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  • richardmitnick 1:29 pm on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “ALMA teaches its operating software to future engineers at UFRO” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    14 August 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

    1

    Moving an ALMA antenna or monitoring its alarm system are just a few of the many tasks carried out as a result of applications developed using a single technological infrastructure known as ALMA Common Software (ACS). In use for more than 15 years, this is an open-source platform that contains all of the observatory’s libraries, functions and services and has already been used by other astronomical projects.

    Temp 1
    With the mission of training future astro software engineers, ALMA experts visited the southern Chilean city of Temuco to present a series of talks and give a 3-day workshop to students on different career paths at the School of Engineering and Science of Universidad de La Frontera (UFRO).

    “The ACS platform is a tool that has evolved over time, and these workshops – now in its 12th edition – have helped to generate a global community of developers who have contributed to making it even better,” indicates Jorge Ibsen, Head of ALMA’s Computer Department. “These workshops enrich the professional education of their participants, who in many cases have ended up working on astronomical projects.”

    The ALMA Common Software (ACS) workshops began in 2004, when construction of the largest radio telescope in the world in northern Chile was underway. Since then, workshops have been held in many different institutions and universities around the world, some of them Chilean, but this is the first workshop held in southern Chile. This is the outcome of a memorandum of understanding signed last year between ALMA and UFRO (see article).

    3
    “This memorandum and the knowledge transfer between ALMA professionals and researchers at Universidad de La Frontera has resulted in new lines of research in the field of Astro-engineering, Science and Technology,” says the Dean of the School of Engineering and Science, Cristian Bornhardt. “With the joint development of this type of activity, we are able to offer new and valuable opportunities to support our students’ education in areas that are of utmost importance to the country’s strategic development.”

    This workshop addressed the main characteristics, functions and potential offered by this software infrastructure especially designed to monitor and control the radio telescope. It included the implementation of a toy model of what the observatory does using ACS.

    4
    “The impact of the observatories installed in Chile goes beyond astronomy; it permeates the engineering needed for day-to-day operations,” says Jorge Ibsen, who led the talks and workshops in conjunction with Tzu-Chiang Shen and Rubén Soto, ALMA software group managers, and Arturo Hoffstadt, ALMA software engineer.

    5

    To facilitate the implementation of educational activities and software development in the area of astro-engineering, ALMA donated 10 servers to the School of Engineering and Sciences at Universidad de la Frontera.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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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 7:00 am on July 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “ALMA Witnesses Assembly of Galaxies in the Early Universe for the First Time” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    22 July 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

    Temp 1

    The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has been used to detect the most distant clouds of star-forming gas yet found in normal galaxies in the early Universe. The new observations allow astronomers to start to see how the first galaxies were built up and how they cleared the cosmic fog during the era of reionization. This is the first time that such galaxies are seen as more than just faint blobs.

    When the first galaxies started to form a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, the Universe was full of a fog of hydrogen gas. But as more and more brilliant sources — both stars and quasars powered by huge black holes — started to shine they cleared away the mist and made the Universe transparent to ultraviolet light [1]. Astronomers call this the epoch of reionization, but little is known about these first galaxies, and up to now they have just been seen as very faint blobs. But now new observations using the power of ALMA are starting to change this.

    A team of astronomers led by Roberto Maiolino (Cavendish Laboratory and Kavli Institute for Cosmology, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom) trained ALMA on galaxies that were known to be seen only about 800 million years after the Big Bang [2]. The astronomers were not looking for the light from stars, but instead for the faint glow of ionised carbon [3] coming from the clouds of gas from which the stars were forming. They wanted to study the interaction between a young generation of stars and the cold clumps that were assembling into these first galaxies.

    They were also not looking for the extremely brilliant rare objects — such as quasars and galaxies with very high rates of star formation — that had been seen up to now. Instead they concentrated on rather less dramatic, but much more common, galaxies that reionized the Universe and went on to turn into the bulk of the galaxies that we see around us now.

    From one of the galaxies — given the label BDF 3299 — ALMA could pick up a faint but clear signal from the glowing carbon. However, this glow wasn’t coming from the centre of the galaxy, but rather from one side.

    Co-author Andrea Ferrara (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy) explains the significance of the new findings: “This is the most distant detection ever of this kind of emission from a ‘normal’ galaxy, seen less than one billion years after the Big Bang. It gives us the opportunity to watch the build-up of the first galaxies. For the first time we are seeing early galaxies not merely as tiny blobs, but as objects with internal structure!”

    The astronomers think that the off-centre location of the glow is because the central clouds are being disrupted by the harsh environment created by the newly formed stars — both their intense radiation and the effects of supernova explosions — while the carbon glow is tracing fresh cold gas that is being accreted from the intergalactic medium.

    By combining the new ALMA observations with computer simulations, it has been possible to understand in detail key processes occurring within the first galaxies. The effects of the radiation from stars, the survival of molecular clouds, the escape of ionising radiation and the complex structure of the interstellar medium can now be calculated and compared with observation. BDF 3299 is likely to be a typical example of the galaxies responsible for reionization.

