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  • richardmitnick 1:32 pm on April 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “ALMA Reveals Intense Magnetic Field Close to Supermassive Black Hole” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    16 April 2015
    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
    Cell: +56 9 75871963
    Email: vfoncea@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

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 434.242.9559
    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

    1
    This artist’s impression shows the surroundings of a supermassive black hole, typical of that found at the heart of many galaxies. The black hole itself is surrounded by a brilliant accretion disc of very hot, infalling material and, further out, a dusty torus. There are also often high-speed jets of material ejected at the black hole’s poles that can extend huge distances into space. Observations with ALMA have detected a very strong magnetic field close to the black hole at the base of the jets and this is probably involved in jet production and collimation.

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has revealed an extremely powerful magnetic field, beyond anything previously detected in the core of a galaxy, very close to the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. This new observation helps astronomers to understand the structure and formation of these massive inhabitants of the centres of galaxies, and the twin high-speed jets of plasma they frequently eject from their poles. The results appear in the 17 April 2015 issue of the journal Science.

    Supermassive black holes, often with masses billions of times that of the Sun, are located at the heart of almost all galaxies in the Universe. These black holes can accrete huge amounts of matter in the form of a surrounding disc. While most of this matter is fed into the black hole, some can escape moments before capture and be flung out into space at close to the speed of light as part of a jet of plasma. How this happens is not well understood, although it is thought that strong magnetic fields, acting very close to the event horizon, play a crucial part in this process, helping the matter to escape from the gaping jaws of darkness.

    Up to now only weak magnetic fields far from black holes — several light-years away — had been probed [1]. In this study, however, astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology and Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden have now used ALMA to detect signals directly related to a strong magnetic field very close to the event horizon of the supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy named PKS 1830-211. This magnetic field is located precisely at the place where matter is suddenly boosted away from the black hole in the form of a jet.

    The team measured the strength of the magnetic field by studying the way in which light was polarised, as it moved away from the black hole.

    “Polarisation is an important property of light and is much used in daily life, for example in sun glasses or 3D glasses at the cinema,” says Ivan Marti-Vidal, lead author of this work. “When produced naturally, polarisation can be used to measure magnetic fields, since light changes its polarisation when it travels through a magnetised medium. In this case, the light that we detected with ALMA had been travelling through material very close to the black hole, a place full of highly magnetised plasma.”

    The astronomers applied a new analysis technique that they had developed to the ALMA data and found that the direction of polarisation of the radiation coming from the centre of PKS 1830-211 had rotated [2]. These are the shortest wavelengths ever used in this kind of study, which allow the regions very close to the central black hole to be probed [3].

    “We have found clear signals of polarisation rotation that are hundreds of times higher than the highest ever found in the Universe,” says Sebastien Muller, co-author of the paper. “Our discovery is a giant leap in terms of observing frequency, thanks to the use of ALMA, and in terms of distance to the black hole where the magnetic field has been probed — of the order of only a few light-days from the event horizon. These results, and future studies, will help us understand what is really going on in the immediate vicinity of supermassive black holes.”

    Notes

    [1] Much weaker magnetic fields have been detected in the vicinity of the relatively inactive supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. Recent observations have also revealed weak magnetic fields in the active galaxy NGC 1275, which were detected at millimetre wavelengths.

    [2] Magnetic fields introduce Faraday rotation, which makes the polarisation rotate in different ways at different wavelengths. The way in which this rotation depends on the wavelength tells us about the magnetic field in the region.

    [3] The ALMA observations were at an effective wavelength of about 0.3 millimetres, earlier investigations were at much longer radio wavelengths. Only light of millimetre wavelengths can escape from the region very close to the black hole, longer wavelength radiation is absorbed.

    More Information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled “A strong magnetic field in the jet base of a supermassive black hole” to appear in Science on 16 April 2015.

    The team is composed of I. Martí-Vidal (Department of Earth and Space Sciences, Chalmers University of Technology, Onsala Space Observatory, Onsala, Sweden), S. Muller (Onsala Space Observatory), W. Vlemmings (Onsala Space Observatory), C. Horellou (Onsala Space Observatory), S. Aalto (Onsala Space Observatory).

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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.

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  • richardmitnick 10:50 am on April 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “Complex Organic Molecules Discovered in Infant Star System: Hints that Prebiotic Chemistry Is Universal “ 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    Wednesday, 08 April 2015
    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
    Cell: +56 9 75871963
    Email: vfoncea@alma.cl

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 434.242.9559
    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
    Artist impression of the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in the outer reaches of the disk in the region where comets are believed to form. This is another indication that complex organic chemistry, and potentially the conditions necessary for life, is universal. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

    For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star, suggesting once again that the conditions that spawned our Earth and Sun are not unique in the Universe.

    This discovery, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), reveals that the protoplanetary disk surrounding the million-year-old star MWC 480 is brimming with methyl cyanide (CH3CN), a complex carbon-based molecule. Both this molecule and its simpler cousin hydrogen cyanide (HCN) were found in the cold outer reaches of the star’s newly formed disk, in a region that astronomers believe is analogous to our own Kuiper Belt — the realm of icy planetesimals and comets beyond Neptune.

    2
    Known objects in the Kuiper belt beyond the orbit of Neptune (scale in AU; epoch as of January 2015).

    Scientists understand that comets retain a pristine record of the early chemistry of our solar system from the period of planet formation. As the planets evolved, it’s believed that comets and asteroids from the outer solar system seeded the young Earth with water and organic molecules, helping set the stage for life to eventually emerge.

    “Studies of comets and asteroids show that the solar nebula that spawned our Sun and planets was rich in water and complex organic compounds,” noted Karin Öberg, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and lead author on a paper published in the journal Nature. “We now have evidence that this same chemistry exists elsewhere in the universe, in regions that could form solar systems not unlike our own.” This is particularly intriguing, Öberg notes, since the molecules found in MWC 480 are also found in similar concentrations in our own solar system’s comets.

