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  • richardmitnick 7:51 am on May 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Giant planets and comets battle in planet-forming disk", , , , , , ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, HD 163296,   

    From EarthSky: “Giant planets and comets battle in planet-forming disk” 

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    From EarthSky

    May 28, 2019
    Deborah Byrd

    A study of dust in the disk around the star HD 163296 suggests we’re glimpsing a gravitational interaction between giant planets and much-smaller objects, the future asteroids and comets of this newly forming solar system.

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    Image from the ALMA telescope in Chile – not an artist’s concept – of the young star HD 163296. The star is surrounded by a disk of gas and dust, where at least 3 giant planets are thought to be forming … duking it out with this system’s future comets and asteroids. Image via ALMA/S. Dagnello/INAF

    The Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) – headquartered in Rome, Italy – announced a new study on May 23, 2019, that provides a key glimpse into the process by which solar systems build their planets. The study is based on observations with the ALMA telescope in Chile.

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

    It explored whether the anomalous features in the dust and gas distributions in the planet-forming disk of a distant star – called HD 163296 – could arise from an interaction of the system’s giant planets with its planetesimals, or planet-building blocks. Leftover planetesimals, those that don’t go into forming planets, will one day become this system’s asteroids and comets.

    The new study is published in the peer reviewed The Astrophysical Journal.

    For centuries, astronomers have theorized that planets form in a flattened disk of gas and dust encircling a newly born star. In 2014, ALMA became the first to capture detailed images of these circumstellar disks, specifically a first image of bright concentric rings in a disk, around the star HL Tau. Thus the process by which solar systems are born is being revealed. Since then, ALMA has been capturing even smaller-scale structures in circumstellar disks – gaps, rings and spiral arms – most of them believed to be linked to the presence of young planets and to arise from the interplay of the new planets’ gravity with their surroundings. A statement from INAF explained:

    Among the best-studied disks observed by ALMA is that surrounding HD 163296, a 5 million-year-old star about twice the mass of our sun. HD 163296’s disk is both massive (a bit less than one tenth of the sun’s mass) and wide (about 500 au, twice the outer boundary of the Kuiper Belt in the solar system) and has been proposed to be home to at least three planets with masses comprised between twice that of Uranus and the one of Jupiter. ALMA’s most recent observations allowed to spatially and compositionally characterize the structure of HD 163296’s disk to a level previously undreamed of and showed how dust is still quite abundant (more than 300 times the mass of the Earth) in this disk notwithstanding its age and having produced at least three giant planets. The same observations also revealed some strange behaviors of the dust spatial distribution that could not easily be explained only as the result of its interplay with the gas and the newly formed giant planets.

    As planets form in a disk, the dust in the disk is thought to be swept up, so that it decreases over time. Astronomers expected dust to disappear over time from the region immediately inside HD 163296’s innermost planet. At the same time, they thought, dust coming from the outer regions of the disk should pile up outside the orbits of the second and third planets. ALMA’s observations revealed instead that the regions inside the first planet and between the first and second planets have some of the highest concentrations of dust of the whole disk. The new study explored whether these anomalous dust features could arise from the interaction of the giant planets with a component of the disk previously unaccounted for: the planetesimals.

    Diego Turrini of INAF – lead author of the study – said:

    “From the study of the solar system we know that mature circumstellar disks like HD 163296 are not composed only by gas and dust, but also contain an invisible population of small planetary objects similar to our asteroids and comets.”

    Turrini and his colleagues performed computer simulations showing how, during the growth of HD 163296’s three giant planets, a larger and larger fraction of the surrounding population of planetesimals is injected on very eccentric and very inclined orbits similar to those of the comets in our solar system. Francesco Marzari of the University of Padova, co-author of the study, commented:

    “The main outcome of this dynamical excitation is a higher rate of violent collisions among the planetesimals.”

    The team found that the collisions among planetesimals remain quite gentle until the giant planets approach their final masses but then they rapidly grow a hundredfold in violence and start grinding down the planetesimals. Marzari said:

    “These violent collisions replenish the dust population in the disk. The new dust produced by this process, however, has a different orbital distribution than the original one and mainly concentrates in two places: the orbital region within the first giant planet and the ring between the first and the second giant planets.”

    Read more details about the outcome of the study here

    Leonardo Testi, also co-author of the study and head of the ALMA Support Center of the European Southern Observatory, said:

    “This study was started as a pathfinder project to explore whether the dynamical excitation caused by newly formed giant planets could actually produce observable effects. As such, we just scratched the surface of this process and its implications. Nevertheless, its physical recipe is quite simple: massive planets forming in a disk of planetesimals. Given the widespread signatures of possible young giant planets we are discovering with ALMA and the extended duration of the dynamical effects caused by their appearance, we might be looking to a process that is quite common among circumstellar disks.”

    And so the question of how our Earth and solar system were made is being answered!

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    Graphic showing the disk of icy planetesimals hidden in HD 163296’s circumstellar disk seen from above and the side. The young giant planets rapidly create a large population of exocomets acting as high-speed projectiles for the other bodies. Image via D. Turrini/INAF-IAPS.

    Bottom line: New telescopic observations of young star HD 163296 show rings of dust in its surrounding dust cloud indicating that giant planets are interacting with small bodies that will become asteroids and comets.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:34 am on April 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Gas: The Blueprint of Star Formation", ASTRON LOFAR Radio Antenna Bank Netherlands, , , , , ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, GMCs-Giant Molecular Clouds,   

    From Medium: “Gas: The Blueprint of Star Formation” 

    From Medium

    Apr 2, 2019
    Dammnn

    We have explored hundreds of thousands of hypothetical individual gas clouds in the universe, which collapse gravitationally and crunch out new stars. That’s just an illustration of the way stars are formed. What is the distribution of stars and gas in the Milky Way as a whole?

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    google.com/images
    Detail of the birth of stars in the Carina nebula, focuesed on a pillar of gas and dust within which stars are forming. This is just part of a larger complex of star formation within a huge cloud of gas, a scenario played out in patches throughout the disc of our galaxy and other star-forming galaxies in the universe, wherever there is a reservior of cold, dense gas and the conditions are right for the thermonuclear triggering of star formation. The pillar is quite opaque, even to the intense light emitted by the new stars within it, but jets emitted by some young, massive stars within the pilar can be seen blasting lateraly out of the collumn, and the whole region glows with the light of ionized gases and scattered light. Star formation is an energetic process: radiation and winds from the most massive, young stars can dramatically alter and shape their immediate surroundings, and form part of feedback energy responsibe for regulating the growth of galaxies.