    “We have been trying to understand the interstellar medium and the formation of the reionization sources for many years. Finally to be able to test predictions and hypotheses on real data from ALMA is an exciting moment and opens up a new set of questions. This type of observation will clarify many of the thorny problems we have with the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the Universe,” adds Andrea Ferrara.

    Roberto Maiolino concludes: “This study would have simply been impossible without ALMA, as no other instrument could reach the sensitivity and spatial resolution required. Although this is one of the deepest ALMA observations so far it is still far from achieving its ultimate capabilities. In future ALMA will image the fine structure of primordial galaxies and trace in detail the build-up of the very first galaxies.”

    Notes

    [1] Neutral hydrogen gas very efficiently absorbs all the high-energy ultraviolet light emitted by young hot stars. Consequently, these stars are almost impossible to observe in the early Universe. At the same time, the absorbed ultraviolet light ionises the hydrogen, making it fully transparent. The hot stars are therefore carving transparent bubbles in the gas. Once all these bubbles merge to fill all of space, reionisation is complete and the Universe becomes transparent.

    [2] They had redshifts ranging from 6.8 to 7.1.

    [3] Astronomers are particularly interested in ionised carbon as this particular spectral line carries away most of the energy injected by stars and allows astronomers to trace the cold gas out of which stars form. Specifically, the team were looking for the emission from singly ionised carbon (known as [C II]). This radiation is emitted at a wavelength of 158 micrometers, and by the time it is stretched by the expansion of the Universe arrives at ALMA at just the right wavelength for it to be detected at a wavelength of about 1.3 millimeters.

    More information

    This research was presented in a paper The assembly of “normal” galaxies at z∼7 probed by ALMA, by R. Maiolino et al., to appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on 22 July 2015.

    The team is composed of R. Maiolino (Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom; Kavli Institute for Cosmology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom) S. Carniani (Cavendish Laboratory; Kavli Institute for Cosmology; Universitá di Firenze, Florence, Italy), A. Fontana (INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Italy), L. Vallini (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy; Universitá di Bologna, Bologna, Italy), L. Pentericci (INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Italy), A. Ferrara (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy), E. Vanzella (INAF–Bologna Astronomical Observatory, Bologna, Italy), A. Grazian (INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Italy), S. Gallerani (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy), M. Castellano (INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Italy), S. Cristiani (INAF–Trieste Astronomical Observatory, Trieste, Italy), G. Brammer (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, USA), P. Santini (INAF–Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, Italy), J. Wagg (Square Kilometer Array Organization, Jodrell Bank Observatory, United Kingdom) and R. Williams (Cavendish Laboratory; Kavli Institute for Cosmology).

    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

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    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 1:50 pm on July 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Greatly Improves Capacity to Search for Water in Universe” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    17 July 2015
    Nicolás Lira
    Education and Public Outreach Assistant,
    Joint ALMA Observatory
    Santiago, Chile
    Tel: +56 2 2467 6519
    Cell: +56 9 9445 7726
    Email: nlira@alma.cl

    1
    Band 5 receiver integrated into a Front End with all the others Bands (3 to 10). Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), N. Tabilo

    After more than five years of development and construction, ALMA successfully opened its eyes on another frequency range after obtaining the first fringes with a Band 5 receiver, specifically designed to detect water in the local Universe. This band will also open up the possibility of studying complex molecules in star-forming regions and protoplanetary discs, and detecting molecules and atoms in galaxies in the early Universe, looking back about 13 billion years.

    ALMA observes the Universe in radio waves: light that is invisible to the human eye. The weak electromagnetic glow from space is captured by the array of 66 antennas, each with diameters up to twelve metres. Their receivers transform this weak radiation into an electrical signal.

    To scout a broad range of frequencies, each ALMA antenna is equipped with up to ten different receivers, each one specially designed to cover a specific range of wavelengths. The new Band 5 receiver is the eighth type to be integrated and covers a range of wavelengths from 1.4 to 1.8 millimetres (frequencies from 163 to 211 GHz), probing a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that has only been poorly explored before.

    2
    This image shows one of the Band 5 receiver cartridges built for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) waiting to be integrated into the Front End at the OSF technical laboratories. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), N. Tabilo.
    3
    Detail of a Band 5 receiver integrated into a Front End with all the others Bands (3 to 10). Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), N. Tabilo

    “Band 5 will open up new possibilities to explore the Universe and bring new discoveries,” explains ESO’s Gianni Marconi, who is responsible for the integration of Band 5. “The frequency range of this receiver includes an emission line of water that ALMA will be able to study in nearby regions of star formation. The study of water is, of course, of intense interest because of its role in the origin of life.”

    With Band 5 ALMA will also be able to probe the emission from ionised carbon from objects seen soon after the Big Bang, opening up the possibility of probing the earliest epoch of galaxy formation. “This band will also enable astronomers to study young galaxies in the early Universe about 500 million years after the Big Bang,” added Gianni Marconi.