    The star MWC 480, which is about twice the mass of the Sun, is located approximately 455 light-years away in the Taurus star-forming region. Its surrounding disk is in the very early stages of development – having recently coalesced out of a cold, dark nebula of dust and gas. Studies with ALMA and other telescopes have yet to detect any obvious signs of planet formation in it, though higher resolution observations may reveal structures similar to HL Tau, which is of a similar age.

    Astronomers have known that cold, dark interstellar clouds are very efficient factories of complex organic molecules — including a group of molecules known as cyanides. Cyanides, and most especially methyl cyanide, are important because they contain carbon-nitrogen bonds, which are essential for the formation of amino acids, the foundation of proteins.

    It has been unclear, however, if these same complex organic molecules commonly form and survive in the energetic environment of a newly forming solar system, where shocks and radiation can easily break chemical bonds.

    With ALMA’s remarkable sensitivity, the astronomers now know that these molecules not only survive, but thrive.

    Importantly, the molecules ALMA detected are much more abundant than would be found in interstellar clouds. According to the researchers, there’s enough methyl cyanide around MWC 480 to fill all of Earth’s oceans. This tells astronomers that protoplanetary disks are very efficient at forming complex organic molecules and that they are able to form them on a relatively fast timescale.

    This rapid formation is essential to outpace the forces that would otherwise break the molecules apart. Also, these molecules were detected in a relatively serene part of the disk, roughly 4.5 to 15 billion kilometers from the central star. Though incredibly distant by our solar system’s standards, in MWC 480’s scaled-up dimensions, this would be squarely in the comet-forming zone.

    As this solar system continues to evolve, astronomers speculate, it’s likely that the organic molecules safely locked away in comets and other icy bodies will be ferried to environments that would be more nurturing for life.

    “From the study of exoplanets, we know our solar system isn’t unique in having rocky planets and an abundance of water,” concluded Öberg. “Now we know we’re not unique in organic chemistry. Once more, we have learned that we’re not special. From a life in the universe point of view, this is great news.”

    ALMA is the world’s most sophisticated and powerful telescope of its kind. It is able to detect the faint millimeter wavelength radiation that is naturally emitted by molecules in space. For these most recent observations, the astronomers used only a portion of ALMA’s 66 antennas when the telescope was in its lower-resolution configuration. Further studies of this and other protoplanetary disks with ALMA’s full capabilities will reveal additional details about the chemical and structural evolution of stars and planets.

    More information

    The paper “The cometary composition of a protoplanetary disk as revealed by complex cyanides” is located here.

    See the full article here.

    [There will be a separate blog post on this find from ESO, as soon as it released.]

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 12:34 pm on April 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “ALMA Partnership Publishes First Results on Long Baselines” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    Tuesday, 07 April 2015
    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
    Cell: +56 9 75871963
    Email: vfoncea@alma.cl

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 434.242.9559
    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

    Unprecedented views of the surface of asteroid Juno and the Einstein Ring of a distant galaxy have recently been captured in images taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). These stunning images were taken at the end of 2014 as part of ALMA’s Long Baseline Campaign, with the goal of testing and verifying the telescope’s highest resolving power, achieved when the antennas are at their greatest separation: up to 15 kilometers apart.

    “It takes a combination of ALMA’s high resolution and high sensitivity to unlock these otherwise hidden details of the Universe,” said ALMA Director Pierre Cox.

    Five targets were selected for this ALMA Campaign, including asteroid Juno, the protoplanetary disk HL Tau, the gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81, the evolved star Mira, and the quasar 3C138. The Astrophysical Journal, Letters has published four scientific papers written by representatives of the entire international team of the ALMA Partnership, detailing these observations.

    The Long Baseline Campaign captured the highest resolution images ever taken with this state-of-the-art instrument, giving astronomers an unprecedented view of the distant galaxy SDP.81 that– seen from Earth with the aid of a gravitational lens — appears like a cosmic ring [image 1].

    1
    Image 1. ALMA image of the gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81. The bright orange central region of the ring (ALMA’s highest resolution observation ever) reveals the glowing dust in this distant galaxy. The surrounding lower-resolution portions of the ring trace the millimeter wavelength light emitted by carbon monoxide. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); B. Saxton NRAO/AUI/NSF |

    Forged by the chance alignment of two distant galaxies, the more distant one magnified by the gravitational pull of the intervening one located between the distant source and the Earth, SDP.81 is a gravitationally lensed object known as an Einstein Ring. A manifestation of [Albert] Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, gravity acted like an optical lens, bending the light to magnify the image of the distant galaxy and producing a distorted arc-shaped image as seen from the Earth.

    “This is a major accomplishment for ALMA’s high-resolution capabilities,” said ALMA Deputy Program Scientist Catherine Vlahakis. These ALMA observations achieved a resolution as fine as 23 milliarcseconds, which is a first for telescopes that operate at these wavelengths, rivaling even the Hubble Space Telescope.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Another series of images made with ALMA provided an unprecedented view of the surface of Juno, one of the largest members of our Solar System’s main asteroid belt. Linked together into a brief animation, these high-resolution images show the asteroid rotating through space as it shines in millimeter-wavelength light [image 2].

    2
    Image 2. Animation of the asteroid Juno as imaged by ALMA as part of the telescope’s Long Baseline Campaign. Images were taken when Juno was approximately 295 million kilometers from Earth. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ)

    The complete ALMA observation was conducted over the course of four hours when Juno was approximately 295 million kilometers from Earth. For this observation, ALMA achieved a resolution of 40 milliarcseconds, meaning that each “pixel” in the images is about 60 kilometers across, covering approximately one-fourth of the surface of Juno. This resolution is a vast improvement over earlier observations made at similar wavelengths and is enough to clearly resolve the shape of the asteroid and potentially tease out prominent surface features.

    “This new observation clearly demonstrates that ALMA is a very powerful tool for studying asteroids and shows the ability to image the surface of many Solar System bodies better than any other instrument,” added ALMA astronomer Ed Fomalont.

    3
    Image 3. This image shows the protoplanetary disc surrounding the young star HL Tauri. These new ALMA observations reveal substructures within the disc that have never been seen before and even show the possible positions of planets forming in the dark patches within the system. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

    Another target was the proto-planetary disc HL Tau, whose results observation represented an enormous step forward in the understanding of how these discs develop and how planets form.