    As we know, the Milky Way can be divided up into its disc and central bulge — the virtual and the yolk, if you like. The disc of the galaxy is where most of the dense gas reservoirs responsible for forming new stars are located, and these are so-called Giant Molecular Clouds (GMCs). They are called ‘giant’ because they are large, spanning some hundreds or so parsecs, and contain enough fuel to form potentially millions of stars. They are ‘molecular’ because of the gas within them is primarily composed of molecular hydrogen, the simplest molecule, just two protons bound together by shared electrons forming a simple covalent bond. In order to form in the first place, molecular clouds must have ‘cooled’ from more tenuous gas where the hydrogen atoms were not yet bound together. We say the gas has ‘cooled’ because, for the molecules to form, those atoms must get close enough together so that they become bound via the electromagnetic force, and don’t simply zip by each other. This is the situation in host gas; the atoms have lost of energy if molecules and subsequently, stars are to form.

    At first, it’s a bit confusing to think that stars, which are a lot, form from gas that has cooled, but what we really mean is that the gas cloud as a whole has collapsed gravitationally, losing some of its internal energy so that fusion — star formation — can eventually take place in dynamically cold clumps.

    Once stars start forming within a cloud, the gas around the sites of new star formation starts getting blasted by the radiation and winds driven by those new stars. This backlash not only ionizes the surroundings gas, creating a glowing nebula like Orion but the combination of the radiation and winds blown by the stars starts to blow out bubbles and cavities within the GMC, affecting the distribution and chemistry of the gas. Thus the astrophysics at the interface of star formation and the interstellar medium is incredibly complex, meriting a dedicated field of astrophysics research.

    There are many GMCs spread throughout the galactic disc. If we could view the Milky Way from above, we would see many patches of red-hued ionized hydrogen and clusters of blue, young stars punctuating the spiral arms of the galaxy. We cannot get to this vantage point for obvious reasons, but images of nearby spiral galaxies that present their faces to use give us an excellent idea of what the Milky Way looks like from the outside.

    We measure the star-formation rate — or SFR — of a galaxy in the convenient units of the equivalent mass in Suns formed per year. The Milky Way has a star formation rate of just a few solar masses per year, and it’s important to consider that even after billions of years of evolution, the galaxy has not yet used up all of its gas, it remains an active place, albeit comparatively sedate compared to the most extreme galaxies in the universe, which I will come to. If we waited long enough and watched the evolution of the Milky Way, pretty much all the gas in the galaxy would be turned into stars, and the supply of gas from the surrounding intergalactic space — which gradually rains down via gravity — would turn into an insignificant trickle.

    A few tens to 100 million years later, after the last generation of star forms, the massive stars would die, leaving behind their longer lived but less massive cousins. The disc would eventually fade and turn from blue to red as the bluer spectral type die off progressively. Such galaxies do exist and are called ‘passive spirals’. They are thought to be typical spirals in which star formation has ceased, either because of some environmental influence that prevents gas from forming new stars or because they have run out of fuel.

    On the other hand, if the Milky Way collides with another galaxy, as it will probably do with M31 in the future, there will be a violent event that could significantly boost the star formation rate.

    Milkdromeda -Andromeda on the left-Earth’s night sky in 3.75 billion years-NASA

    The strong gravitational tidal force will distort and tear the two galactic discs, triggering a burst of star formation in disturbed clouds, which are impelled to collapse from the gravitational perturbation. No stars will physically collide — they are so small and far between that the chance of individual stellar collisions when galaxies collide are very low. We see these starbursts happening in other galaxies that have recently collided; stellar discs are ripped into long tails, and there are patches of intense ultraviolet and infrared emissions, often towards the dense centre of the system. When things settle down, our galaxy will have changed chemically, dynamically and structurally. New generations of stars and the new solar systems that form with them will be enriched with elements that will literally have formed a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

    Galaxy collision is events that stir things up: they deliver new material and promote new growth. As always, the dense gas is where all the actions happen, but this gas is surprisingly difficult to detect. Most of the molecular hydrogen in galaxies cannot be observed directly, because for physical reasons relate to the structure of the hydrogen molecules under normal conditions it doesn’t emit radiation that we can detect. And yet molecular hydrogen is a fundamental component of galaxies, so how can we learn about the properties of the raw material for star formation?

    It’s easy to see the glowing, ionized gas around star-forming regions, but these are like burst-fires in a more expensive savannah. The majority of the gas in any one GMC is not actively forming stars. So, how do we measure and map the molecular gas? The answer comes from the contamination of that gas by previous generations of stars. One of the most common molecules in galaxies after hydrogen is carbon monoxide. This is the same stuff that is emitted by the poorly burning gas fires, and which you can detect in your home.

    Carbon monoxide tends to be mixed in with the hydrogen gas, which is extremely useful because, unlike the hydrogen molecules, it does emit radiation when excited into an energetic state. In this case, that energy is in the form of the simple rotation of the carbon monoxide molecules(Which are single carbon and oxygen atoms bound together.) This rotation can happen when carbon monoxide molecules collide with hydrogen molecules. Changes in the energy of quantum systems (like molecules) result in the emission of precisely turned radiation. At the molecular level, even the rotation of a molecule like carbon monoxide is regulated by quantum mechanics: only certain types of rotation are allowed. This means that carbon monoxide, when rotationally excited, emits radiation at regular intervals in frequency. Different frequencies of emission correspond with different energy states, the highest frequencies are emitted by carbon monoxide molecules in the most energetic states and vice verse. These energy states are dependent on the density and temperature of the gas.

    It takes gas densities of a few hundred particles per cubic centimetre and temperatures of a few tens of degrees above absolute zero to start emitting the lowest energy carbon monoxide lines. In context, the gas that is producing this emission is representative of the bulk molecular gas reservoir. Unlike the emission lines of ionized gas in the visible light part of the spectrum, the carbon monoxide emission has wavelengths of the order of a millimetre, between the far-infrared and radio part of the spectrum, so it cannot be observed with a normal optical telescope. Instead, we can use radio telescope equipped with suitable receivers that can detect photons of this wavelength. Once we detect the carbon monoxide emission, we can measure the total amount of light and convert this to carbon monoxide luminosity assuming we have some estimate of how far away the emitting gas is. Since the carbon monoxide emitting gas is mixed in with the molecular hydrogen such that the more hydrogen there is, the more carbon monoxide there is, we can convert the observed carbon monoxide luminosity to a molecular hydrogen mass. Thus, we can tell how much gas is available for star formation in a GMC, or indeed in the whole galaxy.

    Traditionally this has been quite a challenging observations for galaxies much beyond our local volume — the technology has not been available to detect the faint carbon monoxide emission from very distant galaxies apart from the most extreme, luminous galaxies like quasars. All this is changing right now with the development of a new telescope — or rather, an array of telescope — called the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).

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

    ALMA is a collection of about 50 radio dishes [correction-66 radio telescopes], each 12 meters in diameter, spread over a large area of land in the high Chilean Atacama on the Chajnantor plateau, at an altitude of about 5 Kilometer. ALMA is an international project, with the major contributions from the USA, Europe and Japan. The magical thing about an array of telescope like ALMA is that they can be linked together electronically to act like a very large telescope, utilizing the light-collecting area of all the dishes and attaining very high spatial resolutions. This technique is called interferometry. ALMA is incredibly sensitive in the sub-millimetre and millimetre bands and, once it reaches full operational power, will be able to detect the molecular gas in galaxies not dissimilar to the Milky Way, but seen close to the start of the cosmic time. It’s an amazing leap forward in this area of astronomy and is ushering in a new era of exploration of galaxies that will yield fascinating discoveries for several decades to come.

