News

Potsdam Astrophysical Summer School at AIP

20 June 2016. Today, the one-week summer school "Quantitative Spectroscopy in Astrophysics" begins at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP). The school is targeted at graduate studen...

About 30 international participants will take part in an intense programme of lectures and practical exercises, given by experienced scientists from the AIP and the University of Potsdam. This year, the "Potsdam Astrophysical Summer School" is hosted by the Leibniz Graduate School for Quantitative Spectroscopy.

Spectroscopy is an essential and universal tool used in observational astrophysics, spanning topics from solar physics to cosmology. In recent years, enormous technological progress has been made in the field of spectroscopy, paving the way for a new generation of instruments capable of extremely high-resolution spatial and energy measurements. New instruments like the MUSE instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, to which AIP contributed, offer fantastic possibilities by coupling the discovery potential of an imaging device with the measuring capabilities of a spectrograph. Further, new technological developments include spectro-polarimeters, multi-object spectrographs, and fibre-fed spectrographs.

The Leibniz Graduate School for Quantitative Spectroscopy in Astrophysics is a collaborative project of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) and the Institute of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Potsdam (UP).

 

More Information:

 

Science contact: Apl. Prof. Dr. Carsten Denker, +49 331 7499-297, cdenker@aip.de

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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New Master's programme in „Astrophysics“

The new Potsdam Astrophysics website (Source: www.astrophysik-potsdam.de)

New Master's programme in „Astrophysics“

9 June 2016. Starting in the winter semester 2016/2017, the University of Potsdam will offer students an Astrophysics master programme. The Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY, the Leibniz Instit...

In Potsdam, students and researchers can take advantage of a unique and broad range of astrophysical topics. Furthermore, Astrophysics research being carried out at the University of Potsdam stands out due to strong networks with non-university research institutions specializing in astrophysical topics. These three internationally leading institutions make Potsdam one of the major sites of astrophysical research in Germany. Joint professorships, associate and honorary professorships and joint research groups strengthen academic teaching at the University. An overarching structured doctoral training and joint graduate schools provide an excellent environment to PhD students.

 

The University of Potsdam and the non-university partner institutions have also used the start of the new Master’s program as an opportunity to initiate a new Astrophysics website: The manifold of activities and their close collaboration in research and education is now online in the common framework of the ”Astrophysics Network Potsdam“.

 

In addition to a wealth of information for students and researchers at all stages of their careers, the new website also contains insights into some personal impressions and experiences of Potsdam’s scientists: on their scientific discoveries, on the Potsdam student and researcher life and on observation campaigns in remote locations such as Chile or even the Antarctic.

 

„When any prospective student or young researcher visits the website, we want her or him to recognize immediately the unique study and career opportunities that our strong network offers here in Potsdam.“ said Philipp Richter, professor at the University of Potsdam and one of the initiators of the new website.

 

More information:

 

Contact person (also for the Master’s programme):

Professor Dr. Philipp Richter, Email: prichter@astro.uni-potsdam.de, Phone: +49 331 977-1841

 

Contact persons for journalists:

  • Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, Zeuthen: Ulrike Behrens, Email: ulrike.behrens@desy.de, Phone: +49 33762 7-7201
  • Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam: Dr. Janine Fohlmeister, Email: presse@aip.de, Phone: +49 331 7499-802
  • Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics: Dr. Elke Müller, Email: elke.mueller@aei.mpg.de, Phone: +49 331 567-7303
  • University of Potsdam, Faculty of Science: Dr. Barbara Eckardt, Email: eckardt@uni-potsdam.de, Phone: +49 331 977-2964
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Other Suns got the right spin

17 May 2016. Astrophysicists from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have for the first time measured the rotation periods of stars i...

This principle – that the Sun is a star – was only proved in the 19th century when distances to the nearest stars were measured. It enables us to use the Sun, the only star we can observe in detail, to study processes occurring on other stars, and conversely, to use other stars to infer the past and future of our Sun. Stellar rotation periods are a key probe of magnetic phenomena on stars.

The AIP/JHU team worked on the four billion year-old open cluster M67, the only accessible cluster of solar-aged stars. They measured the tiny periodic light variations of twenty Sun-like stars caused by starspots on the stellar surfaces being carried across the disk during rotation. Since the examined stars are quite old their starspots are relatively small - similar to spots one can find on our Sun but tiny compared to those visible on younger stars. The measurements were only possible because of the exquisite sensitivity of the Kepler Space Telescope, now repurposed as the K2 mission.

Sydney Barnes, first author of the study, states: “We had predicted this would occur, but it has been a real privilege to have been able to actually make the measurements.” Co-author Jörg Weingrill adds: “With the measured rotational periods for stars up to the age of our Sun we can now confidently trace back the evolution of our home star.”

Scientific Publication: Sydney A. Barnes, Jörg Weingrill, Dario Fritzewski, Klaus G. Strassmeier, Imants Platais: „Rotation periods for cool stars in the 4 Gyr-old open cluster M67, the solar-stellar connection, and the applicability of gyrochronology to at least solar age“, The Astrophysical Journal, Volume 823, Nr. 1.

 

Caption: False-colour image of the stellar open cluster M67. Red, green, blue composite based on Johnson B, V and G bandpass images. Captured with WiFSIP/STELLA on Tenerife. (Credit:AIP)

 

Science Contact:
Dr. Sydney Barnes, +49 331 7499-379, sbarnes@aip.de
Dr. Jörg Weingrill, +49 331 7499-456, jweingrill@aip.de

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 centenary of astrophysicist Karl Schwarzschild's death

Karl Schwarzschild.

