News

New season of Starry Nights in Babelsberg starts

Program of the Starry Nights in Babelsberg 2019/2020.

New season of Starry Nights in Babelsberg starts

On Thursday, 17 October 2019, starting at 7:15 pm, the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) invites to the start of the new season of our Starry Nights in Babelsberg. Christian Thomas, ...

The 2019/2020 Starry Nights season will start with a guest lecture on Alexander von Humboldt's Cosmos Lectures on the occasion of the Humboldt Year. Afterwards, scientists from AIP will continue the popular public lecture series. The topics reflect the diversity of the institute's research: from exoplanets and Sun-like stars to dark matter, special galaxies and space missions, the comprehensible lectures offer anyone interested an insight into current topics in astrophysics. All lectures are in German language. After the talks, we offer a tour over the AIP campus and – if possible – an observation with one of our historical reflecting telescopes.

 

Please check the German site for a short description of this week's topic.

 

We look forward to your visit! Admission is free, no previous registration is necessary.

 

Venue: AIP, An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam

Further dates: Starry Night in Babelsberg

 

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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Wempe Award for Elisabeth Newton

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Newton. Credit: private

Wempe Award for Elisabeth Newton

24 September 2019. In recognition of her outstanding research on the rotation and magnetism of low-mass stars, the Johann Wempe Foundation is honoring Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Newton of Dartmouth Colleg...

Prof. Newton's research deals with the physics of stars and their planets, in particular with long-lived low-mass M-class dwarf stars, their rotation and magnetism, and the formation of exoplanets.

Prof. Newton received her doctorate from Harvard University with a thesis on M dwarf stars and subsequently researched M dwarf stars as host stars of planets as a Postdoctoral National Science Foundation Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since the beginning of the year she has been Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA.

Her work on the rotation of very low-mass M dwarf stars has attracted much attention and offers direct links to AIP research on stellar activity and exoplanets. M dwarf stars have such low luminosity that not one is visible from Earth with the naked eye, even though they make up a large percentage of all stars.

 

Artist’s impression of an M dwarf star with planets. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Schedule of the award ceremony

From 3:00 pm

  • Opening by Prof. Dr. Matthias Steinmetz, Scientific Chairman at AIP
  • Welcome by Dr. Jürgen Kroseberg, Federal Ministry of Education and Rsearch
  • Laudation by Prof. Dr. Katja Poppenhäger, section head of Stellar physics and exoplanets at AIP
  • Award ceremony
  • Ceremonial lecture by Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Newton “Spin and magnetism in M dwarf stars”
  • Reception

 

About the Wempe Award

In honor of Prof. Dr. Johann Wempe (1906 - 1980), the last director of the former Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam, the Johann Wempe Award, first awarded in 2000, is granted to an outstanding scientist. The award is financed from funds left in the will of Johann Wempe.

Former recipients are Alice Quillen, Oliver Gressel, Brent Tully, Thomas R. Ayres, Yehuda Hoffman, Matthias Rempel, Kenneth C. Freeman, Ignasi Ribas, Eva Grebel, Alexander Kosovichev, Isabelle Baraffe und Gilles Chabrier, Russell Cannon and Tom Abel.

 

Science contact

Prof. Dr. Katja Poppenhäger, 0331 7499 521, kpoppenhaeger@aip.de

Media contact

Sarah Hönig, 0331 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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16th Potsdam Thinkshop: The rotation periods of cool stars

Poster for the Thinkshop. Click for bigger version. Credit: AIP

16th Potsdam Thinkshop: The rotation periods of cool stars

From the 23rd to the 26th of September, more than 50 scientists meet at the 16th Potsdam Thinkshop on AIP’s campus in Babelsberg, Potsdam, Germany. Each year, the event series of the Leibniz Inst...

Sydney Barnes, leader of the stellar activity group at AIP and organizer of the conference, states: “This rotation seems to be the fundamental variable underlying many dynamical behaviors of stars such as the magnetic activity manifested in stellar dynamos, starspots, and solar or stellar flares. One application of measured stellar rotation rates is to derive the ages of stars, otherwise difficult to obtain.” These ages are helping to construct astronomical chronologies, that is, the dating of astronomical phenomena. Silva Järvinen, AIP-scientist in the stellar physics and exoplanets section, adds: “The AIP has played a leading role over the past decades in efforts to understand these magnetic phenomena for a large variety of stars, and also to measure related manifestations such as starspots, stellar magnetic fields, and rotation itself.” The rotation rates of increasingly large numbers of stars can now be measured precisely using telescopes on earth and also in space.

This conference will bring together an international cross-section of major contributors to the field to discuss the latest findings, and to put them in perspective. More information on this event is available at the conference website: https://thinkshop.aip.de/16.

 

Scientific contacts

Dr. Sydney Barnes, 0331-7499-379, sbarnes@aip.de

Dr. Silva Järvinen, 0331-7499-448, sjarvinen@aip.de

 

Media contact

Sarah Hönig, 0331-7499-803, 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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A new, spectacular view of the Large Magellanic Cloud

The Large Magellanic Cloud revealed by VISTA. Credit: ESO/VISTA VMC

A new, spectacular view of the Large Magellanic Cloud

13 September 2019. The VISTA survey of the Magellanic Clouds, led by Maria-Rosa Cioni of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), reveals a remarkable new image of the Large Magellanic...

The Large Magellanic Cloud is one of our nearest galactic neighbors, at only 163 000 light years from Earth. With the Small Magellanic Cloud, these are among the nearest dwarf satellite galaxies to the Milky Way. The Large Magellanic Cloud is also the home of various stellar conglomerates and is an ideal laboratory for astronomers to study the processes that shape galaxies.