    You might have heard about the molecular gas — the building blocks of stars — but it’s important to also consider the other major gaseous components of galaxies: the neutral atomic hydrogen, H1, which precedes the molecular phase. This H1 gas comprises single atoms of hydrogen rather than molecules of hydrogen. Unlike molecular hydrogen, the atomic component is more diffuse and is not restricted to dense, compact clouds trapped in the disc. The atomic hydrogen is incredibly useful as a tracer of the outer edge of disc galaxies. The atomic hydrogen is easy to spot because it is a strong emitter of radio waves. Not any old sort of radio waves, mind you — in the rest frame, the gas emits light at a frequency precisely 1.4 gigahertz, or equivalent a wavelength of 21 centimetres. Like the precise carbon monoxide emission from GMCs discussed before, and like those ionized gas emission line around star-forming regions we have talked about, the 21 cm emission from atomic hydrogen is also an emission line. This time the physics of the emission is slightly different again. I’ll explain it because it illustrates two important things: one, the ridiculous numbers involved in astrophysics, and two, another nice link between quantum mechanics and astrophysics.

    Hydrogen atoms are made from a proton and an electron. In quantum mechanics, these particles have a property called ‘spin’, which doesn’t really have an analogue in classical physics but is a bit like a quantum angular momentum. Anyway, the spin of the proton and electron can each be thought of as oriented up or down, so it’s easy to think of a bunch of hydrogen atoms, somewhere both the protons and electrons have their spins in the same direction (parallel), and some where the spins are in opposite directions which is anti-parallel. It turns out that the quantum state in which the spins are parallel has a little more energy than the state in which they are anti-parallel. A quantum system is lazy — it likes to be in the lowest possible energy state — so there is a mechanism by which those atoms with parallel spins can have the electron flip so that is spin points in the opposite direction to the proton’s spin. This is called hyperfine splitting because the difference in the energy between the parallel and anti-parallel states is tiny compared with the overall ground-state energy of a hydrogen atom.

    The energy that the system loses in this transition has to go somewhere, so every spin flip releases a photon with a very specific energy corresponding to the exact difference in energy between the parallel and anti-parallel states, which happens to correspond with electromagnetic radiation — a photon — with a wavelength of precisely 21 centimetres. The corollary is that neutral atomic hydrogen can also absorb radiation with a wavelength of 21 centimetres, where energy is absorbed by the atom and stored by aligning the spins of the electron and proton.

    Hyperfine splitting is called a ‘forbidden’ transition because, for any one atom, there is a very small chance of it occurring under normal conditions. In fact, the chance is so remote that if you observed a single hydrogen atom aligned in the parallel state and waited for it to undergo the hyperfine transition, you would have to wait on average of 10 million years for it to happen. If you observed 10 million atoms, then you would expect to see just one photon released per year. That’s still not much of a signal. In astrophysical scenarios, however, we can exploit atomic crowdsourcing, there are so many neutral hydrogen atoms in an astrophysical cloud of gas that the radio emission is really quite bright — since, at any one time, a huge number of 21 cm photon are being emitted via the hyperfine transition. I find this amazing — this is a probabilistic quantum mechanical release of a photon from a single atom that simply doesn’t happen on Earth, but when it is put in an astrophysical theatre it gives rise to one of the most important observations we have of our own, and indeed other galaxies.

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    NASA/ESA Hubble Messier 83

    Again, like the carbon monoxide measurements, the detection of atomic hydrogen much beyond the local volume is difficult. Like all electromagnetic radiation being emitted by a source moving relative to use, the 21 cm line is subject to redshift, which stretches wavelength longer and equivalently makes frequencies lower. The rest-frame frequency of 1.4 GHz is already quite low. Make that lower still and it moves into a part of the radio frequency range that is quite difficult to detect. For one thing, below 1 GHz we get into the radio bands used commercially for TV and radio, and for communication. This manmade radio frequency interference dwarfs astronomical signals, making astronomical observations near impossible at frequencies that coincide with these ranges. Radio telescopes that want to operate close to the frequencies used for communication must be put in a location remote from terrestrial radio source in order to minimize RFI [Radio Frequency Interference].

    The Earth’s ionosphere also affects the traversal of radio frequencies below 1 GHz in a similar way to how optical light is bent and refracted by a glass of water, and correcting for this is hard. There are numerous other technical reasons why low-frequency radio astronomy is challenging, but many of these hurdles are now being overcome with the development of large antenna array coupled with extremely powerful computers that can handle the insane level of single processing that must be performed in order to distil astronomical signals in the radio part of the spectrum.

    One such recent example is LOFAR: the LOw-Frequency ARay for radio astronomy.

    ASTRON LOFAR Radio Antenna Bank, Netherlands

    LOFAR is an array of thousands of very cheap antennae, that actually just resemble black slabs, rather than the parabolic dishes that you usually associate with a radio telescope), spread over a 100 Kilometer region in the Netherlands, as well as stations up to 1,500 Km away in various parts of Europe. The telescope is designed to detect radio frequency of 10 to 250 MHz — suitable for exploring what has been dubbed the ‘low-frequency universe’. What makes LOFAR different from traditional telescopes is the fact that the antennae are Omni-directional they can record the entire sky at once. Then, in order to observe a particular spot in the sky, the signals from all the antenna are collected and the aperture actually defined within the software, using a supercomputer that cleverly processes the signal received by each of the antennae. Although it still requires antennae to do the receiving, LOFAR is basically a digital telescope that has only been made possible through modern computing — the power and sophistication of which will only improve over time.

    Like ALMA, LOFAR is a fantastically powerful and innovative telescope that is going to help revolutionize twenty-first-century astronomy. One of the goals of LOFAR is to detect the 21 cm line of neutral atomic hydrogen close to the epoch when the first stars and galaxies formed, where the H1 emission has been redshifted to very low frequencies — this is the final frontier of galaxy evolution studies. LOFAR has a more practical application too: it is also being used as a sensor network that can be applied to geophysics research and agriculture studies.

    See the full article here .

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    About Medium

    Medium is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. It is owned by A Medium Corporation. The platform is an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium, and is regularly regarded as a blog host.

