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There are currently no public events at the AIP. New dates for the Starry Nights in Babelsberg as well as for Observation nights in the Great Refractor will be announced in time.

The X-ray sky in its full glory

Cosmic X-ray echo. Credit: AIP/G. Lamer, Davide Mella

The X-ray sky in its full glory

19 June 2020. The eROSITA space telescope has provided a new, sharp 360° view of the hot and energetic processes across the Universe. The new map contains more than one million objects, roughly do...

Over the course of 182 days, the eROSITA X-ray telescope has completed its first survey of the full sky. Most of the new sources are active galactic nuclei at cosmological distances, marking the growth of gigantic black holes over cosmic time. Clusters of galaxies in the new map will be used to track the growth of cosmic structures and constrain cosmological parameters.

“The completion of the first all sky survey fills us with great satisfaction and some pride. Since 2006, we have been planning the mission and the scientific yield. The fact that we were able to create a complete, detailed image of the X-ray sky less than 11 months after the launch of eROSITA makes us euphoric about the full scientific harvest,” says Dr. Axel Schwope, project manager at the AIP. “The celestial observations with eROSITA will continue until 2023 and promise many interesting discoveries in the relatively unexplored X-ray light of space.”

The AIP team has already made a surprising discovery. The astronomers found a very special object during their observations with the X-ray telescope: a closed, luminous ring. It was discovered when eROSITA scanned over a region in the southern Milky Way in February 2020. The ring is caused by X-rays scattered in a dust cloud in the plane of the Milky Way. The origin of the radiation is a faint blue source in the centre of the ring, assumed to be a black hole accompanied by a companion star. One year before, a massive outburst of this object was recorded by other X-ray telescopes. For several weeks, it was 10,000 times brighter than at present.

At the time when eROSITA registered this image, the central source appeared inconspicuous again. However, a tiny fraction of the burst radiation was scattered by a dust cloud on its thousands-year-long travel through interstellar space. Due to this detour the scattered X-rays arrived one year after the direct radiation from the burst, similar to an echo. This extra travel causes the apparent ring which will grow with time before becoming too faint to be observable. While a few dust scattering rings were observed in the past around other transient X-ray sources, with an angular diameter of more than twice the size of the full moon the new structure is by far the largest of its kind. Dr. Georg Lamer of the AIP, who discovered the object in the eROSITA data, emphasises its importance: “Apart from the stunning beauty of the image, the discovery is also scientifically valuable, since it may help to measure a precise distance to the black hole.”

eROSITA is an X-ray telescope built by a German consortium under the leadership of the MPE Garching and one of the two telescopes on the Russian-German Spectrum-X-Gamma (SRG) satellite. The satellite was successfully launched on July 13, 2019, with a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur. eROSITA will perform several all-sky X-ray surveys. The AIP contributed to the data reduction software system with special emphasis on the attitude solution system and the source detection software. The institute also provided flight hardware for the camera filter wheels and the whole mechanical ground segment for integration and tests of the X-ray telescope array.

 

The energetic universe as seen with the eROSITA X-ray telescope. Credit: Jeremy Sanders, Hermann Brunner and the eSASS team (MPE); Eugene Churazov, Marat Gilfanov (on behalf of IKI)

 

MPE press release

http://www.mpe.mpg.de/7461761/news20200619

Science contact AIP

Dr. Axel Schwope, 0331 7499 232, aschwope@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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Four newborn exoplanets get cooked by their sun

Artist's impression of the extrasolar planet system around the star V1298 Tau. Credit: AIP/J. Fohlmeister

Four newborn exoplanets get cooked by their sun

11 June 2020. Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) examined the fate of the young star V1298 Tau and its four orbiting exoplanets. The results show that these recent...

Young exoplanets live in a high-stakes environment: their sun produces a large amount of energetic X-ray radiation, typically one thousand to ten thousand times more than our own Sun. This X-ray radiation can heat the atmospheres of exoplanets and sometimes even boil them away. How much of an exoplanet's atmosphere evaporates over time depends on the properties of the planet – its mass, density, and how close it is to its sun. But how much can the star influence what happens over billions of years? This is a question that astronomers at the AIP chose to tackle in their newest paper.

