News

Open Day on 23 September 2016

The Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) invites everybody to an open day on 23 September 2016 from 4 to 10 PM.

Scientists will give insights into astronomical research with a varied programme for young and old. If the skies are clear, visitors will have the chance to look at the sky with telescopes.

The Open Day is inspired by the discovery of the planet neptune that took place exactly 170 years ago. On 23 September 1846, the astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle at the Berlin Observatory - one of the two predecessor intitutions of AIP - observed neptune for the first time, confirming theoretical predictions by the astronomer and mathematician Urbain Le Verrier.

Extended schedule Bus 616

 

Some highlights:

  • Public lectures on astronomical research
  • Guided tours of the historic observatory and its library
  • Experiments with light
  • Activities for kids
  • Galactic simulations in the 3D cinema
  • Observations (if skies are clear, we will observe the Sun during the day, later stars and planets)
  • Glance into the labs
  • ....and much more!


When: 23  September 2016, 4pm-22pm

Where: Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam-Babelsberg.

We recommend using public transport. How to get to AIP.

How: Free admission, no prior registration needed.

 

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

 

The key topics of 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. Since 1992 the AIP is a member of the Leibniz Association.

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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 ve...

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.

Read more ...
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 ...
ESO and AIP Sign Agreement to Build 4MOST

Signing the agreement at AIP. Credit: R. Arlt / AIP

ESO and AIP Sign Agreement to Build 4MOST

23 August 2016. ESO has signed an agreement with a consortium led by the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) to build 4MOST, a unique, next-generation spectroscopic instrument, which w...

The agreement was signed in Potsdam, Germany, by ESO Director General Tim de Zeeuw, and by Matthias Steinmetz and Matthias Winker on behalf of the AIP. Professor Dr. Johanna Wanka, German Federal Minister of Education and Research, and Dr. Martina Münch, State Minister of Science, Research and Culture for the Land Brandenburg, were present at the signing. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the AIP in its work on 4MOST in the framework of "Verbundforschung" (collaborative research).

Matthias Steinmetz, scientific chairman of the AIP and director of the research branch “Extragalactic Astrophysics”, stated that: „Today’s agreement marks a new milestone for our institute. For the first time, the AIP takes the lead of a consortium to execute an ESO large-scale project. This success has only been possible thanks to the scientific expertise accumulated in our institute and thanks to the tremendous engagement of our scientists, engineers and employees.“

Roelof de Jong, Principal Investigator of 4MOST, added: „Exciting years are ahead of us: 4MOST is being designed to address a broad range of hot topic science cases, ranging from the assembly history of our Milky Way to the evolution of super massive black holes in the centres of galaxies.”

 

4MOST

4MOST, the 4-metre Multi-Object Spectroscopic Telescope, will be installed on the VISTA telescope in the position occupied by the VISTA Infrared Camera, the current workhorse instrument on VISTA, where it will provide the telescope with unique new capabilities. The instrument is expected to start operation in 2022, when it will begin to shed light on some of today’s most pressing astronomical questions, contributing to studies of the dynamics and chemical evolution of the Milky Way, measuring large numbers of active galaxies and galaxy clusters, and helping to constrain models of the accelerating Universe.

4MOST will allow astronomers to study the spectral light distribution from approximately 2,400 objects simultaneously over a field of view of four square degrees — an area equivalent to 20 full Moons. 4MOST will spend the majority of its time performing spectroscopic surveys of the southern sky, collecting 25 million spectra every five years from an area of over 17,000 square degrees — more than 40 percent of the entire sky. During its planned fifteen-year lifetime it is therefore expected to provide the astronomical community with an unprecedented 75 million spectra.

Observing over the full visible light wavelength regime, 4MOST will measure the velocities of extragalactic objects on extended redshift scales hence being able to nail down the evolution of galaxies and large-scale structures in the Universe.

4MOST will not only answer many outstanding astronomical questions, but it is specifically designed to complement three all­-sky, space­-based ob­servatories of key European interest — Gaia, EUCLID, and eROSITA. It will additionally provide a spectroscopic complement to many other large-area surveys, including, VST, Pan-STARRS, the Dark Energy Survey, LSST, ASKAP, WISE, and PLATO.

The 4MOST consortium consists of 15 institutes in Germany, the UK, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, and the Netherlands, under leadership of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP). Visit www.4most.eu/cms/consortium/ to see all consortium partners and their roles.

 

Further Informationen:

 

Science Contact: Dr. Roelof de Jong, rdejong@aip.de, +49 331-7499-648

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.

Read more ...