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Award for AIP scientist Else Starkenburg

Michael Kunze, president of the academy Andreas Gardt, Else Starkenburg und minister Stefan Wenzel. Picture: Adrienne Lochte.

Award for AIP scientist Else Starkenburg

28. November 2016. On 26 November 2016, Else Starkenburg from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) was honoured with the physics award of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Huma...

Grown up in the Neterlands, Else Starkenburg completed her Ph.D. in 2011 at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She also holds an M.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy and an M.A. in Theoretical Philosophy. After working at the University of Victoria, Canada, Else Starkenburg came to AIP as the Karl Schwarzschild Fellow 2014. She is mainly interested in studying the history of the Milky Way and the smaller galaxies surrounding it. Since 2015, she also heads the Emmy Noehter Research Group „The early Milky Way“ at AIP.

Every year, the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities awards a price for outstanding scientific achievements in the fields of biology, chemistry and physics published in international magazines. Publishing houses, industrial companies and foundations fund the prices.

 

Science contact: Dr. Else Starkenburg, +49 331-7499 350, estarkenburg@aip.de
Media contact: Kerstin Mork, +49 331-7499 803, presse@aip.de

The key areas of research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. The AIP has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1992.

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Celebrating Ten Years of Science with STELLA

STELLA at Tenerife. Credit: AIP

Celebrating Ten Years of Science with STELLA

8 November 2016. Since 2006, the two robotic STELLA telescopes of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are observing the night sky at the Observatorio del Teide, Tenerife. STELLA is...

Over the past ten years STELLA has proved to be an excellent tool to accomplish thrilling scientific results. Since the telescopes were explicitly designed for long-term observation of individual objects, especially magnetically active stars, STELLA achieves this goal more easily than a lot of other telescopes. The robotic telescopes at Tenerife already observed complete magnetic activity cycles of distant stars and determined for the first time the decay time of star spots. On top of that, STELLA proved that there is rarely an exception to the principle that as stars age their rotation periods decrease, and vice versa proving that by knowing the rotation period of a star scientists can determine its age.

Operating a fully autonomous, robotic observatory is uncommon both in Germany and internationally. Replacing an onsite observer and their decision-making with a piece of software is a true challenge. STELLA has a meteorological station that constantly measures temperature, humidity, precipitation, and wind speed. A separate camera detects clouds obscuring the night sky. At dusk, an algorithm decides if conditions are safe for opening and commencing observations. All control duties, from positioning and focussing of the telescopes to the fineguiding system, are managed by the software.

Observatorio del Teide

The Observatorio del Teide has an international reputation in solar and stellar research. Lying in the middle of the Atlantic ocean on top of a volcanic mountain range, the astronomical observing conditions are close to optimal. In addition to STELLA, the AIP is also involved in the operation of the GREGOR solar telescope, Europe’s largest solar telescope, and the Vacuum Tower Telescope, both located on Tenerife.

 

Further information:

Science contact: Dr. Thomas Granzer, +49 331-7499 350, tgranzer@aip.de

Media contact: Kerstin Mork, +49 331-7499 803, presse@aip.de

 

The key areas of research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. The AIP has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1992.

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The Dynamic Duo: RAVE complements Gaia

Screenshot from a movie flying through the RAVE stars from Data Release 5 Credit: K. Riebe, AIP

The Dynamic Duo: RAVE complements Gaia

19 September 2016. The new data release of the RAdial Velocity Experiment (RAVE) is the fifth spectroscopic release of a survey of stars in the southern celestial hemisphere. It contains radial vel...

The velocities and spatial distributions of stars define the galaxy we live in, allowing the characterisation of the formation of the Milky Way. Large spectroscopic surveys provide definitive measurements of fundamental structural and dynamical parameters for a statistical sample of galactic stars and have been very successful in advancing the understanding of our galaxy. RAVE started in 2003 and was the first survey designed to provide necessary stellar parameters to complement missions that focus on astrometric information like Gaia.

“The Tycho-Gaia stars that were also serendipitously observed by RAVE contain the best proper motions and parallaxes recently released by Gaia and can now be combined with the radial velocities and stellar parameters from RAVE”, says Andrea Kunder, lead author of the RAVE data release and astronomer at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), “So these stars can be used to probe the Milky Way more precisely than ever before. Just like wearing glasses allows you to see your surroundings in sharper view, the Gaia-RAVE data will allow the galaxy to be seen with more detail.“ Among existing spectroscopic surveys, RAVE easily boasts the largest overlap with the Tycho-Gaia  astrometric solution catalogue.

The four previous data releases have been the foundation for a number of studies, which have especially advanced our understanding of the disk of the Milky Way. The fifth RAVE data release includes not only the culminating RAVE observations taken in 2013, but also also earlier discarded observations recovered from previous years, resulting in an additional 30,000 RAVE spectra.

For the new data release atmospheric parameters such as the effective temperature, surface gravity and metallicities have been refined using gravities from asteroseismology and high-precison stellar atmospheric parameters. It also contains hypervelocity stars, some extra-galactic stars from the Large Magellanic Cloud, and some extremely metal-poor and metal-rich stars.

“The real treasure is that this is a large, statistically complete sample of local Milky Way stars, that can be used to find trends and anomalies for understanding the formation of the Milky Way,“ concludes Kunder.