    Williams developed Medium as a way to publish writings and documents longer than Twitter’s 140-character (now 280-character) maximum.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:44 am on March 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "First Detection of the Pre-Biotic Molecule Glycolonitrile in Space", Adenine- one of the four constituent bases of nucleic acids is thought to have formed from one of the two known two-ring nitrogen heterocycles- glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN), Astronomers have calculated that glycolonitrile could then be broken apart by ultraviolet light, , ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, Glycolonitrile itself however has not been reported leaving a step in the theory of the formation of nucleic acids unconfirmed., Heterocyclic molecules are those containing atoms of at least two different elements (plus hydrogen) arranged in a ring structure, , Nitrogen heterocycles are key components in biological nucleic acids, Target: solar-type protostar IRAS16293-2422B, The team concludes that some other chemical pathways must be operative, The team searched for the characteristic spectral signature of glycolonitrile in three frequency bands of ALMA and found thirty-five of its transitions that were unambiguous, This critical chemical has now been measured and the theory is in general on the right track   

    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: “First Detection of the Pre-Biotic Molecule Glycolonitrile in Space” 

    Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


    From Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    March 8, 2019

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    A false-color infrared image of the molecular cloud containing the young star IRAS16293-2422. The marked square shows the region where the star is located, and the insert illustrates its chemical richness. Astronomers used the ALMA facility to detect the first evidence in space of the pre-biotic chemical glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN). ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/L. Calçada (ESO) & NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

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

    NASA Wise Telescope

    Heterocyclic molecules are those containing atoms of at least two different elements (plus hydrogen) arranged in a ring structure. Nitrogen heterocycles are key components in biological nucleic acids, and in theories of the origins of biogenic molecules they were synthesized from abundant, simpler nitrogen molecules like hydrogen cyanide, HCN. Adenine, one of the four constituent bases of nucleic acids, is thought to have formed from one of the two known two-ring nitrogen heterocycles, glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN). In the cold interstellar medium of space, glycolonitrile could assemble on the surfaces of icy grain surfaces via reactions between formaldehyde (H2CO) and hydrogen cyanide. Astronomers have calculated that glycolonitrile could then be broken apart by ultraviolet light, leaving a variety of simpler nitrogen-bearing molecules, some of which have been detected in molecular clouds in space. Glycolonitrile itself, however, has not been reported leaving a step in the theory of the formation of nucleic acids unconfirmed.

    CfA astronomer Rafael Martin-Domenech and his colleagues used the ALMA telescope facility to search for glycolonitrile in the young, solar-type protostar IRAS16293-2422B. This well-studied object lies about five hundred light-years in the constellation of Ophiuchus. It has a cold outer envelope of gas and dust and a hotter inner region heated by the star extending out to about a hundred astronomical units. Numerous, simpler organic molecules had already been seen in this warm zone. The team searched for the characteristic spectral signature of glycolonitrile in three frequency bands of ALMA, and found thirty-five of its transitions that were unambiguous. They modeled the data to reveal two components at two temperatures, about 24K and 158K, coming correspondingly from material in both the cold outer envelope of the star and its hotter inner zone. Their chemical analysis predicts a smaller abundance of the species than is actually seen, for both the cold and warm components, including under a variety of likely conditions including the cosmic ray ionization rate. The team concludes that some other chemical pathways must be operative, but that this critical chemical has now been measured and the theory is in general on the right track.

    Science paper:
    First Detection of the Pre-biotic Molecule Glycolonitrile (HOCH2CN) in the Interstellar Medium,” S. Zeng, D. Quenard, I. Jimenez-Serra, J Martín-Pintado, V. M. Rivilla, L. Testi, and R. Martın-Domenech
    MNRAS

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:52 pm on February 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Space Cow Mystifies Astronomers", , , , , Could we be witnessing a dying star giving birth to an X-ray engine?, ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, ,   

    From ESOblog: “Space Cow Mystifies Astronomers” 

    ESO 50 Large

    From ESOblog

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    Science Snapshots – ALMA

    Could we be witnessing a dying star giving birth to an X-ray engine?

    15 February 2019

    One night in June 2018, telescopes spotted an extremely bright point of light in the sky that had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Observations across the electromagnetic spectrum, made using telescopes from around the world, suggest that the light is likely to be the explosive death of a star giving birth to a neutron star or black hole. If so, this would be the first time ever that this has been observed. We find out more from Anna Ho, who led a team that used a variety of telescopes to figure out what exactly this mysterious object — classified as a transient and nicknamed The Cow — is.

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    Anna Ho

    Q. What is a transient, and why it is interesting to study them?

    A. The night sky appears calm but it is actually incredibly dynamic, with stars exploding in distant galaxies, visible through our telescopes as flashes of light. The word “transient” refers to a short-lived phenomenon in the night sky, which could be the explosion of a dying star, a tidal disruption event, or a flare from a star in the Milky Way. And there are probably many other types of transients out there that we have not even discovered!

    Q. So given that transients are sudden phenomena that you can’t predict, how can you possibly plan for studying them?

    A. It’s kind of a case of reacting to their appearance. In the past few years, we’ve entered this amazing new era of astronomy where telescopes can map out the entire sky every night. By comparing tonight’s map to last night’s map, we can see exactly what has changed over the previous 24 hours. The transients I study are very short-lived explosions — lasting between a few hours and a few months — so when an interesting one happens, we have to drop everything and react. Luckily I love my research enough to do this!

    It is only by using lots of different telescopes that we can really get a full picture of a transient.

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    ALMA and Very Large Array (VLA) images of the mysterious transient, The Cow.
    Credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF; R. Margutti, W.M. Keck Observatory; Ho, et al.

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    Q. In June 2018, you observed an unusual transient that was named AT2018cow, or The Cow. Can you describe this phenomenon? What made it so remarkable?

    A. One night, astronomers saw a point of light in the sky that had not been there before: a new transient! The Cow was particularly special for two reasons: firstly, it was VERY bright, and secondly, it had achieved that brightness VERY quickly. This was exciting, because usually if a transient appears very quickly, it is not so bright, and a very bright transient takes a long time to become bright. So we realised immediately that this was something strange.

    Q. You chose to study this transient with two millimetre telescopes: the Submillimeter Array (SMA) and ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array). What do millimetre telescopes offer over other telescopes?

    CfA Submillimeter Array Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,080 m (13,390 ft)

    A. In the early stages of a transient (in its first few weeks of existence), we can see the shockwave emitted by an explosion by capturing light at millimetre wavelengths — this is exactly what SMA and ALMA can see. In particular, thanks to ALMA we were able to learn that in the case of The Cow, the shockwave was travelling at one-tenth of the speed of light, that it is very energetic, and that it is travelling into a very dense environment.

    We also used the Australia Telescope Compact Array to look at light from the transient with longer wavelengths. It is only by using lots of different telescopes that we can really get a full picture of a transient.

    CSIRO Australia Compact Array, six radio telescopes at the Paul Wild Observatory, is an array of six 22-m antennas located about twenty five kilometres (16 mi) west of the town of Narrabri in Australia.

    By combining ALMA data with publicly available X-ray data, we were also able to conclude that there must be some ongoing energy production — a kind of continuously-running “engine” at the heart of the explosion. This could be an accreting black hole or a rapidly-spinning neutron star with a strong magnetic field (a magnetar). If The Cow does turn out to have either of these at its centre, it would be very exciting, since it would be the first time that astronomers have witnessed the birth of a central engine.