    4
    ALMA Band 5 first fringe. With a baseline of 1 kilometer, two antennas pointed to the Orion Molecular Cloud detecting an H2O Maser at 183.3 GHz. When the signals from both antennas are correlated in phase, an emission line can be identified. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Band 5 Integration Team.

    The Band 5 receivers were originally designed and prototyped by Onsala Space Observatory’s Group for Advanced Receiver Development (GARD) at Chalmers University of Technology in 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). ) starting in 2006. Six of these receivers have been built under the FP6 contract and supplied to ALMA. The Band 5 project is developed in collaboration between ESO, and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). [1]

    After having successfully tested the prototypes, the first production-type receivers were built and delivered to ALMA by a consortium of NOVA and GARD in the first half of 2015. Two receivers were used for the first light. The remainder of the 73 receivers ordered, including spares, will be delivered between now and 2017.

    Notes

    [1] ESO placed the European contract for the cryogenically cooled receivers with NOVA, the research school for astronomy in the Netherlands, in partnership with Onsala Space Observatory’s Advanced Receiver Development group. NRAO build the high-precision local oscillators that tune the receivers, so that the output from all antennas can be precisely combined to make high-resolution images.

    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 8:16 am on June 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Weighs Supermassive Black Hole at Center of Distant Spiral Galaxy” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    18 June 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
    Composite image of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1097. By studying the motion of two molecules, ALMA was able to determine that the supermassive black hole at the galactic center has a mass 140 million times greater than our Sun. The ALMA data is in red (HCO+) and green/orange (HCN) superimposed on an optical image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ), K. Onishi; NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope; NRAO/AUI/NSF

    Supermassive black holes lurk at the center of virtually every large galaxy. These cosmic behemoths can be millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun. Determining just how massive, however, has been daunting, especially for spiral galaxies and their closely related cousins barred spirals.

    In a new proof-of-concept observation, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have measured the mass of the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 1097 — a barred spiral galaxy located approximately 45 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Fornax. The researchers determined that this galaxy harbors a black hole 140 million times more massive than our Sun. In comparison, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way is a lightweight, with a mass of just a few million times that of our Sun.

    Temp 1
    NGC 1097 observed in the optical light with VLT operated by ESO. Credit: ESO/R. Gendler

    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 2:33 pm on June 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , ,   

    From ALMA: “Gravity-Aided ALMA Maps Distant Monstrous Galaxy” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    08 June 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

    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

    1
    The left panel shows the foreground lensing galaxy (observed with Hubble), and the gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81, which forms an almost perfect Einstein Ring, is hardly visible. The middle image shows the sharp ALMA image of the Einstein ring, with the foreground lensing galaxy being invisible to ALMA. The resulting reconstructed image of the distant galaxy (right) using sophisticated models of the magnifying gravitational lens, reveal fine structures within the ring that have never been seen before: Several dust clouds within the galaxy, which are thought to be giant cold molecular clouds, the birthplaces of stars and planets. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ)/Y. Tamura (The University of Tokyo)/Mark Swinbank (Durham University).

    In 2014, ALMA’s Long Baseline Campaign, separated it’s antennas for up to 15 kilometers and produced a spectacularly detailed image of the distant, gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81 [1]. New analyses of this image reveal details never before seen in a galaxy so remote, including phenomenally massive yet concentrated clumps of star-forming material.

    The ALMA observations of SDP.81 were enabled by a cosmic effect known as gravitational lensing. A large galaxy nestled between SDP.81 and ALMA is acting as a lens, magnifying the more distant galaxy’s light and warping it into a near-perfect example of a phenomenon known as an Einstein Ring [2].

    In the months following that observation, at least seven groups of scientists [3] have independently analyzed the ALMA data on SDP.81. This flurry of research papers has divulged unprecedented information about the galaxy, including details about its structure, contents, motion, and other physical characteristics.

    Since ALMA is an interferometer — a single instrument made up of multiple antennas — it can adjust its resolution by repositioning its antennas. During this observing campaign, ALMA’s antennas were at their greatest separation – up to 15 kilometers apart – providing the highest resolution ever achieved by the telescope. As a result, these new images of SDP.81 have a resolution up to six times greater [4] than those taken in the infrared with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

    By using sophisticated models to correct for the distortion produced by the magnifying gravitational lens, the astronomers were able to reveal fine, never-before-seen structure within SDP.81 in the form of dusty clouds thought to be giant repositories of cold molecular gas — the birthplaces of stars and planets.

    As a result, ALMA was able to observe clumps of star formation in the galaxy down to a size of approximately 200 light-years across. This is the first time this phenomenon has been seen at such an enormous distance.

    “ALMA was designed to be the most powerful telescope of its kind, but by harnessing the magnifying power of this gravitational lens we were able to study a distant and mysterious object in detail that would have been impossible otherwise,” said Todd Hunter, an astronomer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and co-author on one of the papers. “This one dataset has spawned an entire series of highly intriguing research, confirming that ALMA offers the astronomical community new avenues to probe the distant universe.”