The data release can be accessed via the RAVE website at: https://www.rave-survey.org

 

Movies: https://www.rave-survey.org/project/gallery/movies/#RAVE-flightmovies

 

Science contact: Prof. Dr. Matthias Steinmetz, msteinmetz@aip.de, +49 331-7499-800

Media contact: Kerstin Mork, presse@aip.de, +49 331-7499 803

 

The key areas of research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. The AIP has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1992.

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Starving Black Hole Returns Brilliant Galaxy to the Shadows

Markarian 1018. (Credit: ESO/CARS survey)

Starving Black Hole Returns Brilliant Galaxy to the Shadows

15 September 2016. The mystery of a rare change in the behaviour of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a distant galaxy has been solved by an international team of astronomers using ESO’s...

Many galaxies are found to have an extremely bright core powered by a supermassive black hole. These cores are thought to shine so brightly due to hot material glowing fiercely as it falls into the black hole, a process known as accretion.

Some of these galaxies with active nuclei have been observed to change dramatically over the course of only 10 years; a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. However, the active galaxy in this new study, Markarian 1018 (Mrk 1018), stands out by having changed type a second time, reverting back to its initial classification within the last five years. Only a handful of galaxies have already been observed to make this full-cycle change, but never before has one been studied in such detail.
The discovery of Mrk 1018’s fickle nature was a lucky chance by-product of the Close AGN Reference Survey (CARS) with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) installed at ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

Tanya Urrutia, scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), stated: "MUSE's unprecedented 3-dimensional capabilities and its large field of view are unique to disentangle various physical processes in these growing black holes. With our CARS survey, we are now able to distinguish the impact of a quasar on its host galaxy visually."

The chance observation of the galaxy so soon after it began to fade is an unexpected opportunity to learn what makes these galaxies tick, as Bernd Husemann, CARS project leader and lead author of one of two papers associated with the discovery, commented: “We were lucky that we detected the event just 3-4 years after the decline started so we could begin monitoring campaigns to study details of the accretion physics of active galactic nuclei that cannot be studied otherwise.”

The team was able to gather extra data after they were awarded observing time using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. Using the new data from this suite of instruments, they solved the mystery, finding that the black hole was slowly fading as it became starved of accretion material. Co-author and AIP astrophysicist Mirko Krumpe explained: "A number of astrophysical events could have been caused the dimming. We were able to rule out tidal disruption events and cast doubt on the possibility of obscuration by intervening gas."

Rebecca McElroy, lead author of the discovery paper and PhD student at the University of Sydney and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO), stated: “An intriguing possibility is that this could be due to interactions with a second supermassive black hole.” This hypothetical black hole binary system is a distinct possibility in Mrk 1018, as the galaxy is the product of a major merger of two galaxies — each of which likely contained a supermassive black hole in its centre.

 

Scientific publication:

“Mrk 1018’s return to the shadows after 30 years as a Seyfert 1” and “What is causing Mrk 1018’s return to the shadows after 30 years?”, both to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Further information:

 

Science contact:

Dr. Tanya Urrutia, turrutia@aip.de, +49 331-7499-664

Dr. Mirko Krumpe, mkrumpe@aip.de, +49 331-7499-334

 

Media contact:

Kerstin Mork, presse@aip.de, +49 331-7499 803

 

The key areas of research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. The AIP has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1992.

 

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Gaia mission publishes first results

Credit: ESA / D. Ducros

Gaia mission publishes first results

14. September 2016. The European Space Agency's (ESA) mission Gaia published its first set of results on 14th of September 2016. The first data release contains parallaxes and proper motions of abo...

The Gaia mission was selected as one of ESA's cornerstone missions in 2000. After 13 years of development and construction it was successfully launched from French Guiana. After traveling 1.5 million kilometres to the L2 Lagrange point it commenced its operations in 2014, employing a sky-scanning approach that maximizes the sky coverage. It enabled the satellite to record several hundred billion stars up until now. The satellite carries several dedicated instruments designed for astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic measurements.

Main objectives of the mission include inferring the distance to about one billion stars by measuring their parallaxes, an undertaking that is impossible to achieve precisely enough from Earth due to the atmospheric effects. For a significant fraction of the observed sample the distances will be recorded to better than 10% in precision. Besides the distances, stellar positions and their motions will also be measured as well as their brightness. The mission is not limited only to stellar observations. Gaia will also discover up to half a million of quasars, measure the orbits of thousand extrasolar planets and discover many new asteroids. These data will be published in subsequent data releases.

The Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) serves as one of the four data centers that will provide the data from the first data release to the scientific community and wider audiences when the data will become publicly available. AIP hosts a dedicated server located at gaia.aip.de that offers an intuitive interface for browsing the data.

The first Gaia data will also be correlated with the new results published by one of AIP's core projects, the RAVE Survey. These will complement Gaia's measurements by providing the radial velocities of the stars - a missing sixth dynamical component in the Gaia data set. The release of the RAVE data will follow immediately after Gaia's release.

 

Please see also: ESA press release

 

Science contact: Dr. Harry Enke, henke@aip.de

Media contact: Kerstin Mork, +49 331 7499-803, presse@aip.de

 

The key areas of research at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. The AIP has been a member of the Leibniz Association since 1992.

Read more ...