    Q. It seems that nobody’s quite sure what The Cow is. Why is there so much uncertainty still surrounding this object?

    A. It’s because the combination of The Cow’s properties is so unusual. It’s like that parable of the blind man and the elephant — where several blind men each feel a different part of an elephant and come to different conclusions about what it might look like. If you look at the visible light from The Cow, you might conclude that it is a tidal disruption event. On the other hand, if you look at the longer-wavelength light you see the properties of the shockwave and the density of the surrounding matter, and might conclude that it’s a stellar explosion. It’s incredibly difficult to reconcile all of the properties into one big picture.

    4
    Artist’s impression of a cosmic blast with a “central engine,” such as that suggested for The Cow. At the moment, the central engine is surrounded by dust and gas.
    Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

    Q. How will you find out what The Cow really is?

    A. Right now, the heart of the explosion is shrouded in gas and dust so it’s difficult to see it. Over the next months, this gas and dust will expand out into space, becoming thinner and more transparent, and allowing us to peer inside. When we are able to see into that central engine, we will be able to learn more about what it there, whether it’s a black hole, a neutron star, or something else entirely.

    Q. What do you think The Cow is, and why?

    A. Personally, I think it’s most likely to be a stellar explosion. Our ALMA observations enabled us to measure the surrounding environment to be incredibly dense — 300 000 particles per cubic centimetre! This kind of density is typical of a stellar explosion. Some people suggest it’s a tidal disruption event, but I think this would be difficult to explain. That said, I’m far from an expert on tidal disruption, so I look forward to hearing more from theorists on how to reconcile that model with our observations.

    Q. So what are the implications of this discovery? What does The Cow teach us about transients?

    A. From my perspective, The Cow is incredibly exciting for two reasons. One is astrophysical — what it can teach us about the death of stars. We think we’ve witnessed the birth of a central engine, an accreting black hole or a spinning neutron star, for the first time.

    The second reason is technological — we learned that this is a member of a whole class of explosions that in their youth emitted bright light at millimetre wavelengths. In the past, millimetre observatories like ALMA were rarely used to study cosmic explosions, but this study has opened the curtain on a new class of transients that are prime targets for millimetre observatories. Over the next few years, we hope to discover many more members of this class, and now we know that we should use millimetre telescopes to study them!

    See the full article here .


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

    ESO VLT at Cerro Paranal in the Atacama Desert, •ANTU (UT1; The Sun ),
    •KUEYEN (UT2; The Moon ),
    •MELIPAL (UT3; The Southern Cross ), and
    •YEPUN (UT4; Venus – as evening star).
    elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft) from above Credit J.L. Dauvergne & G. Hüdepohl atacama photo,

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT 4 lasers on Yepun


    ESO Vista Telescope
    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. located at the summit of the mountain at an altitude of 3,060 metres (10,040 ft).


    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

     
  • richardmitnick 3:36 pm on May 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, Greenland Telescpe achieves "first light" and more, ,   

    From Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics: “Greenland Telescope Opens New Era of Arctic Astronomy” 

    Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


    Center For Astrophysics

    May 1, 2018

    Megan Watzke
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    +1 617-496-7998
    mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu

    Peter Edmonds
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
    +1 617-571-7279
    pedmonds@cfa.harvard.edu

    NSF CfA Greenland telescope

    NSF CfA Greenland telescope

    To study the most extreme objects in the Universe, astronomers sometimes have to go to some extreme places themselves. Over the past several months, a team of scientists has braved cold temperatures to put the finishing touches on a new telescope in Greenland. [This is a major gain for astronomy in the Northern Hemisphere, which sometimes seems to be less productive than the astronomical assets in the Southern Hemsphere.]

    Taking advantage of excellent atmospheric conditions, the Greenland Telescope is designed to detect radio waves from stars, galaxies and black holes. One of its primary goals is to join the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a global array of radio dishes that are linked together to make the first image of a supermassive black hole.

    Event Horizon Telescope Array

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

    ESO/APEX
    Atacama Pathfinder EXperiment

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

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

    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
    Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO)

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

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

    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano
    Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano

    CfA Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO
    Submillimeter Array Hawaii SAO

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

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL
    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL

    Future Array/Telescopes

    Plateau de Bure interferometer
    Plateau de Bure interferometer

    NSF CfA Greenland telescope

    The Greenland Telescope has recently achieved two important milestones, its “first light” and the successful synchronization with data from another radio telescope. With this, the Greenland Telescope is ready to help scientists explore some of the Universe’s deepest mysteries.

    “We can officially announce that we are open for business to explore the cosmos from Greenland,” said Timothy Norton of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and Senior Project Manager for the telescope. “It’s an exciting day for everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen.”

    In December 2017, astronomers were able to successfully detect radio emission from the Moon using the Greenland Telescope, an event astronomers refer to as “first light.” Then in early 2018, scientists combined data from the Greenland Telescope’s observations of a quasar with data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA.

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

    The data from the Greenland Telescope and ALMA were synchronized so that they acted like two points on a radio dish equal in size to the separation of the two observing sites, an achievement that is called “finding fringes.”

    “This represents a major step in integrating the telescope into a larger, global network of radio telescopes,” said Nimesh Patel of CfA. “Finding fringes tells us that the Greenland Telescope is working as we hoped and planned.”

    The Greenland Telescope is a 12-meter radio antenna that was originally built as a prototype for ALMA. Once ALMA was operational in Chile, the telescope was repurposed to Greenland to take advantage of the near-ideal conditions of the Arctic to study the Universe at specific radio frequencies.

    The Greenland location also allows interferometry with the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii, ALMA and other radio dishes, to become a part of the northernmost component of the EHT. This extends the baseline of this array in the north-south direction to about 12,000 km (about 7,500 miles).

    CfA Submillimeter Array Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, Altitude 4,080 m (13,390 ft)

    “The EHT essentially turns the entire globe into one giant radio telescope, and the farther apart radio dishes in the array are, the sharper the images the EHT can make,” said Sheperd Doeleman of the CfA and leader of the EHT project. “The Greenland Telescope will help us obtain the best possible image of a supermassive black hole outside our galaxy.”

    The Greenland Telescope joined the EHT observing campaign in the middle of April 2018 to observe the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. This supermassive black hole and the one in our galaxy are the two primary targets for the EHT, because the apparent sizes of their event horizons are larger than for any other black hole. Nevertheless exquisite telescope resolution is required, equivalent to reading a newspaper on the Moon. This capability is about a thousand times better than what the best optical telescopes in the world can achieve.

    Scientists plan to use these observations to help test Einstein’s theory of General Relativity in environments where extreme gravity exists, and probe the physics around black holes with unprecedented detail.

    In 2011, NSF, the Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI)/National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) awarded the antenna to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) for relocation to Greenland. SAO’s project partner, the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics (ASIAA) of Taiwan, led the effort to refurbish and rebuild the antenna to prepare it for the cold climate of Greenland’s ice sheet. In 2016, the telescope was shipped to the Thule Air Base, Greenland, 750 miles inside the Arctic Circle, where it was reassembled at this sea-level coastal site. A future site is under consideration a the summit of the Greenland ice sheet where we will be able to take advantage of lower water vapor in the atmosphere overhead and achieve even better resolution at the higher operating frequencies.