    The five objects were chosen to show the scientific potential of ALMA, the world’s largest ground-based observatory, in its most extended configuration.

    More information

    The paper, ALMA Long Baseline Observations of the Strongly Lensed Submillimeter Galaxy HATLAS J090311.6+003906 at z=3.042, is located here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.02652

    The paper, ALMA Observations of Asteroid 3 Juno at 60 Kilometer Resolution, is located here: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1503.02650.pdf

    The paper, First Results From High Angular Resolution ALMA Observations Toward the HL Tau Region, is located here: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1503.02649.pdf

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 7:14 am on March 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Disentangles Complex Birth of Giant Stars” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    31 March 2015
    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
    Cell: +56 9 75871963
    Email: vfoncea@alma.cl

    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: +1 434.242.9559
    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

    A research group led by Aya Higuchi, a researcher at Ibaraki University in Japan, conducted observations of the massive-star forming region IRAS 16547-4247 with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The observation results shows the presence of multiple, or at least two, gas outflows from a protostar, indicating the possible existence of two new-born stars in this region. Also, the radio observation results of molecular line emission of methanol revealed in vivid detail an hourglass structure created by gas outflows spreading outward while thrusting the ambient gas cloud away. It is the first time that such an hourglass structure was found in observations of methanol in high-mass star forming regions. Detailed observations of high-mass stars have been considered difficult so far because high-mass stars form in a complex environment with multiple protostars in clusters, and their forming regions are located farther away from the Earth compared to those of low-mass stars. However, high angular resolution observations with ALMA opened a new window to understand their formation environment in further details.

    1
    An artist’s concept of the distribution of the ambient gas around IRAS 16547-4247. The central high-density gas cloud is thought to contain multiple high-density protostars. Two outflows of gas spurt from the central part in the vertical and horizontal directions respectively while pushing the ambient gas away, which makes a balloon-like structure. A pair of narrow jets is the one that was found in past observations.

    Research Background

    All stars that twinkle in the night sky vary in their masses. While some stars have masses smaller than 1/10 of solar masses, others have masses larger than 100 solar masses. How such a wide variety of stars are born and what factors make the difference in their masses; these are the most fundamental and most enigmatic astronomical questions, which have yet to be answered. To solve these mysteries, it is essential to make detailed observations of various stars of different masses during formation.

    The formation process of high-mass stars, which have masses larger than ten times solar mass still has much to be explored. Detailed observations of high-mass stars at an early stage of formation are difficult because the number of high-mass stars is smaller than that of one-solar-mass stars and the evolution process of high-mass stars is faster than low-mass stars [1]. Another adverse condition in the study of high-mass stars is the distance from the Earth; while the forming regions of low-mass stars are about 500 light years away from the Earth, those of high-mass stars are farther and even the closest one in the Orion Nebula is about 1500 light years away.

    4
    Orion
    In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. … This extensive study took 105 Hubble orbits to complete. All imaging instruments aboard the telescope were used simultaneously to study Orion. The Advanced Camera mosaic covers approximately the apparent angular size of the full moon.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Since it is thought that high-mass stars are born in clusters far away from the Earth, it is impossible to understand their formation process in detail without high angular resolution observations. In this regard, ALMA is the most desirable telescope for this purpose as being capable of observing gas and dust, which will be ingredients of stars at high sensitivity and high resolution.

    2
    A mesh 3D model of gas distribution. The orange-colored, peanut-hull-like structure at the center represents the high-density gas cloud observed with ALMA; the blue-colored, big rugby-ball-like structure stretching out in the vertical direction represents the big outflow observed in past observations; and the lime-green-colored and purple-colored structures represent the outflows discovered with ALMA.

    Observations with ALMA

    The research team led by Aya Higuchi made observations of the luminous infrared source IRAS 16547-4247 in the direction of the Scorpion. IRAS 16547-4247 is an object emitting strong radiation with about 60 times solar luminosity and being surrounded by high-density molecular cloud with a mass of 1300 times solar mass in a distance of 9500 light years away from the Earth. Past radio observations of molecular carbon monoxide (CO) in this region revealed a pair of outflows, which was thought to be emitted from a young star, and some other radio sources have been found in addition to a bright object at the center. “Even though many of the astronomers assumed that this would be a fertile high-mass star forming region, we couldn’t probe the kinematics of gas around high-mass protostars at the level of resolution provided by existing telescopes,” Higuchi said.

    To study the structure and kinematics of gas around IRAS 16547-4247, the research group observed molecular line emission of dust, CO, and methanol (CH3OH). From the observation results of dust, it was first found that the center of the region contains two high-density compact gas clouds with masses 10 to 20 times solar mass. It is thought that these gas clouds are surrounding a newly forming high-mass star like a cocoon.

    3
    An artist’s concept of the distribution of the ambient gas around IRAS 16547-4247. The central high-density gas cloud is thought to contain multiple high-density protostars. Two outflows of gas spurt from the central part in the vertical and horizontal directions respectively while pushing the ambient gas away, which makes a balloon-like structure. A pair of narrow jets is the one that was found in past observations.

    And the observation results of CO indicates that the outflows which looked like a blurred object extending in the north-south direction was actually two pairs of outflows aligned with the north-south and east-west direction respectively. Furthermore, new high-velocity outflows have also been found in the observations. Since the angular resolution provided by ALMA was 36 times higher than that applied to the past CO observations, the observation results clearly revealed the details of complex structure and kinematics of gas. As it is assumed that one protostar is able to produce only a pair of outflows, these results suggests that multiple stars are being formed simultaneously in this region.

    On top of these, the research group discovered that methanol molecule is spreading from the center of IRAS1654-4247 in the form of hourglass structure. CH3OH is normally produced on the surface of dust, but when the temperature increases by some process, it will be released from the dust surface and turn into gas, which emits radio waves.