    “The ALMA image of the reconstructed galaxy is spectacular,” said Rob Ivison, co-author of two of the papers and ESO’s Director for Science. “ALMA’s huge collecting area, the large separation of its antennas, and the stable atmosphere above the Atacama Desert all lead to exquisite detail in both images and spectra. That means that we get very sensitive observations, as well as information about how the different parts of the galaxy are moving. We can study galaxies at the other end of the Universe as they merge and create huge numbers of stars. This is the kind of stuff that gets me up in the morning!”

    Using the spectral information gathered by ALMA, astronomers also measured how the distant galaxy rotates and estimated its mass. The data show that the gas in this galaxy is unstable; clumps of it are collapsing inward and will likely turn into new giant star-forming regions in the future.

    Notably, the modeling of the lensing effect also indicates the existence of a supermassive black hole at the center of the foreground galaxy lens [5]. The central image of SDP.81 is too faint to be detected, leading to the conclusion that the foreground galaxy holds a supermassive black hole more than 200–300 million times the mass of the Sun.

    The number of papers published using this single ALMA dataset demonstrates the excitement generated by the potential of the array’s high resolution and light-gathering power. It also shows how ALMA will enable astronomers to make more discoveries in the years to come, also uncovering yet more questions about the nature of distant galaxies.

    3
    The resulting reconstructed image of the distant galaxy using sophisticated models of the magnifying gravitational lens, reveal fine structures within the ring that have never been seen before: Several dust clouds within the galaxy, which are thought to be giant cold molecular clouds, the birthplaces of stars and planets. Note that some of the smaller structures visible here might be artifacts caused by the reconstruction method. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ)/Mark Swinbank (Durham University)

    4
    The gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81, which appears as an almost perfect Einstein Ring, is seen here. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ)/Y. Tamura (The University of Tokyo)

    5
    The image shows the foreground lensing galaxy (observed with Hubble), and the gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81, which forms an almost perfect Einstein Ring, is hardly visible. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ)/Y. Tamura (The University of Tokyo)/Mark Swinbank (Durham University)

    Notes

    [1] The lensed galaxy is seen at a time when the Universe was only 15 percent of its current age, just 2.4 billion years after Big Bang. The light has taken over twice the age of the Earth to reach us (11.4 billion years), detouring along the way around a massive foreground galaxy that is comparatively close at 4 billion light-years away from us.

    [2] Gravitational lenses were predicted by Albert Einstein as part of his theory of general relativity. His theory tells us that objects bend space and time. Any light approaching this curved space-time will itself follow the curvatures created by the object. This enables particularly massive objects — huge galaxies and galaxy clusters — to act as cosmic magnifying glasses. An Einstein Ring is a special type of gravitational lens, in which the Earth, the foreground lensing galaxy, and the background lensed galaxy are in perfect alignment, creating a harmonious distortion in the form of a ring of light. This phenomenon is illustrated in the accompanying video.

    This research was presented in eight papers. The science teams are listed below:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.07605
    Yoichi Tamura (The University of Tokyo), Masamune Oguri (The University of Tokyo), Daisuke Iono (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/SOKENDAI), Bunyo Hatsukade (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), Yuichi Matsuda (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan/SOKENDAI), and Masao Hayashi (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan).

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.08720
    Simon Dye (University of Nottingham), Christina Furlanetto (University of Nottingham; CAPES Foundation, Ministry of Education of Brazil, Brazil), Mark Swinbank (Durham University), Catherine Vlahakis (Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile; ESO, Chile), James Nightingale (University of Nottingham), Loretta Dunne (University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Institute for Astronomy [IfA], Royal Observatory Edinburgh), Steve Eales (Cardiff University), Ian Smail (Durham), Ivan Oteo-Gomez (IfA, Edinburgh; ESO, Germany), Todd Hunter (National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA), Mattia Negrello (INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo Osservatorio, Padova, Italy), Helmut Dannerbauer (Universitat Wien, Vienna, Austria), Rob Ivison (IfA, Edinburgh; ESO, Germany), Raphael Gavazzi (Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris), Asantha Cooray (California Institute of Technology, USA) and Paul van der Werf (Leiden University, The Netherlands).

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1505.05148
    Mark Swinbank (Durham University), Simon Dye (University of Nottingham), James Nightingale (University of Nottingham), Christina Furlanetto (University of Nottingham; CAPES Foundation, Ministry of Education of Brazil, Brazil), Ian Smail (Durham), Asantha Cooray (California Institute of Technology, USA), Helmut Dannerbauer (Universitat Wien, Vienna, Austria), Loretta Dunne (University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Institute for Astronomy [IfA], Royal Observatory Edinburgh), Steve Eales (Cardiff University), Raphael Gavazzi (Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris), Todd Hunter (National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA), Rob Ivison (IfA, Edinburgh; ESO, Germany), Mattia Negrello (INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Vicolo Osservatorio, Padova, Italy), Ivan Oteo-Gomez (IfA, Edinburgh; ESO, Germany), Renske Smit (Durham), Paul van der Werf (Leiden University, The Netherlands), and Catherine Vlahakis (Joint ALMA Observatory, Chile; ESO, Chile).