    More information on the Greenland Telescope can be found at https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/greenland12m/

    Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The Center for Astrophysics combines the resources and research facilities of the Harvard College Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory under a single director to pursue studies of those basic physical processes that determine the nature and evolution of the universe. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1890. The Harvard College Observatory (HCO), founded in 1839, is a research institution of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, and provides facilities and substantial other support for teaching activities of the Department of Astronomy.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:25 pm on April 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ancient Galaxy Megamergers, , , , , , ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, ,   

    From ESO and ALMA: “Ancient Galaxy Megamergers” 

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

    ALMA

    ESO 50 Large

    European Southern Observatory

    25 April 2018
    Axel Weiss
    Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
    Bonn, Germany
    Tel: +49 228 525 273
    Email: aweiss@mpifr-bonn.mpg.de

    Carlos de Breuck
    ESO
    Garching, Germany
    Tel: +49 89 3200 6613
    Email: cdebreuc@eso.org

    Richard Hook
    ESO Public Information Officer
    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
    Phone: +81 422 34 3630
    Email: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

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

    Valeria Foncea
    Education and Public Outreach Officer
    Joint ALMA Observatory Santiago – Chile
    Phone: +56 2 2467 6258
    Cell phone: +56 9 7587 1963
    Email: valeria.foncea@alma.cl

    1
    The ALMA and APEX telescopes have peered deep into space — back to the time when the Universe was one tenth of its current age — and witnessed the beginnings of gargantuan cosmic pileups: the impending collisions of young, starburst galaxies. Astronomers thought that these events occurred around three billion years after the Big Bang, so they were surprised when the new observations revealed them happening when the Universe was only half that age! These ancient systems of galaxies are thought to be building the most massive structures in the known Universe: galaxy clusters.

    2
    This montage shows three views of the distant group of interacting and merging galaxies called SPT2349-56. The left image is a wide view from the South Pole Telescope that reveals just a bright spot.

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL. The SPT collaboration is made up of over a dozen (mostly North American) institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, Case Western Reserve University, Harvard/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the University of Colorado Boulder, McGill University, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California, Davis, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. It is funded by the National Science Foundation.

    The central view is from Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) that reveals more details. The right picture is from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and reveals that the object is actually a group of 14 merging galaxies in the process of forming a galaxy cluster. Credit: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Miller et al.

    Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX), two international teams of scientists led by Tim Miller from Dalhousie University in Canada and Yale University in the US and Iván Oteo from the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, have uncovered startlingly dense concentrations of galaxies that are poised to merge, forming the cores of what will eventually become colossal galaxy clusters.

    Peering 90% of the way across the observable Universe, the Miller team observed a galaxy protocluster named SPT2349-56. The light from this object began travelling to us when the Universe was about a tenth of its current age.

    The individual galaxies in this dense cosmic pileup are starburst galaxies and the concentration of vigorous star formation in such a compact region makes this by far the most active region ever observed in the young Universe. Thousands of stars are born there every year, compared to just one in our own Milky Way.

    The Oteo team discovered a similar megamerger formed by ten dusty star-forming galaxies, nicknamed a “dusty red core” because of its very red colour, by combining observations from ALMA and the APEX.

    Iván Oteo explains why these objects are unexpected: “The lifetime of dusty starbursts is thought to be relatively short, because they consume their gas at an extraordinary rate. At any time, in any corner of the Universe, these galaxies are usually in the minority. So, finding numerous dusty starbursts shining at the same time like this is very puzzling, and something that we still need to understand.”

    These forming galaxy clusters were first spotted as faint smudges of light, using the South Pole Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory.

    ESA/Herschel spacecraft

    Subsequent ALMA and APEX observations showed that they had unusual structure and confirmed that their light originated much earlier than expected — only 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

    The new high-resolution ALMA observations finally revealed that the two faint glows are not single objects, but are actually composed of fourteen and ten individual massive galaxies respectively, each within a radius comparable to the distance between the Milky Way and the neighbouring Magellanic Clouds.

    “These discoveries by ALMA are only the tip of the iceberg. Additional observations with the APEX telescope show that the real number of star-forming galaxies is likely even three times higher. Ongoing observations with the MUSE instrument on ESO’s VLT are also identifying additional galaxies,” comments Carlos De Breuck, ESO astronomer.

    ESO MUSE on the VLT

    Current theoretical and computer models suggest that protoclusters as massive as these should have taken much longer to evolve. By using data from ALMA, with its superior resolution and sensitivity, as input to sophisticated computer simulations, the researchers are able to study cluster formation less than 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

    “How this assembly of galaxies got so big so fast is a mystery. It wasn’t built up gradually over billions of years, as astronomers might expect. This discovery provides a great opportunity to study how massive galaxies came together to build enormous galaxy clusters,” says Tim Miller, a PhD candidate at Yale University and lead author of one of the papers.

    More information

    This research was presented in two papers, The Formation of a Massive Galaxy Cluster Core at z = 4.3, by T. Miller et al., to appear in the journal Nature, and An Extreme Proto-cluster of Luminous Dusty Starbursts in the Early Universe, by I. Oteo et al., which appeared in the Astrophysical Journal.

    The Miller team is composed of: T. B. Miller (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA), S. C. Chapman (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, UK), M. Aravena (Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile), M. L. N. Ashby (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA), C. C. Hayward (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA; Center for Computational Astrophysics, Flatiron Institute, New York, New York, USA), J. D. Vieira (University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA), A. Weiß (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany), A. Babul (University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada) , M. Béthermin (Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, LAM, Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, Marseille, France), C. M. Bradford (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA; Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA), M. Brodwin (University of Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri, USA), J. E. Carlstrom (University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois USA), Chian-Chou Chen (ESO, Garching, Germany), D. J. M. Cunningham (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), C. De Breuck (ESO, Garching, Germany), A. H. Gonzalez (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA), T. R. Greve (University College London, Gower Street, London, UK), Y. Hezaveh (Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA), K. Lacaille (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada), K. C. Litke (Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA), J. Ma (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA), M. Malkan (University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA) , D. P. Marrone (Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA), W. Morningstar (Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA), E. J. Murphy (National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA), D. Narayanan (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA), E. Pass (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada), University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada), R. Perry (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada), K. A. Phadke (University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA), K. M. Rotermund (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada), J. Simpson (University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh; Durham University, Durham, UK), J. S. Spilker (Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA), J. Sreevani (University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, USA), A. A. Stark (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA), M. L. Strandet (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany) and A. L. Strom (Observatories of The Carnegie Institution for Science, Pasadena, California, USA).