    Since the hourglass structure made by the distribution of CH3OH traces the contour of the observed CO outflow, CH3OH is assumed to have been produced by the interaction with the ambient gas, which was pushed away by the outflow from the protostar, resulting in the increase of temperature and consequent transition into gas. This kind of hourglass structure has often been found around low-mass protostars, but it was the first time that the distribution of CH3OH with this structure was found in a high-mass-star forming region. Furthermore, past observation results indicates the presence of a maser source [2] emitting extremely strong radio waves on the extended line of the CO outflow. Although it was unknown what is responsible for the maser source in this object, the observation results this time suggests that the maser source is excited by the shock influence between a high-velocity outflow and the ambient gas.

    “We conducted radio observations of carbon monoxide and methanol to explore the details of the distribution and kinematics of gas in the region where high-mass stars are forming in clusters,” Higuchi said. “A typical example of a high-mass star forming region is the Orion Nebula, but ALMA enabled us to see the complex formation environment of star clusters which is even 7 times farther away than the Orion Nebula with the highest imaging resolution ever achieved. ALMA will become indispensable for the future research on the high-mass star forming region.”

    Notes

    [1] The formation of high-mass stars completes over the course of a hundred thousand years, which is approximately one tenth of the formation period of low-mass stars.

    [2] Maser is a phenomenon that emits strong electromagnetic radiation of a coherent wavelength. Laser used in our daily life is also strong radiation produced on the same principle applied to maser. Since maser is produced when atoms are excited to a high-energy state, the presence of a maser source suggests the possibility of a physical state, which is different from that of common interstellar cloud.

    More information

    These observation results were published as Higuchi et al. IRAS 16547-4247: A New Candidate of a Protocluster Unveiled with ALMA in the astronomical journal Astrophysical Journal Letters, issued in January 2015.

    This research was conducted by: Aya Higuchi (Ibaraki University); Kazuya Saigo (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan); James Chibueze (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/University of Nigeria); Patricio Sanhueza (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan); Shigehisa Takakuwa (Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics), and Guido Garay (University of Chile)

    This research is supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas “New Frontiers of Extrasolar Planets: Exploring Terrestrial Planets”. Guide Garay is supported by CONICYT project PFB-06.

    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 4:17 pm on March 5, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Gains New Capability in its First VLBI Observation “ 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    Thursday, 05 March 2015
    Contact:

    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
    Cell: +56 9 75871963
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    1
    ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, has successfully combined its immense collecting area and sensitivity with that of APEX (Atacama Pathfinder Experiment) to create a new, single instrument through a process known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). This first successful observation using VLBI with ALMA used a baseline of 2.1 km, and was an essential proof-of-concept test for the planned Event Horizon Telescope, which eventually will include a global network of millimetre-wavelength telescopes. Crédito: Clem & Adri Bacri-Normier (wingsforscience.com)/ESO

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) recently combined its immense collecting area and sensitivity with that of the APEX (Atacama Pathfinder Experiment) Telescope to create a new, single instrument through a process known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). In VLBI, data from two independent telescopes are combined to form a virtual telescope that spans the geographic distance between them, yielding extraordinary magnifying power.

    ESO APEX
    ESO/APEX

    The new ALMA/APEX observation, which took place on January 13, was an essential proof-of-concept test for the planned Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which eventually will include a global network of millimeter-wavelength telescopes.

    Event Horizon Telescope
    EHT

    When fully assembled, the EHT – with ALMA as the largest and most sensitive site – will form an Earth-size telescope with the magnifying power required to see details at the edge of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

    For this first-of-its-kind observation, ALMA and the nearby APEX telescope simultaneous studied a quasar known as 0522-364 – a distant galaxy commonly used for testing in radio astronomy due to its remarkable brightness. To ensure the telescopes were in sync, ALMA used its newly installed and exquisitely precise atomic clock (see ALMA announcement) to time-code the data as it was collected. This is essential for VLBI because it enables data taken at different geographical locations on different telescopes to be precisely matched and accurately integrated.

    The full dataset from the observing run was captured on hard drives and flown back to MIT where it will undergo full analysis. Due to the vast amount of information collected, air travel is the fastest means of data transmission, even faster than the fastest international Internet connection.

    “The entire team is immensely gratified at achieving this success on the first VLBI attempt with ALMA. It marks a huge step toward making first images of a black hole with the Event Horizon Telescope,” said Shep Doeleman, the principal investigator of the ALMA Phasing Project and assistant director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Haystack Observatory.

    This most recent work was carried out by a team made up of members from the ALMA Phasing Project, the Joint ALMA Observatory, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the APEX Telescope.

    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 7:24 pm on March 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , , Infrared Astronomy,   

    From ESO And ALMA: “An Old-looking Galaxy in a Young Universe” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ/ALMA
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    European Southern Observatory

    ESO VLT Interferometer
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    2 March 2015

    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6258
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    Masaaki Hiramatsu
    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory Tokyo, Japan
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    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
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    Darach Watson
    Niels Bohr Institute
    University of Copenhagen, Denmark
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    Email: darach@dark-cosmology.dk

    Kirsten K. Knudsen
    Chalmers University of Technology
    Onsala, Sweden
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    Email: kirsten.knudsen@chalmers.se

    Richard Hook
    ESO education and Public Outreach Department
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    Email: rhook@eso.org

    temp0

    One of the most distant galaxies ever observed has provided astronomers with the first detection of dust in such a remote star-forming system and tantalising evidence for the rapid evolution of galaxies after the Big Bang. The new observations have used ALMA to pick up the faint glow from cold dust in the galaxy A1689-zD1 and used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to measure its distance.

    A team of astronomers, led by Darach Watson from the University of Copenhagen, used the Very Large Telescope’s X-shooter instrument along with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe one of the youngest and most remote galaxies ever found.

    ESO VLT X-shooter
    X-shooter

    They were surprised to discover a far more evolved system than expected. It had a fraction of dust similar to a very mature galaxy, such as the Milky Way. Such dust is vital to life, because it helps form planets, complex molecules and normal stars.

    The target of their observations is called A1689-zD1 [1]. It is observable only by virtue of its brightness being amplified more than nine times by a gravitational lens in the form of the spectacular galaxy cluster, Abell 1689, which lies between the young galaxy and the Earth. Without the gravitational boost, the glow from this very faint galaxy would have been too weak to detect.