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.05558
    Kenneth C. Wong (Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Academia Sinica (ASIAA), Taipei, Taiwan), Sherry H. Suyu (ASIAA, Taiwan), and Satoki Matsushita (ASIAA, Taiwan)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.07997
    Bunyo Hatsukade (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Tokyo, Japan) Yoichi Tamura (Institute of Astronomy, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan), Daisuke Iono (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan; The Graduate University for Advanced Studies [SOKENDAI], Tokyo, Japan), Yuichi Matsuda (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), Masao Hayashi (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), Masamune Oguri (Research Center for the Early Universe, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan; Department of Physics, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan; Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe [Kavli IPMU, WPI], University of Tokyo, Chiba, Japan)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.02652
    The ALMA Partnership, C. Vlahakis (Joint ALMA Observatory [JAO]; ESO) , T. R. Hunter (National Radio Astronomy Observatory [NRAO]), J. A. Hodge (NRAO) , L. M. Pérez (NRAO) , P. Andreani (ESO), C. L. Brogan (NRAO) , P. Cox (JAO, ESO) , S. Martin (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique [IRAM]) , M. Zwaan (ESO) , S. Matsushita (Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysic, Taiwan) , W. R. F. Dent (JAO, ESO), C. M. V. Impellizzeri (JAO, NRAO), E. B. Fomalont (JAO, NRAO), Y. Asaki (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan; Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [JAXA]) , D. Barkats (JAO, ESO) , R. E. Hills (Astrophysics Group, Cavendish Laboratory), A. Hirota (JAO; National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), R. Kneissl (JAO, ESO), E. Liuzzo (INAF, Istituto di Radioastronomia), R. Lucas (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble) , N. Marcelino (INAF), K. Nakanishi (JAO, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), N. Phillips (JAO, ESO), A. M. S. Richards (University of Manchester), I. Toledo (JAO), R. Aladro (ESO), D. Broguiere (IRAM), J. R. Cortes (JAO, NRAO), P. C. Cortes (JAO, NRAO), D. Espada (ESO, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), F. Galarza (JAO), D. Garcia-Appadoo (JAO, ESO), L. Guzman-Ramirez (ESO), A. S. Hales (JAO, NRAO) , E. M. Humphreys (ESO) , T. Jung (Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute) , S. Kameno (JAO, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan) , R. A. Laing (ESO), S. Leon (JAO,ESO) , G. Marconi (JAO, ESO) , A. Mignano (INAF) , B. Nikolic (Astrophysics Group, Cavendish Laboratory), L. A. Nyman (JAO, ESO), M. Radiszcz (JAO), A. Remijan (JAO, NRAO), J. A. Rodón (ESO), T. Sawada (JAO, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), S. Takahashi (JAO, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), R. P. J. Tilanus (Leiden University), B. Vila Vilaro (JAO, ESO), L. C. Watson (ESO), T. Wiklind (JAO, ESO), Y. Ao (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan) , J. Di Francesco (National Research Council Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics), B. Hatsukade (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), E. Hatziminaoglou (ESO), J. Mangum (NRAO), Y. Matsuda (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), E. Van Kampen (ESO), A. Wootten (NRAO), I. De Gregorio-Monsalvo (JAO, ESO), G. Dumas (IRAM), H. Francke (JAO), J. Gallardo (JAO), J. Garcia (JAO), S. Gonzalez (JAO), T. Hill (ESO), D. Iono (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), T. Kaminski (ESO), A. Karim (Argelander-Institute for Astronomy), M. Krips (IRAM), Y. Kurono (JAO, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan) , C. Lonsdale (NRAO), C. Lopez (JAO), F. Morales (JAO), K. Plarre (JAO), L. Videla (JAO), E. Villard (JAO, ESO), J. E. Hibbard (NRAO), K. Tatematsu (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.02025
    M. Rybak (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics), J. P. McKean (Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy; University of Groningen) S. Vegetti (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics), P. Andreani (ESO) and S. D. M. White (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1506.01425
    M. Rybak (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics), S. Vegetti (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics), J. P. McKean (Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy; University of Groningen), P. Andreani (ESO) and S. D. M. White (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics)

    Research papers accepted for publication or in press.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.07605 [Accepted for publication in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan]
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1505.05148 [In press Astrophysical Journal, Letters]
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.02652 [Accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal, Letters]
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.02025 [Accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society]

    Research papers posted prior to journal acceptance:
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.08720
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.05558
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.07997
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1506.01425

    See the full article, with videos, here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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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 8:32 pm on May 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Reveals the Cradles of Dense Cores: the Birthplace of Massive Stars” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    19 May 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 Taiwanese research team used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe a large molecular gas clump [1] named G33.92+0.11, where a cluster with massive stars is forming. The excellent imaging power of ALMA allowed to reveal with unprecedented detail, the fine structure of the molecular gas at the center of the region, where two surprisingly large molecular gas arms, with sizes of ~ 3.2 light years [2], appear to be spiraling around two massive molecular cores. These results showed that the large molecular arms are indeed the cradles of dense cores, which are current or future birthplaces of massive stars. This is a crucial step forward in the understanding of how mass distributes to form both massive cores and massive stars.