    The Oteo team is composed of: I. Oteo (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK; ESO, Garching, Germany), R. J. Ivison (ESO, Garching, Germany; Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK), L. Dunne (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK; Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK), A. Manilla-Robles (ESO, Garching, Germany; University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand), S. Maddox (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK; Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK), A. J. R. Lewis (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK), G. de Zotti (INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Padova, Italy), M. Bremer (University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol, UK), D. L. Clements (Imperial College, London, UK), A. Cooray (University of California, Irvine, California, USA), H. Dannerbauer (Instituto de Astrofíısica de Canarias, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain; Universidad de La Laguna, Dpto. Astrofísica, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain), S. Eales (Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK), J. Greenslade (Imperial College, London, UK), A. Omont (CNRS, Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, Paris, France; UPMC Univ. Paris 06, Paris, France), I. Perez–Fournón (University of California, Irvine, California, USA; Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain), D. Riechers (Cornell University, Space Sciences Building, Ithaca, New York, USA), D. Scott (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada), P. van der Werf (Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands), A. Weiß (Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany) and Z-Y. Zhang (Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, UK; ESO, Garching, Germany).

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
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    Visit ESO in Social Media-

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

    ESO LaSilla
    ESO/Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT
    VLT at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.
    ESO Vista Telescope

    Glistening against the awesome backdrop of the night sky above ESO_s Paranal Observatory, four laser beams project out into the darkness from Unit Telescope 4 UT4 of the VLT.

    ESO/Vista Telescope at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ESO NTT
    ESO/NTT at Cerro LaSilla 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO VLT Survey telescope
    VLT Survey Telescope at Cerro Paranal with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 metres.

    ESO E-ELT
    ESO/E-ELT to be built at Cerro Armazones at 3,060 m.

    ESO APEX
    APEX Atacama Pathfinder 5,100 meters above sea level, at the Llano de Chajnantor Observatory in the Atacama desert.

    Leiden MASCARA instrument, La Silla, located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    Leiden MASCARA cabinet at ESO Cerro la Silla located in the southern Atacama Desert 600 kilometres (370 mi) north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,900 ft)

    ESO Next Generation Transit Survey at Cerro Paranel, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    SPECULOOS four 1m-diameter robotic telescopes 2016 in the ESO Paranal Observatory, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO TAROT telescope at Paranal, 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO ExTrA telescopes at Cerro LaSilla at an altitude of 2400 metres

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

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

    NRAO Small
    ESO 50 Large
    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 12:07 pm on February 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Discoveries Fuel Fight Over Universe’s First Light, ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, ,   

    From Quanta: “Discoveries Fuel Fight Over Universe’s First Light” 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    1
    Light from the first galaxies clears the universe. ESO/L. Calçada.

    May 19, 2017 n[Just put up in social media.]
    Ashley Yeager

    Not long after the Big Bang, all went dark. The hydrogen gas that pervaded the early universe would have snuffed out the light of the universe’s first stars and galaxies. For hundreds of millions of years, even a galaxy’s worth of stars — or unthinkably bright beacons such as those created by supermassive black holes — would have been rendered all but invisible.

    Eventually this fog burned off as high-energy ultraviolet light broke the atoms apart in a process called reionization. But the questions of exactly how this happened — which celestial objects powered the process and how many of them were needed — have consumed astronomers for decades.

    Now, in a series of studies, researchers have looked further into the early universe than ever before. They’ve used galaxies and dark matter as a giant cosmic lens to see some of the earliest galaxies known, illuminating how these galaxies could have dissipated the cosmic fog. In addition, an international team of astronomers has found dozens of supermassive black holes — each with the mass of millions of suns — lighting up the early universe. Another team has found evidence that supermassive black holes existed hundreds of millions of years before anyone thought possible. The new discoveries should make clear just how much black holes contributed to the reionization of the universe, even as they’ve opened up questions as to how such supermassive black holes were able to form so early in the universe’s history.

    First Light

    In the first years after the Big Bang, the universe was too hot to allow atoms to form. Protons and electrons flew about, scattering any light. Then after about 380,000 years, these protons and electrons cooled enough to form hydrogen atoms, which coalesced into stars and galaxies over the next few hundreds of millions of years.

    Starlight from these galaxies would have been bright and energetic, with lots of it falling in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. As this light flew out into the universe, it ran into more hydrogen gas. These photons of light would break apart the hydrogen gas, contributing to reionization, but as they did so, the gas snuffed out the light.

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    To find these stars, astronomers have to look for the non-ultraviolet part of their light and extrapolate from there. But this non-ultraviolet light is relatively dim and hard to see without help.

    A team led by Rachael Livermore, an astrophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin, found just the help needed in the form of a giant cosmic lens.

    Gravitational Lensing NASA/ESA

    These so-called gravitational lenses form when a galaxy cluster, filled with massive dark matter, bends space-time to focus and magnify any object on the other side of it. Livermore used this technique with images from the Hubble Space Telescope to spot extremely faint galaxies from as far back as 600 million years after the Big Bang — right in the thick of reionization.

    In a recent paper that appeared in The Astrophysical Journal, Livermore and colleagues also calculated that if you add galaxies like these to the previously known galaxies, then stars should be able to generate enough intense ultraviolet light to reionize the universe.

    Yet there’s a catch. Astronomers doing this work have to estimate how much of a star’s ultraviolet light escaped its home galaxy (which is full of light-blocking hydrogen gas) to go out into the wider universe and contribute to reionization writ large. That estimate — called the escape fraction — creates a huge uncertainty that Livermore is quick to acknowledge.

    In addition, not everyone believes Livermore’s results. Rychard Bouwens, an astrophysicist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, argues in a paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal that Livermore didn’t properly subtract the light from the galaxy clusters that make up the gravitational lens. As a result, he said, the distant galaxies aren’t as faint as Livermore and colleagues claim, and astronomers have not found enough galaxies to conclude that stars ionized the universe.

    Supremacy of Supermassive Black Holes

    If stars couldn’t get the job done, perhaps supermassive black holes could. Beastly in size, up to a billion times the mass of the sun, supermassive black holes devour matter. They tug it toward them and heat it up, a process that emits lots of light and creates luminous objects that we call quasars. Because quasars emit way more ionizing radiation than stars do, they could in theory reionize the universe.

    The trick is finding enough quasars to do it. In a paper posted to the scientific preprint site arxiv.org last month, astronomers working with the Subaru Telescope announced the discovery of 33 quasars that are about a 10th as bright as ones identified before.


    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    With such faint quasars, the astronomers should be able to calculate just how much ultraviolet light these supermassive black holes emit, said Michael Strauss, an astrophysicist at Princeton University and a member of the team. The researchers haven’t done the analysis yet, but they expect to publish the results in the coming months.

    The oldest of these quasars dates back to around a billion years after the Big Bang, which seems about how long it would take ordinary black holes to devour enough matter to bulk up to supermassive status.

    This is why another recent discovery [The Astrophysical Journal] is so puzzling. A team of researchers led by Richard Ellis, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, was observing a bright, star-forming galaxy seen as it was just 600 million years after the Big Bang.

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

    The galaxy’s spectrum — a catalog of light by wavelength — appeared to contain a signature of ionized nitrogen. It’s hard to ionize ordinary hydrogen, and even harder to ionize nitrogen. It requires more higher-energy ultraviolet light than stars emit. So another strong source of ionizing radiation, possibly a supermassive black hole, had to exist at this time, Ellis said.