The centenary of astrophysicist Karl Schwarzschild's death

May 11th 1916 marks the death of Karl Schwarzschild, one of the most versatile astrophysicists and scientists of his time. He was only 42 years of age and at the height of his achievements when he...

Karl Schwarzschild was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on October the 9th 1873. He started his career at the young age of 16, when he published papers on the determination of orbits of celestial bodies in Astronomical Notes. He studied in Strasbourg and obtained his doctoral degree in Munich in 1896. From 1897 he worked as an assistant at the Kuffner Observatory in Vienna and from 1901 to 1909, was a professor and director of the observatory in Göttingen. In 1908 Karl Schwarzschild was already recognized as one of the most accomplished astrophysicists of his time, and accepted the position as director of the Astrophysical Observatory Potsdam (AOP). AOP was founded in 1874 and was the first institute to have the word “astrophysics” in its name. Despite only spending eight years at AOP, Schwarzschild carried out fundamental work in astrophysics and advanced the general theory of relativity.

To this day, most books about him focus on the Schwarzschild solution to Einstein's field equations, but Schwarzschild's scientific interests were much broader. He worked intensely on celestial mechanics, stellar photometry, field theory, quantum mechanics and astronomical instrumentation. He also studied spectroscopy, stellar structure and stellar dynamics. Special appreciation should be paid to his theory of optical systems, which is still used when building large telescopes today.

Since 2011, in honour of Karl Schwarzschild, former director of the AOP, the Leibniz Institute of Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) has been awarding young and promising natural scientists with the Karl Schwarzschild Fellowship.

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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Mercury crosses the Sun - Transit on 9 May 2016

Transit of Mercury. (Credit: AIP/J. Wendt)

Mercury crosses the Sun - Transit on 9 May 2016

2 May 2016. On the 9th of May at 1:12 p.m. local time, Mercury will begin its transit in front of the Sun – seen from the point of view of our Earth.

It will take more than seven hours for the planet to complete its path across the solar disc, and the transit will end at 8:40 p.m. The Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) is preparing for the scientific exploitation of this transit event: scientists want to detect sodium in Mercury’s exosphere and at the same time test the accuracy of their instruments for further studies. They will observe the Sun during the transit of Mercury with telescopes in Tenerife, in Arizona and at the solar observatory Einstein Tower in Potsdam. In addition, the AIP invites the public to its research campus in Potsdam-Babelsberg for public observations and talks about the transit of Mercury from 1–3 p.m.

 

 

Scientific Observations

With a diameter of only 4,878 kilometres, Mercury is the smallest planet of our solar system, and the closest one to the Sun.  Its gravitational force is too small to generate a stable atmosphere: only a very thin mixture of gas, called the exosphere, surrounds the planet. This exosphere mainly consists of oxygen, sodium and helium. It has such a low density that it is extremely hard to probe its structure. Only the rare transit events – like the upcoming one on the 9th of May – or space probes make such studies feasible. The last transit of Mercury that was visible from Central Europe occurred in 2003, the next such event will take place in 2019. AIP scientists therefore take this rare opportunity to observe the 2016 transit with various telescopes and instruments and from three different locations.

 

In Arizona: preparing for exoplanet studies

AIP scientist Matthias Mallonn will try to detect a signal of the exosphere of Mercury, using the PEPSI spectrograph coupled to the Solar-Disc Integrated Telescope (SDI) on the 3,200-meter high Mount Graham in Arizona. To do so, he will compare measurements of sodium absorption before, during and after the transit. This methodology, called transmission spectroscopy, is currently the most successful approach for studying the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. The exosphere of Mercury will reduce the intensity of solar light at the wavelength of sodium by a factor of only about one hundred thousand. This extremely small effect can only be detected with an extremely precise spectrograph: „We are taking data of the complete solar disc and therefore only obtain a very tiny signal of the exosphere of Mercury. I want to use these observations to assess the achievable precision of my method and to use this experience for later detections of exoplanet atmospheres”, Mallonn explained.

 

In Tenerife and in Potsdam: shape of the exosphere

Led by Carsten Denker, the solar physicists of AIP will focus observations on the detailed shape and the extension of the exosphere of Mercury. This was studied for the first time with the help of sodium absorption lines during a transit in 2003. Jointly with colleagues from Freiburg, Germany and from Spain, Denker now plans similar measurements during this transit of Mercury using a 2D spectrograph at the European GREGOR solar telescope in Tenerife and the team is hoping to also improve the accuracy of previous studies. In addition they use a high-speed camera and adaptive optics to achieve pin sharp images of the transit event. “The transit of Mercury is a unique chance for us to calibrate our instruments and methodology of observations”, Denker said. “Once we know how accurately we are able to distinguish between the sharp edge of the planet and the solar disc, we can also determine the general influence of stray-light on any observations with GREGOR.” If the weather permits, the astronomers also plan to point the mirror of the solar observatory Einstein Tower in Potsdam towards mercury, to study and document its transit across the Sun.

 

Public observations in Potsdam-Babelsberg: 1 to 3 p.m.

AIP invites all interested people to a public event that accompanies the transit of Mercury. The programme, at the research campus Potsdam-Babelsberg, includes talks (in German) and – if the skies are clear – public observation of the transit.

1p.m.: Observation of the start of the transit

1:30p.m: Talk by Dr. Axel Schwope: „Der Planet Merkur im Portrait“

2p.m: Talk by Dr. Matthias Mallonn „Der Merkurtransit als Generalprobe für die Erforschung erdähnlicher Planeten“

2:30p.m: Observation of the transit with the 50cm telescope

 

Media Contact:

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


Science Contacts:

Dr. Matthias Mallonn, +49 331 7499-539, mmallonn@aip.de

Apl. Prof. Dr. Carsten Denker, +49 331-7499-297, cdenker@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.

Read more ...