ESO’s VISTA telescope has been observing these two galaxies for the last decade. The main goal of the VISTA Magellanic Clouds Survey has been to map the star formation history of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, as well as their three-dimensional structures. “Our section is leading the VISTA survey of the Magellanic Clouds system and has been awarded an ERC consolidator grant for using the Magellanic Clouds to study the interaction of galaxies,” states Maria-Rosa Cioni, head of the Dwarf galaxies and the Galactic Halo section at AIP and principle investigator of the survey.

VISTA was key to this image because it observes the sky in near-infrared wavelengths of light. This allows it to see through clouds of dust that obscure parts of the galaxy. These clouds block a large portion of visible light but are transparent at the longer wavelengths VISTA was built to observe. As a result, many more of the individual stars populating the centre of the galaxy are clearly visible. Astronomers analysed about 10 million individual stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud in detail and determined their ages using cutting-edge stellar models. They found that younger stars trace multiple spiral arms in this galaxy.

For millennia, the Magellanic Clouds have fascinated people in the Southern Hemisphere, but they were largely unknown to Europeans until the 16th century. The name we use today harkens back to Ferdinand Magellan, who 500 years ago began the first circumnavigation of the Earth. The records the expedition brought back to Europe revealed many places and new knowledge to Europeans for the first time. The spirit of exploration and scientific curiosity is ever more live today in the work of astronomers around the world, including the VMC team whose observations led to this stunning image of the Large Magellanic Cloud.

 

These cutouts highlight some of the most spectacular regions in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Credit: ESO/VISTA VMC

 

ESO press release

https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1914/

More about VISTA

http://bit.ly/ESO_VISTA

Science contact

Prof. Dr. Maria-Rosa Cioni, 0331-7499-651, mcioni@aip.de

Media contact AIP

Sarah Hönig, 0331-7499-803, 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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Chemical element potassium detected in an exoplanet atmosphere

Artist’s impression of a hot Jupiter (right) and its cool host star. Credit: AIP/Kristin Riebe

Chemical element potassium detected in an exoplanet atmosphere

4 September 2019. A team of astronomers led by AIP PhD student Engin Keles detected the chemical element potassium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, for the first time with overwhelming significan...

Ever since the earliest theoretical predictions 20 years ago, the chemical elements potassium and sodium were expected to be detectable in atmospheres of “hot Jupiters”, gaseous planets with temperatures of a few thousand Kelvin that orbit closely around far-away stars. While sodium was detected with high resolution observations already early on, potassium was not, which created a puzzle for atmospheric chemistry and physics.

The elements can be discovered by analyzing the home star’s spectrum of light when the planet passes in front of it as seen from Earth. Different elements cause specific absorption signals in the spectrum, dark lines, that hint at the chemical composition of the atmosphere. However, the presence of clouds in hot Jupiter atmospheres strongly weakens any spectral absorption features and thus makes them very hard to detect. Even for HD189733b, the best studied hot Jupiter, so far scientists only possessed a very vague and imprecise knowledge of the potassium absorption. The exoplanet, 64 light years away and about the size of Jupiter, orbits its home star – a dwarf star with 0,8 times the mass of the Sun – in 53 hours and is 30 times closer to it than the Earth to the Sun. It needed the light gathering capability of the 2x8,4m LBT and the high spectral resolution of PEPSI to definitely measure potassium for the first time at high resolution in atmospheric layers above the clouds. With these new measurements, researchers can now compare the absorption signals of potassium and sodium and thus learn more about processes such as condensation or photo-ionization in these exoplanet atmospheres.

The technique that was applied for this study at LBT is called transmission spectroscopy. It requires that the exoplanet transits in front of the host star. “We took a time series of light spectra during the transit and compared the absorption depth,” says the lead author of the study, Engin Keles, PhD student at AIP in the group Stellar Physics and Exoplanets. “During transit, we then detected the potassium signature, which disappeared before and after transit as expected, which indicates that the absorption is induced by the planetary atmosphere.” Investigations by other teams already attempted to detect potassium on the same exoplanet, however, either nothing was found or what was found was too weak to be statistically significant. Until now there has been no significant detection of potassium in high resolution observations for any exoplanet. “Our observations clearly made the breakthrough” emphasizes project co-leader Dr. Matthias Mallonn, who is seconded by PEPSI’s principal investigator Prof. Klaus Strassmeier:  “PEPSI is well suited for this task because of its high spectral resolution that allows collecting more photons per pixel from very narrow spectral lines than any other telescope-spectrograph combination.” “Both as a spectrograph and as a spectropolarimeter, PEPSI has already made significant contributions to stellar physics,” adds Christian Veillet, LBT Observatory's Director. “This strong detection of potassium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet establishes PEPSI as an amazing tool for exoplanet characterization as well as a unique asset for the members of the LBT community.” The team included colleagues from Denmark, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and the United States andhas now presented the results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

 

LBT press release

http://lbtonews.blogspot.com

More information on PEPSI

https://pepsi.aip.de

Images and Video

https://cloud.aip.de/index.php/s/nwaLMDGcjQHXBzM

Science contacts

Engin Keles, 0331-7499-538, ekeles@aip.de

Prof. Dr. Klaus G. Strassmeier, 0331-7499-223, kstrassmeier@aip.de

Media contact

Sarah Hönig, 0331-7499-803, presse@aip.de

Original Publication

Engin Keles, Matthias Mallonn, Carolina von Essen, Thorsten A. Carroll, Xanthippi Alexoudi, Lorenzo Pino, Ilya Ilyin, Katja Poppenhäger, Daniel Kitzmann, Valerio Nascimbeni, Jake D. Turner, Klaus G. Strassmeier (2019), MNRAS, “The potassium absorption on HD189733b and HD209458b” https://doi.org/10.1093/mnrasl/slz123

 

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 ...