    One supermassive black hole at the center of an early star-forming galaxy might be an outlier. It doesn’t mean there were enough of them around to reionize the universe. So Ellis has started to look at other early galaxies. His team now has tentative evidence that supermassive black holes sat at the centers of other massive, star-forming galaxies in the early universe. Studying these objects could help clarify what reionized the universe and illuminate how supermassive black holes formed at all. “That is a very exciting possibility,” Ellis said.

    All this work is beginning to converge on a relatively straightforward explanation for what reionized the universe. The first population of young, hot stars probably started the process, then drove it forward for hundreds of millions of years. Over time, these stars died; the stars that replaced them weren’t quite so bright and hot. But by this point in cosmic history, supermassive black holes had enough time to grow and could start to take over. Researchers such as Steve Finkelstein, an astrophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin, are using the latest observational data and simulations of early galactic activity to test out the details of this scenario, such as how much stars and black holes contribute to the process at different times.

    His work — and all work involving the universe’s first billion years — will get a boost in the coming years after the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble’s successor, which has been explicitly designed to find the first objects in the universe. Its findings will probably provoke many more questions, too.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:34 pm on January 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ALMA Captured Betelgeuse, , , , , ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, ,   

    From ALMA: “ALMA Captured Betelgeuse” 

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

    ALMA

    2018.01.23

    1
    ALMA Captured Betelgeuse Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO) /E. O’Gorman/P. Kervella.

    ALMA captured this image of the bright star Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion at an ultra-high resolution which exceeds 80000/20 vision in terms of eyesight. Betelgeuse is a red supergiant star in the final stage of its life. It has swelled up to about 1400 times bigger than the Sun. In the image taken by ALMA, the radio waves are stronger on a part of the star’s surface (the white part in the image), and it turned out that that part was about 1000 degrees Celsius hotter than its surroundings. Also on the left side of the image, a slightly swollen structure can be seen.

    Investigating the Surface of a Star with Extremely High-resolution Observations

    The stars visible in the night sky are located very far away. Even if you look at the stars with a telescope, you usually can only see them as dots. However, Betelgeuse is located relatively close at 500 light-years from the Earth, and it has expanded to 1400 times as big as the Sun, which is about the same size as Jupiter’s orbit in the Solar System. So, it is one of the few stars where we can investigate the surface pattern with extremely high-resolution observations.

    ALMA captured radio waves radiated slightly above the photosphere, the surface of Betelgeuse which you can see with visible light. The average temperature estimated from the radio intensity is about 2500 degrees Celsius. Since Betelgeuse’s photosphere is about 3400 degrees Celsius, we can say that the temperature of the upper atmosphere is about 1000 degrees Celsius colder than the surface of the photosphere. On the other hand, as shown in the image, some regions captured by ALMA are hotter than the surroundings. Researchers think that this is due to a convection phenomenon in which high temperature matter comes up from inside Betelgeuse. Observing Betelgeuse in extremely high-resolution gives us a clue to understand what is happening inside the giant star at the end of its life.

    See the full article here .

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

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

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

    NRAO Small
    ESO 50 Large
    NAOJ

     
  • richardmitnick 9:41 am on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Earliest galaxies in the Universe’s history spun like the Milky Way, ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA, Kavli Institute of Cosmology at the University of Cambridge   

    From ALMA: “Earliest galaxies in the Universe’s history spun like the Milky Way” 

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

    ALMA

    10 January, 2018

    Sarah Collins
    Office of Communications
    University of Cambridge
    Phone: +44 (0)1223 765542
    Cell phone: +44 (0)7525 337458
    Email: sarah.collins@admin.cam.ac.uk

    Nicolás Lira
    Education and Public Outreach Coordinator
    Joint ALMA Observatory, Santiago – Chile
    Phone: +56 2 2467 6519
    Cell phone: +56 9 9445 7726
    Email: nicolas.lira@alma.cl

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

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

    Masaaki Hiramatsu
    Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chile
    Observatory
, Tokyo – Japan
    Phone: +81 422 34 3630
    Email: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

    1
    Artist’s impression – Credit: Amanda Smith, University of Cambridge.

    Astronomers have looked back to a time soon after the Big Bang, and have discovered swirling gas in some of the earliest galaxies to have formed in the Universe. These ‘newborns’ – observed as they appeared nearly 13 billion years ago – spun like a whirlpool, similar to our own Milky Way.

    An international team led by Dr Renske Smit from the Kavli Institute of Cosmology at the University of Cambridge used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to open a new window onto the distant Universe, and have for the first time been able to identify normal star-forming galaxies at a very early stage in cosmic history with this telescope. The results are reported in the journal Nature, and will be presented at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

    2
    Data visualization – Hubble Telescope image of the night sky where the galaxies were found and two zoomed in panels of the ALMA data. Credit: Hubble (NASA/ESA), ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), P. Oesch (University of Geneva) and R. Smit (University of Cambridge).

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Light from distant objects takes time to reach Earth, so observing objects that are billions of light years away enables us to look back in time and directly observe the formation of the earliest galaxies. The Universe at that time, however, was filled with an obscuring ‘haze’ of neutral hydrogen gas, which makes it difficult to see the formation of the very first galaxies with optical telescopes.

    Smit and her colleagues used ALMA to observe two small newborn galaxies, as they existed just 800 million years after the Big Bang. By analyzing the spectral ‘fingerprint’ of the far-infrared light collected by ALMA, they were able to establish the distance to the galaxies and, for the first time, see the internal motion of the gas that fueled their growth.

    “Until ALMA, we’ve never been able to see the formation of galaxies in such detail, and we’ve never been able to measure the movement of gas in galaxies so early in the Universe’s history,” said co-author Dr Stefano Carniani, from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and Kavli Institute of Cosmology.

    3
    A video simulation of rotating disc. Credit: R. Crain (LJMU) and J. Geach (U.Herts).

    The researchers found that the gas in these newborn galaxies swirled and rotated in a whirlpool motion, similar to our own galaxy and other, more mature galaxies much later in the Universe’s history. Despite their relatively small size – about five times smaller than the Milky Way – these galaxies were forming stars at a higher rate than other young galaxies, but the researchers were surprised to discover that the galaxies were not as chaotic as expected.

    “In the early Universe, gravity caused gas to flow rapidly into the galaxies, stirring them up and forming lots of new stars – violent supernova explosions from these stars also made the gas turbulent,” said Smit, who is a Rubicon Fellow at Cambridge, sponsored by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. “We expected that young galaxies would be dynamically ‘messy’, due to the havoc caused by exploding young stars, but these mini-galaxies show the ability to retain order and appear well regulated. Despite their small size, they are already rapidly growing to become one of the ‘adult’ galaxies like we live in today.”

    The data from this project on small galaxies paves the way for larger studies of galaxies during the first billion years of cosmic time.
    The research was funded in part by the European Research Council and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

    See the full article here .

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

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

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

    NRAO Small
    ESO 50 Large
    NAOJ

     
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