    How the gravitationally bound stellar clusters, for example, the young massive clusters (YMCs) and globular clusters (GCs) come to the existence, remains a fundamental problem in astrophysics. To form such complex systems, it is required that massive amounts of gas can be converted with little losses, into stars, before they start to disperse the gas by the action of their winds —the so called stellar feedback—, and such process is far from trivial. Current models propose that in order to quench the action of stellar feedback, the global collapse of the parent molecular cloud has to be very rapid.

    However, this global collapse of giant [3] molecular clouds (GMC) represents an observational challenge for astronomers, because they cannot measure distances along their line of sight (data is projected in two dimensions) and because it is near impossible to measure gas velocities in the transverse directions. Nevertheless, the amplified effects of the initial rotation (angular momentum) of the clouds may translate into the formation of massive molecular clumps that are supported by centrifugal forces at the center of the collapsing GMC.

    1
    Figure 1: An overview of a massive stellar cluster-forming molecular cloud from numerical hydrodynamical simulations (courtesy from James Dale [5]), and the context of the scale of the ALMA observations for the deeply embedded central few light-years region. Credit: ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), H. B. Liu, J. Dale.

    The identification of rotating structures at scales larger than the cores, may serve as evidence of such an outcome of global collapse. Also, because the massive molecular clumps are the densest regions in a collapsing GMC, they are likely the sites where the most massive stars of stellar clusters can form. To resolve the details of the morphology and kinematics of these systems will be key to understand how mass distributes in the sites of star cluster formation, such that it can form both massive and not massive stars.

    A research team led by Hauyu Baobab Liu at the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA) observed with ALMA the luminous OB cluster-forming region G33.92+0.11, located at a distance of about 23.000 lightyears. This source is at a beginning phase of forming an OB association, which has a contained luminosity of 250 thousand times the luminosity of the Sun. Most of this light is provided by a few embedded massive stars. The research team used the archival Herschel 350 μm, which were combined with another 350 μm image from the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory(CSO) with a higher angular resolution.

    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
    CSO

    “The Herschel Space Telescope archive images provided a high quality map of the 350 μm thermal emission of the external dusty gas structures around G33.92+0.11.

    ESA Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    We completed the missing small-scale pixels of this map with data from the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory. The final map revealed two molecular arms twisted in opposite directions, north and south of the cluster, converging at the central molecular clumps, indicating that perhaps the gas is being transported toward the central cluster along these spiral arms from distances as large as 20 light years,” says co-author Román-Zúñiga, from the Astronomy Institute of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

    2
    Figure 2: The central part of the OB cluster-forming region G33.92+0.11, observed by ALMA. Left: Dust continuum image taken at 1.3 mm. Right: False color image showing the integrated emission of three molecules: CH3CN in yellow, 13CS in green, and DCN in magenta, respectively. The CH3CN emission mainly traces the hot molecular cores, which harbor massive stars. The 13CS emission traces warm dense gas and shocks. The DCN emission appears to follow the bulk of dense gas traced by the dust continuum emission. Credit: ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), H. B. Liu et al.

    The unprecedented high angular resolution and high imaging fidelity of ALMA allowed the astronomers to reveal in G33.92+0.11 A two centrally located massive molecular cores (~100-300 solar masses), connected by several spiraling dense molecular gas arms. This kind of morphology resembles the previous ALMA images of molecular gas arms surrounding the low-mass protostellar binary L1551 NE [4], however, but linearly scaled-up by a factor between 100 and 1000 (Figure 1). In addition, the observed gas arms in G33.92+0.11 A appear to be fragmenting, which results in the formation of multiple satellite cores orbiting the central two highest mass cores. Comparing the simultaneously observed molecular gas tracers including CH3CN, 13CS, and DCN shows that the gas excitation conditions in these molecular arms and cores far from being uniform across the system (Figure 2). For instance, the two highest mass cores at the center already harbor massive stars and present bright CH3CN emission. The molecular arms embedded with satellite cores in the north may be relatively cool, indicated by the good correlation between the DCN line and the 1.3 mm dust continuum emission. Finally the molecular arms connecting the central massive molecular cores from the west may contain gas that is shocked to a higher temperature or are subject to stellar heating and show stronger 13CS emission.

