there are certain chemical and physical process that can produce ringed structures in the dust like the ones we have seen previously. We certainly believe these structures could be the work of a nascent planet plowing through the dust, but we simply can’t rule out other possible explanations. Our new observations provide intriguing evidence that planets are indeed forming around this one young star.”

    HD 163296 is roughly 5 million years old and about twice the mass of the Sun. It is located approximately 400 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

    Additional information

    This research is presented in a paper titled Ringed structure of the HD 163296 disk revealed by ALMA, by Isella et al., published in Physical Review Letters.

    See the full article here .

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    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan.

    ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

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  • richardmitnick 1:20 pm on December 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , L2 Puppis, Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?   

    From astrobio.net: “Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?” 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Astrobiology Magazine

    Dec 9, 2016
    No writer credit found

    1
    Composite view of L2 Puppis in visible light | © P. Kervella et al. (CNRS/U. de Chile/Observatoire de Paris/LESIA/ESO/ALMA)

    What will happen to Earth when, in a few billion years’ time, the Sun is a hundred times bigger than it is today? Using the most powerful radio telescope in the world, an international team of astronomers has set out to look for answers in the star L2 Puppis.

    3
    L2 Puppis http://www.surastronomico.com/variable-10-l2-puppis.html

    Five billion years ago, this star was very similar to the Sun as it is today.

    “Five billion years from now, the Sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size,” says Professor Leen Decin from the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy. “It will also experience an intense mass loss through a very strong stellar wind. The end product of its evolution, 7 billion years from now, will be a tiny white dwarf star. This will be about the size of the Earth, but much heavier: one tea spoon of white dwarf material weighs about 5 tons.”

    This metamorphosis will have a dramatic impact on the planets of our Solar System. Mercury and Venus, for instance, will be engulfed in the giant star and destroyed.

    “But the fate of the Earth is still uncertain,” continues Decin. “We already know that our Sun will be bigger and brighter, so that it will probably destroy any form of life on our planet. But will the Earth’s rocky core survive the red giant phase and continue orbiting the white dwarf?”

    2
    ALMA is the world’s largest observatory at millimetre wavelengths. It is installed on the high-altitude plateau of Chajnantor in the Atacama desert (Chile). It consists of 66 individual radio antennas used jointly to synthesize a giant virtual telescope of 16 km in diameter. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

    To answer this question, an international team of astronomers observed the evolved star L2 Puppis. This star is 208 light years away from Earth – which, in astronomy terms, means nearby. The researchers used the ALMA radio telescope, which consists of 66 individual radio antennas that together form a giant virtual telescope with a 16-kilometre diameter.

    “We discovered that L2 Puppis is about 10 billion years old,” says Ward Homan from the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy. “Five billion years ago, the star was an almost perfect twin of our Sun as it is today, with the same mass. One third of this mass was lost during the evolution of the star. The same will happen with our Sun in the very distant future.”

    300 million kilometres from L2 Puppis – or twice the distance between the Sun and the Earth – the researchers detected an object orbiting the giant star. In all likelihood, this is a planet that offers a unique preview of our Earth five billion years from now.

    A deeper understanding of the interactions between L2 Puppis and its planet will yield valuable information on the final evolution of the Sun and its impact on the planets in our Solar System. Whether the Earth will eventually survive the Sun or be destroyed is still uncertain. L2 Puppis may be the key to answering this question.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

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    NASA

     
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