    We are seeing A1689-zD1 when the Universe was only about 700 million years old — five percent of its present age [2]. It is a relatively modest system — much less massive and luminous than many other objects that have been studied before at this stage in the early Universe and hence a more typical example of a galaxy at that time.

    8

    A1689-zD1 is being observed as it was during the period of reionisation, when the earliest stars brought with them a cosmic dawn, illuminating for the first time an immense and transparent Universe and ending the extended stagnation of the [cosmic] Dark Ages. Expected to look like a newly formed system, the galaxy surprised the observers with its rich chemical complexity and abundance of interstellar dust.

    “After confirming the galaxy’s distance using the VLT,” said Darach Watson, “we realised it had previously been observed with ALMA. We didn’t expect to find much, but I can tell you we were all quite excited when we realised that not only had ALMA observed it, but that there was a clear detection. One of the main goals of the ALMA Observatory was to find galaxies in the early Universe from their cold gas and dust emissions — and here we had it!”

    This galaxy was a cosmic infant — but it proved to be precocious. At this age it would be expected to display a lack of heavier chemical elements — anything heavier than hydrogen and helium, defined in astronomy as metals. These are produced in the bellies of stars and scattered far and wide once the stars explode or otherwise perish. This process needs to be repeated for many stellar generations to produce a significant abundance of the heavier elements such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen.

    Surprisingly, the galaxy A1689-zD1 seemed to be emitting a lot of radiation in the far infrared [3], indicating that it had already produced many of its stars and significant quantities of metals, and revealed that it not only contained dust, but had a dust-to-gas ratio that was similar to that of much more mature galaxies.

    “Although the exact origin of galactic dust remains obscure,” explains Darach Watson, “our findings indicate that its production occurs very rapidly, within only 500 million years of the beginning of star formation in the Universe — a very short cosmological time frame, given that most stars live for billions of years.”

    The findings suggest A1689-zD1 to have been consistently forming stars at a moderate rate since 560 million years after the Big Bang, or else to have passed through its period of extreme starburst very rapidly before entering a declining state of star formation.

    Prior to this result, there had been concerns among astronomers that such distant galaxies would not be detectable in this way, but A1689-zD1 was detected using only brief observations with ALMA.

    Kirsten Knudsen (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), co-author of the paper, added, “This amazingly dusty galaxy seems to have been in a rush to make its first generations of stars. In the future, ALMA will be able to help us to find more galaxies like this, and learn just what makes them so keen to grow up.”
    Notes

    [1] This galaxy was noticed earlier in the Hubble images, and suspected to be very distant, but the distance could not be confirmed at that time.

    [2] This corresponds to a redshift of 7.5.

    [3] This radiation is stretched by the expansion of the Universe into the millimetre wavelength range by the time it gets to Earth and hence can be detected with ALMA.
    More information

    This research was presented in a paper entitled A dusty, normal galaxy in the epoch of reionization by D. Watson et al., to appear online in the journal Nature on 2 March 2015.

    The team is composed of D. Watson (Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark), L. Christensen (University of Copenhagen), K. K. Knudsen (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), J. Richard (CRAL, Observatoire de Lyon, Saint Genis Laval, France), A. Gallazzi (INAF-Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri, Firenze, Italy) and M. J. Michalowski (SUPA, Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK).

    See the full article here.

    Hubble’s results

    2
    Abell 1689
    This new Hubble image shows galaxy cluster Abell 1689. It combines both visible and infrared data from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) with a combined exposure time of over 34 hours (image on left over 13 hours, image on right over 20 hours) to reveal this patch of sky in greater and striking detail than in previous observations.

    This image is peppered with glowing golden clumps, bright stars, and distant, ethereal spiral galaxies. Material from some of these galaxies is being stripped away, giving the impression that the galaxy is dripping, or bleeding, into the surrounding space. Also visible are a number of electric blue streaks, circling and arcing around the fuzzy galaxies in the centre.
    These streaks are the telltale signs of a cosmic phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Abell 1689 is so massive that it bends and warps the space around it, affecting how light from objects behind the cluster travels through space. These streaks are the distorted forms of galaxies that lie behind the cluster.
    Date 12 September 2013
    NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Blakeslee (NRC Herzberg Astrophysics Program, Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), and H. Ford (JHU)

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    Hubble

    NASA Hubble ACS
    Hubble’s ACS

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    ESO, European Southern Observatory, builds and operates a suite of the world’s most advanced ground-based astronomical telescopes.

    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 8:31 am on February 26, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “ALMA Revealed Calm Pockets Protecting Organic Molecules” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    Thursday, 26 February 2015
    Nicolás Lira
    Education and Public Outreach Assistant
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6519
    Cell: +56 9 9445 7726
    Email: nlira@alma.cl

    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: +1 434.242.9559
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

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

    1
    The central part of the galaxy M77, also known as NGC 1068, observed by ALMA and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Yellow: cyanoacetylene (HC3N), Red: carbon monosulfide (CS), Blue: carbon monoxide (CO), which are observed with ALMA. While HC3N is abundant in the central part of the galaxy (CND), CO is mainly distributed in the starburst ring. CS is distributed both in the CND and the starburst ring. Credit: ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Takano et al., NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    Hubble

    Researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered regions where certain organic molecules somehow endure the intense radiation near the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 1068, also known to amateur stargazers as M77.

    2
    Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 1068

    Such complex carbon-based molecules are thought to be easily obliterated by the strong X-rays and ultraviolet (UV) photons that permeate the environment surrounding supermassive black holes. The new ALMA data indicate, however, that pockets of calm exist even in this tumultuous region, most likely due to dense areas of dust and gas that shield molecules from otherwise lethal radiation.

    Molecules Reveal Clues to Galactic Environments

    Interstellar gas contains a wide variety of molecules and its chemical composition differs widely depending on the environment. For example, an active star forming region with a temperature higher than the surrounding environment stimulates the production of certain types of molecules by chemical reactions which are difficult to take place in a cold temperature region. This enables researchers to probe the environment (temperature and density) of a target region by studying the molecular chemical compositions in it. Since each molecule has its own frequency spectrum, we can identify the chemical composition and the environment of a remote target object through observations with a radio telescope.