    This team propose that the central ~1 pc scale region of G33.92+0.11 A is a flattened, massive molecular clump that is currently accreting material, which is being fed by the exterior gas filaments, and is marginally supported by centrifugal forces. At all spatial scales, the regions of higher density, that contain larger amounts of mass, form at the center of the system. Accretion may be prohibited by the angular momentum, but might be alleviated by fragmentation. The authors further propose that in the dense eccentric accretion flows, the formation of spiraling arm-like structures may be essential to the process. The subsequent fragmentation of the dense molecular arms may lead to the formation of the second generation high-mass stars.

    “Gas structures similar to spiral arms should be common in many systems at many different scales, as long as they are unstable to gravity and have non-negligible rotation. The superb images made with ALMA are starting to show this,” says co-author Galván-Madrid.

    Notes

    [1] In our nomenclature, massive molecular clumps refer to dense molecular gas structures with sizes of ∼0.5-1 pc, massive molecular cores refer to the <0.1 pc size overdensities embedded within a clump, and condensations refer to the distinct molecular substructures within a core. Fragmentation refers to the dynamical process that produces or enhances the formation of multiple objects.

    [2] 1 parsec (pc) ~ 3.2 light years ~ 3.086×1016 meters.

    [3] The typical spatial scales of stellar cluster-forming molecular clouds are 101-2 pc.

    [4] More in the press release Dec 04, 2014: Astronomers Identify Gas Spirals as a Nursery of Twin Stars through ALMA Observation

    [5] For details, please see Dale, J. E., Ngoumou, J., Ercolano, B., Bonnell, I. A., 2014, MNRAS, 442, 694

    More information

    These observational results were published in the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ, 804, 37) by Liu et al. as ALMA resolves the spiraling accretion flow in the luminous OB cluster forming region G33.92+0.11.

    This research was conducted by Hauyu Baobab Liu (Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics); Roberto Galván-Madrid (Centro de Radioastronomía y Astrofísica, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México); Izaskun Jiménez-Serra (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London and European Southern Observatory, Garching Germany); Carlos Román-Zúñiga (Instituto de Astronomía, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México); Qizhou Zhang (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics); Zhiyun Li (Department of Astronomy, University of Virginia); Huei-Ru Chen (Institute of Astronomy and Department of Physics, National Tsing Hua University).

    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 3:02 pm on May 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Discovers Proto Super Star Cluster — a Cosmic ‘Dinosaur Egg’ About to Hatch” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    07 May 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
    The Antennae galaxies, shown in visible light in a Hubble image (upper image), were studied with ALMA, revealing extensive clouds of molecular gas (center right image). One cloud (bottom image) is incredibly dense and massive, yet apparently star free, suggesting it is the first example of a prenatal globular cluster ever identified. Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble, B. Whitmore (STScI); K. Johnson, U.Va.; ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    NRAO VLA
    NRAO/VLA

    Globular clusters – dazzling agglomerations of up to a million ancient stars – are among the oldest objects in the universe. Though plentiful in and around many galaxies, newborn examples are vanishingly rare and the conditions necessary to create new ones have never been detected, until now.

    Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered what may be the first known example of a globular cluster about to be born: an incredibly massive, extremely dense, yet star-free cloud of molecular gas.

    “We may be witnessing one of the most ancient and extreme modes of star formation in the universe,” said Kelsey Johnson, an astronomer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and lead author on a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “This remarkable object looks like it was plucked straight out of the very early universe. To discover something that has all the characteristics of a globular cluster, yet has not begun making stars, is like finding a dinosaur egg that’s about to hatch.”

    This object, which the astronomers playfully refer to as the “Firecracker,” is located approximately 50 million light-years away from Earth nestled inside a famous pair of interacting galaxies (NGC 4038 and NGC 4039), which are collectively known as the Antennae galaxies. The tidal forces generated by their ongoing merger are triggering star formation on a colossal scale, much of it occurring inside dense clusters.

    2
    NGC 4038 (left) and NGC 4039 (right)

    What makes the Firecracker unique, however, is its extraordinary mass, comparatively small size, and apparent lack of stars.

    All other globular cluster analogues astronomers have observed to date are already brimming with stars. The heat and radiation from these stars have therefore altered the surrounding environment considerably, erasing any evidence of its colder, quieter beginnings.

    2
    ALMA image of dense cores of molecular gas in the Antennae galaxies. The round yellow object near the center may be the first prenatal example of a globular cluster ever identified. It is surrounded by a giant molecular cloud. Credit: K. Johnson, U.Va.; ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ).

    With ALMA, the astronomers were able to find and study in detail a pristine example of such an object before stars forever change its unique characteristics. This afforded astronomers a first-ever glimpse of the conditions that may have led to the formation of many, if not all globular clusters.

    “Until now, clouds with this potential have only been seen as teenagers, after star formation had begun,” said Johnson. “That meant that the nursery had already been disturbed. To understand how a globular cluster forms, you need to see its true beginnings.”

    Most globular clusters formed during a veritable “baby boom” around 12 billion years ago, at a time when galaxies first assembled. Each contains as many as a million densely packed “second generation” stars — stars with conspicuously low concentrations of heavy metals, indicating they formed very early in the history of the universe. Our own Milky Way is known to have at least 150 such clusters, though it may have many more.

    Throughout the universe, star clusters of various sizes are still forming to this day. It’s possible, though increasingly rare, that the largest and densest of these will go on to become globular clusters.

    “The survival rate for a massive young star cluster to remain intact is very low – around one percent,” said Johnson. “Various external and internal forces pull these objects apart, either forming open clusters like the Pleiades or completely disintegrating to become part of a galaxy’s halo.”

    The astronomers believe, however, that the object they observed with ALMA, which contains 50 million times the mass of the Sun in molecular gas, is sufficiently dense that it has a good chance of being one of the lucky ones.


    Animation of ALMA data depicting dense cores of molecular gas in the Antennae galaxies. The yellow object at the center may be the first prenatal example of a globular cluster ever identified. Credit: K. Johnson, U.Va.; ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ)

    Globular clusters evolve out of their embryonic, star-free stage very rapidly — in as little as one million years. This means the object discovered by ALMA is undergoing a very special phase of its life, offering astronomers a unique opportunity to study a major component of the early universe.

    The ALMA data also indicate that the Firecracker cloud is under extreme pressure – approximately 10,000 times greater than typical interstellar pressures. This supports previous theories that high pressures are required to form globular clusters.

    In exploring the Antennae, Johnson and her colleagues observed the faint emission from carbon monoxide molecules, which allowed them to image and characterize individual clouds of dust and gas. The lack of any appreciable thermal emission – the telltale signal given off by gas heated by nearby stars – confirms that this newly discovered object is still in its pristine, unaltered state.

    Further studies with ALMA may reveal additional examples of proto super star clusters in the Antennae galaxies and other interacting galaxies, shedding light on the origins of these ancient objects and the role they play in galactic evolution.

    More Information

    The paper The Physical Conditions in a Pre Super Star Cluster Molecular Cloud in the Antennae Galaxies by K.E. Johnson et.al it can be found here.

    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 2:12 pm on April 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From ALMA: “Launch of ChiVO, the first Chilean Virtual Observatory” 

    ESO ALMA Array
    ALMA

    24 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

    1

    After more than two years of work, today was launched the first Chilean Virtual Observatory (ChiVO), an astro-informatic platform for the administration and analysis of massive data coming from the observatories built across the country. Its implementation will provide advanced computing tools and research algorithms to the Chilean astronomical community.

    3
    The project designed to manage and analyze the almost 250 terabytes of data that the Atacama Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) will generate each year has joined the International Virtual Observatory Alliance, becoming a key initiative in Chile’s contribution to astroinformatics around the world.

    4

    “This project is a major contribution for Chilean astronomers -said Diego Mardones, an astronomer at Universidad de Chile- because besides being an excellent tool for exploring the huge quantity of astronomical data that will be generated in our country in the coming years, it opens new opportunities of interdisciplinary research.”

    2
    ChiVO main team. Left to right: Paulina Troncoso, Astronomer; Ricardo Contreras, U. of Concepción; Jorge Ibsen, ALMA; Mauricio Solar, ChiVO’s director, U. Técnica Federico Santa María (UFSM); Paola Arellano, REUNA; Victor Parada, U. of Santiago; Marcelo Mendoza, ChiVO’s alternate director, UFSM; Diego Mardones, U. of Chile; Mauricio Araya, UFSM; María; Guillermo Cabrera, U. of Chile.

    The project led by Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (UTFSM) is a successful collaboration with four other universities in Chile (Universidad de Chile, Universidad Católica, Universidad de Concepción y Universidad de Santiago) and was funded by FONDEF, the Chilean Scientific and Technological Development Fund. Furthermore, both the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and REUNA, the National Universities Network, are associated to the project. Thanks to ChiVO, Chile will become a member of the International Virtual Observatories Alliance (IVOA) and it will be accessible for all astronomers making their research in the country through its website http://www.chivo.cl.

    For the project’s director, Mauricio Solar, “this innovation will allow astronomical data to be processed in Chile using high-quality, local human capital and integrating Chilean astro-informatics with the international community at the highest levels of development.”

    With new telescopes being constructed in Chile, the amount of astronomical data generated will only increase. As an example, once ALMA is operating at full capacity, it will produce close to 250 terabytes of data each year. ChiVO will enable Chilean astronomers to access this data with high transfer rates, provide the infrastructure for high storage capacity and access the analysis of the data.

    “ChiVO and the services provided by it will be a key tool for the Chilean astronomical community, added Jorge Ibsen, director of ALMA’s Department of Computing. “ALMA is proud to be part of this project that will boost the usage of the astronomical data generated in the country.

    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 1:32 pm on April 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, , , ,   

    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.

    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 10:50 am on April 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA, ,   

    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.

    NRAO Small

    ESO 50

    NAOJ

     
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