    From this perspective, astronomers have been actively working on the starburst regions of galaxies [1] and the surrounding region of the active galactic nuclei (AGN) at the center of galaxies, called circumnuclear disk (CND) [2]. These regions are very important in understanding the evolution of galaxies, and radio observations of molecular emissions are essential to explore its mechanism and environment [3]. However, the weak radio emission from molecules often made the observations difficult and took many days for signal detection using conventional radio telescopes.

    ALMA Observations Trace Molecules

    A research team led by Shuro Takano at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and Taku Nakajima at Nagoya University observed the spiral galaxy M77 in the direction of the constellation of Cetus (the Whale) about 47 million light years away with ALMA. M77 is known to have an active galactic nucleus at its center which is surrounded by a starburst ring with a radius of 3500 light years.

    Since the research team had already conducted radio observations of various molecular emissions in this galaxy with the 45 meters telescope at the Nobeyama Radio Observatory of NAOJ, they aimed to develop their research further with ALMA’s extreme sensitivity, high-fidelity and ability to observe wideband in multiple wavelenght along with a high spatial resolution; and identify the difference in chemical composition between AGNs and starburst regions.

    NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory of NAOJ

    ALMA observations clearly revealed the distributions of nine types of molecules in the circumnuclear disk and in the starburst ring. “In this observation, we used only 16 antennas, which are about one-fourth of the complete number of ALMA antennas, but it was really surprising that we could get so many molecular distribution maps in less than two hours. We have never obtained such a quantity of maps in one observation,” says Takano, the leader of the research team.

    The results show that the molecular distribution varies according to the type of molecule. While carbon monoxide (CO) is distributed mainly in the starburst ring, five types of molecules, including complex organic molecules such as cyanoacetylene (HC3N) and acetonitrile (CH3CN) are concentrated in the circumnuclear disk. In addition, carbon monosulfide (CS) and methanol (CH3OH) are distributed both in the starburst ring and the circumnuclear disk. ALMA provided the first high resolution observation of the five types of molecules in M77 and revealed that they are concentrated in the circumnuclear disk.

    Shielding Complex Organics around a Black Hole

    The supermassive black hole devours surrounding materials by its strong gravity and generates such a hot disk around him that it emits intense X-rays or UV photons. When complex organic molecules are exposed to strong X-rays or UV photons, their multiple atomic bonds are broken and the molecules destroyed. This is why the circumnuclear disk was thought to be a very difficult environment for organic molecules to survive. ALMA observations, however, proved the contrary: Complex organic molecules are abundant in the circumnuclear disk.

    “It was quite unexpected that acetonitrile (CH3CN) and cyanoacetylene (HC3N), which have a large number of atoms, are concentrated in the circumnuclear disk,” said Nakajima.

    The research team assumes that organic molecules remain intact in the circumnuclear disk due to a large amount of gas, which act as a shield from X-rays and UV photons, while organic molecules cannot survive the exposure to the strong UV photons in the starburst region where the gas density is lower.

    The researchers point out that these results are a significant first step in understanding the structure, temperature, and density of gas surrounding the active black hole in M77. “We expect that future observations with wider bandwidth and higher resolution will show us the whole picture of our target object in further detail and achieve even more remarkable results,” says Takano.

    “ALMA has launched an entirely new era in astrochemistry,” said Eric Herbst of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and a member of the research team. “Detecting and tracing molecules throughout the cosmos enables us to learn so much more about otherwise hidden areas, like the regions surrounding the black hole in M77.”

    These observation results were published as Takano et al. Distributions of molecules in the circumnuclear disk and surrounding starburst ring in the Seyfert galaxy NGC 1068 observed with ALMA (in the astronomical journal Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan (PASJ), issued in July 2014) and as Nakajima et al. A Multi-Transition Study of Molecules toward NGC 1068 based on High-Resolution Imaging Observations with ALMA (in PASJ issued in February 2015).

    Notes

    [1] In the Milky Way Galaxy which we live in, one sun-like star is generated per year on average, while several hundred sun-like stars are churned out each year in a starburst region.

    [2] It is believed that most of the galaxies have in their center a supermassive black hole of millions to hundreds of millions of solar mass. Among them, Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) represents a type of supermassive black hole which are gulping down surrounding gas very actively and emitting some amount of gas as high-speed gas flows (jets).

    [3] For example, a research team led by Takuma Izumi and Kotaro Kohno at the University of Tokyo, both of whom are engaged in this research, suggests that there is enhanced emission of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) from the supermassive black hole in the barred spiral galaxy NGC1097 by the past ALMA observations.

    Reference: October 24, 2013, Press release “Unique Chemical Composition Surrounding Supermassive Black Hole—A Step toward Development of New Black Hole Exploration Method”

    This research was conducted by: Shuro TAKANO (NAOJ Nobeyama Radio Observatory/SOKENDAI); Taku NAKAJIMA (Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, Nagoya University); Kotaro KOHNO (Institute of Astronomy, The University of Tokyo/Research Center for the Early Universe); Nanase HARADA (Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics [At the time of writing: Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy]); Eric HERBST (University of Virginia); Yoichi TAMURA (Institute of Astronomy, The University of Tokyo); Takuma IZUMI (Institute of Astronomy, The University of Tokyo); Akio TANIGUCHI (Institute of Astronomy, The University of Tokyo); Tomoka TOSAKI (Joetsu University of Educaction).

    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 5:26 pm on February 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “ALMA Sees Super Stellar Nurseries at Heart of Sculptor Galaxy” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    Monday, 16 February 2015
    Education and Public Outreach Assistant
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6519
    Cell: +56 9 9445 7726
    Email: nlira@alma.cl

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 434.242.9559
    E-mail: cblue@nrao.edu

    Richard Hook
    Public Information Officer, ESO
    Garching bei München, Germany
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    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
    What is the recipe for starburst? Astronomers studied NGC 253 with ALMA to find out. These new ALMA data reveal a diffuse envelope of carbon monoxide gas (shown in red), which surrounds stellar nurseries — regions of active star formation (in yellow). By dissecting these regions with ALMA, astronomers are uncovering clues to the processes and conditions that drive furious star formation. The ALMA data are superimposed on a Hubble image that covers part of the same region. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ), A. Leroy; STScI/NASA, ST-ECF/ESA, CADC/NRC/CSA

    Starburst galaxies transmute gas into new stars at a dizzying pace – up to 1,000 times faster than typical spiral galaxies like the Milky Way. To help understand why some galaxies “burst” while others do not, an international team of astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to dissect a cluster of star-forming clouds at the heart of NGC 253, one of the nearest starburst galaxies to the Milky Way.

    2
    The Sculptor Galaxy taken with the ESO VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista telescope

    “All stars form in dense clouds of dust and gas,” said Adam Leroy, an astronomer formerly with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia, and now with the Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus. “Until now, however, scientists struggled to see exactly what was going on inside starburst galaxies that distinguished them from other star-forming regions.”

    ALMA changes that by offering the power to resolve individual star-forming structures, even in distant systems. As an early demonstration of this capability, Leroy and his colleagues mapped the distributions and motions of multiple molecules in clouds at the core of NGC 253, also known as the Sculptor Galaxy.

    Sculptor, a disk-shape galaxy currently undergoing intense starburst, is located approximately 11.5 million light-years from Earth, which is remarkably nearby for such an energetic star factory. This proximity makes Sculptor an excellent target for detailed study.

    “There is a class of galaxies and parts of galaxies, we call them starbursts, where we know that gas is just plain better at forming stars,” noted Leroy. “To understand why, we took one of the nearest such regions and pulled it apart – layer by layer – to see what makes the gas in these places so much more efficient at star formation.”

    Animation of ALMA data reveals a diffuse envelope of carbon monoxide gas (shown in red), which surrounds stellar nurseries — regions of active star formation (in yellow). By dissecting these regions with ALMA, astronomers are uncovering clues to the processes and conditions that drive furious star formation. The ALMA data are superimposed on a Hubble image that covers part of the same region. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ), A. Leroy; STScI/NASA, ST-ECF/ESA, CADC/NRC/CSA

    ALMA’s exceptional resolution and sensitivity allowed the researchers to first identifying ten distinct stellar nurseries inside the heart of Sculptor, something that was remarkably hard to accomplish before because earlier telescopes blurred the different regions together.

    The team then mapped the distribution of about 40 millimeter-wavelength “signatures” from different molecules inside the center of the galaxy. This was critically important since different molecules correspond to different conditions in and around star-forming clouds. For example, carbon monoxide (CO) corresponds to massive envelopes of less dense gas that surround stellar nurseries. Other molecules, like hydrogen cyanide (HCN), reveal dense areas of active star formation. Still rarer molecules, like H13CN and H13CO+, indicate even denser regions.

    By comparing the concentration, distribution, and motion of these molecules, the researchers were able to peel apart the star-forming clouds in Sculptor, revealing that they are much more massive, ten times denser, and far more turbulent than similar clouds in quiescent galaxies like the Milky Way.

    4
    ALMA image of starbursting clouds inside NGC 253. The red region is the lower density CO gas surrounding higher density star-forming regions in yellow.Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ), A. Leroy

    These stark differences suggest that it’s not just the number of stellar nurseries that sets the throttle for a galaxy to create new stars, but also what kind of stellar nurseries are present. Because the star-forming clouds in Sculptor pack so much material into such a small space, they are simply better at forming stars than the clouds in a galaxy like the Milky Way. Starburst galaxies, therefore, show real physical changes in the star-formation process, not just a one-to-one scaling of star formation with the available reservoir of material.

    “These differences have wide-ranging implications for how galaxies grow and evolve,” concluded Leroy. “What we would ultimately like to know is whether a starburst like Sculptor produces not just more stars, but different types of stars than a galaxy like the Milky Way. ALMA is bringing us much closer to that goal.”

    These results are accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal and are being presented February 15, 2015, at a news conference at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in San Jose, California.

    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 2:20 pm on January 20, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, HIgh Speed Data Connection   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Gains Broadband Connection with Global Science Community” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    Tuesday, 20 January 2015
    Nicolás Lira
    Education and Public Outreach Assistant
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 467 6519
    Cell: +56 9 9445 7726
    Email: nlira@alma.cl

    Charles E. Blue
    Public Information Officer
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    Tel: +1 434 296 0314
    Cell: +1 434.242.9559
    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

    ALMA’s remote location is a boon to astronomy but a telecommunication challenge for the astronomers who work there. Thanks to a newly installed broadband fiber-optic line between the ALMA Operations Site (AOS) and the city of Calama in northern Chile, astronomers from around the world now have high-speed access, 25 times faster than before, to this world-class telescope.

    The new system uses 150 kilometers of fiber optic cable to cover the distance from the astronomical observatory to the city of Calama, where it is then linked, through an existing high-speed communication line, to the research and academic network operated by REUNA (Red Universitaria Nacional) in Antofagasta that, thanks to the infrastructure that was developed as part of the EVALSO project, connects to the ALMA offices in Santiago, where the data are processed and shared with astronomers around the world.

    “This important milestone for ALMA draws upon the enormous scientific potential of this observatory, by providing an enormous amount of data, with astonishing speed, to the scientific community of the Member States involved in the ALMA observatory and, thereby, reach the world’s scientific community,” said Dr. Eduardo Hardy, representative in Chile for Associated Universities Inc. (AUI).

    This important technology and infrastructure milestone for ALMA is the result of a contract signed between AUI, the institution that represents the North American partners of ALMA, with Sílica Networks Chile S.A. and Telefónica Empresas Chile S.A.

    “This new infrastructure not only allows transmitting the enormous amount of data generated by ALMA, but it also improves the level of communication between the people operating the observatory at a remote site in the middle of the Atacama Desert and those who process that data in the central offices in Santiago,” said Giorgio Filippi, project leader, who is a staff member of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), that represents the European partners of ALMA.

    This project culminated with technical testing of data transmission between the Chajnantor Plateau, situated at an altitude of 5.000 meters above sea level, where ALMA’s 66 antennas are located, and the main offices in Santiago. Although the full capacity of the installed network was not used, two channels with a capacity exceeding 1 Gbps (Gigabite per second) were successfully tested.

    “This successful preliminary test confirmed the proper operation of ALMA’s new digital road and opens a number of new possibilities to further enhance the operation of the array and the transmission of scientific data from the observatory,” said Jorge Ibsen, Director of the Computing Department of the Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO).

    The new connectivity system is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) – operated by AUI – and REUNA. It is planned to become fully operational in the upcoming months once the administrative process is finished.

    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 2:11 pm on January 12, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , U Chile   

    From Universidad de Chile: “Shadows cast by a warp in a planet forming system” 

    U Chile Bloc

    Universidad de Chile

    Astronomers from MAD at Universidad de Chile [Millennium ALMA Disk Nucleus] present a viable scenario for the three dimensional geometry of a planet forming system. The finding is based on the discovery of shadows cast by a warped inner disk which bears strong implications for the dynamics of planet formation.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA Array

    A piece in the puzzle of how planets form has been unlocked thanks to new insight on planet forming systems. Planets are thought to form in disks of gas and dust that surround new born stars. Assuming that these protoplanetary disks lie in a single plane, all proto-planets tend to be contained in that plane too, much like the planets in our Solar System revolve in coplanar orbits. Interestingly, astronomers at the University of Chile have recognized the existence of shadows in a planet forming system, which require at least two tilted disks.

    1
    ALMA image of the protoplanetary disc around HL Tauri – This is the sharpest image ever taken by ALMA — sharper than is routinely achieved in visible light with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It shows the protoplanetary disc surrounding the young star HL Tauri. These new ALMA observations reveal substructures within the disc that have never been seen before and even show the possible positions of planets forming in the dark patches within the system.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Right next to our Solar neighbourhood lies HD142527, a young star surrounded by a large disk rich in gas and dust. This is one of the best studied protoplanetary systems because of its large size, its proximity to us and the variety of ‘planet formation sign posts’ that hint to the presence of newborn planets. As giant planets grow they carve wide trails in the disk along its orbit, leaving rings with less gas and dust that astronomers call gaps. HD142527 exhibits the largest such gap known so far – one could fit three times Neptune’s orbit inside. This gap divides the disk in two distinctive zones: an outer disk (which contains most of the mass) and an inner disk. By comparing different three-dimensional models of the disk with empirical data, astronomers at the Millennium ALMA Disk Nucleus, a.k.a MAD, identified and constrained the geometry of the system. The study was first authored by young scientist Mr. Sebastian Marino, a starting M.Sc. student at U. de Chile.

    a
    This image shows a dusty protoplanetary disk around HD142527. The dust and gas are shown in red and green, respectively; near-infrared image taken by the NAOJ Subaru Telescope is shown in blue. The image clearly shows that the dust is concentrated in the upper part of the disk. Image credit: ALMA / ESO / NAOJ / NRAO / Fukagawa et al.

    NAOJ Subaru Telescope
    NAOJ/Subaru

    2
    This is the star HD142527

    Images of the HD142527 disk taken with state-of-the-art instrumentation on large 8 meter-class telescopes, showed two peculiar dark regions, far away from the central star (see above image). These dark regions defied interpretations since they were first seen, in 2011. The new study, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, reveals that the inner disk in HD142527 is inclined with respect to the outer disk by about 70 degrees, blocking the star’s light and casting shadows across the gap. The projected shadows coincide with the observed dark regions. The phenomenon is similar to a solar eclipse, in which the Moon blocks the sunlight casting a shadow over Earth, but in this case it is the inner part of the disk what blocks the central star’s light.

    Most protoplanetary disks last for only a few million terrestrial years, which is very short compared to the age of planetary systems, making a young disk rich in gas a rather scarce finding. It is during the first few millions of years that giant planets are formed, racing against the quick dispersal and evaporation of the primordial protoplanetary material. The inner disk of HD142527 is about the size of Saturn’s orbit, which means that understanding its evolution could be key to how Earth-like planets form. At the same time, it is very difficult to study these regions since their small sizes on the sky—a millionth of the size of the Moon— and their proximity to the star forbid detailed study with current telescope capabilities. The phenomenon discovered by Marino et al. allows the study of such unreachable regions of planet forming systems, thanks to the shadows cast on larger scales.

    The inclined inner disk in HD142527 was inferred using detail 3D modeling of how the star’s light propagates from the central region through the surrounding material, using a technique called “radiative transfer” (see video [below]). But, how does nature produce this configuration? One of the possible explanations requires a companion object, say a planet or a small star, hidden inside the disk. Interestingly, previous studies show evidence for such object. “The astounding fact is that this planet would most likely need to be in a highly inclined orbit, just like the inner parts of the disk. Which poses more interesting questions about the dynamical stability of such arrangement” –says Dr Sebastian Perez, co-author of the research letter.

    Warped inner parts of disks have been seen in a variety of astronomical objects, from galaxies to material surrounding black holes. The particular case of HD142527’s shadows may be extended to other protoplanetary disks. “This shadowing may have strong consequences on the physical conditions that lead to planet formation since these regions will be colder and denser than their surroundings, which changes the properties of the primordial gas and dust” –says Dr. Simon Casassus, MAD Principal Investigator.

    Although the origin of these warped inner disks is still to be determined, “we now know how to better interpret observations of protoplanetary disks, and what features to look for in other nearby planet forming stars” –says Mr. Sebastián Marino. Protoplanetary disks, which we thought of as peaceful places where planets form, can in fact harbor dramatic dynamics.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Chile Campus

    The University of Chile (Spanish: Universidad de Chile) is the largest and oldest institution of higher education in Chile and one of the oldest in Latin America. Founded in 1842 as the replacement and continuation of the former colonial Royal University of San Felipe (1738) (Spanish: Real Universidad de San Felipe), the university is often called Casa de Bello (House of Bello) in honor of its first president, Andrés Bello. Notable alumni include two Nobel laureates (Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral) and twenty Chilean presidents among many others.

     
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