The recently discovered four-planet system around the young sun V1298 Tau is a perfect test bed for this question. The central star is about the same size as our Sun. However, it is only about 25 million years old, which is much younger than our Sun with its 4.6 billion years. It hosts two smaller planets – roughly Neptune-sized – close to the star, plus two Saturn-sized planets farther out. “We observed the X-ray spectrum of the star with the Chandra space telescope to get an idea how strongly the planetary atmospheres are irradiated,” explains Katja Poppenhäger, the lead author of the study. The scientists determined the possible fates of the four exoplanets. As the star-planet system grows older, the rotation of the star slows down. The rotation is the driver for the star’s magnetism and X-ray emission, so slower rotation goes hand in hand with weaker X-ray emission. “The evaporation of the exoplanets depends on whether the star spins down quickly or slowly over the next billion years – the faster the spin-down, the less atmosphere is lost,” says PhD student and co-author Laura Ketzer, who developed a publicly available code to calculate how the planets evolve over time.

The calculations show that the two innermost planets of the system may lose their gas atmospheres completely and become rocky cores if the star spins down slowly, while the outermost planet will continue to be a gas giant. “For the third planet, it really depends on how heavy it is, which we don't know yet. Measuring the size of exoplanets with the transit technique works well, but determining planetary masses is much more challenging,” explains co-author Matthias Mallonn, who has updated the transit properties of the system using observations with AIP's ground-based STELLA telescope.

“X-ray observations of stars with planets are a key puzzle piece for us to learn about the long-term evolution of exoplanetary atmospheres,” concludes Katja Poppenhäger. “I am particularly excited about the possibilities we get through X-ray observations with eROSITA over the next few years.” The eROSITA X-ray telescope, which has been developed in part by the AIP, is conducting observations of the whole sky and will yield X-ray properties for hundreds of exoplanet host stars.

 

Science contact:

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

Media contact:

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

Publication:

https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/staa1462

https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.10240

Public code:

https://github.com/lketzer/platypos/

 

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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AIP Schwarzschild Fellow Marcel Pawlowski receives Klaus Tschira Boost Fund

Dr. Marcel Pawlowski. Credit: private

AIP Schwarzschild Fellow Marcel Pawlowski receives Klaus Tschira Boost Fund

11 May 2020. Dr. Marcel Pawlowski, Schwarzschild Fellow at the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP), receives funding from the Klaus Tschira Foundation and the German Scholars Organisat...

The funded project deals with the motion of small galaxies, so-called satellite galaxies, around the Milky Way. Leading cosmological models predict that such satellite galaxies distribute and move rather randomly. However, observations show surprising degrees of order: The satellites are preferentially distributed and move along flattened structures. These "Planes of Satellite Galaxies" fundamentally question our understanding of cosmology and galaxy formation.

“I will study systems of satellite galaxies in a range of cosmological simulations to determine the occurrence, properties, and origins of satellite planes, and determine whether they can tell us something about the properties of the host galaxy or the nature of dark matter,” explains Marcel Pawlowski. “I am excited that, in addition to traditional research funding, the KT Boost Fund lets me realise ideas that are often more difficult to fund, such as the organisation of an interdisciplinary hackathon at the AIP to bring together international experts and develop novel research ideas.” Pawlowski joined the AIP in Potsdam as a Schwarzschild Fellow in 2018. Prior to that he was a Hubble Fellow at the University of California in Irvine and a postdoc at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

For the second time, the Klaus Tschira Foundation and the German Scholars Organisation have selected young researchers to be supported by the "Klaus Tschira Boost Fund" programme. Over the next two years, a total of eleven young researchers will receive up to 80,000 euros in funding for their projects. The programme is aimed at excellent researchers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science. The independent funding will enable the fellows to implement their own projects within two years. Support is provided primarily for interdisciplinary and international projects, including more daring research projects. The aim of the programme is to enable young researchers to conduct independent research and to sharpen their profile as early as possible.

 

Press release of the Klaus Tschira Stiftung:

https://www.klaus-tschira-stiftung.de/klaus-tschira-stiftung-und-german-scholars-organization-foerdern-elf-junge-forschende-mit-je-80-000-euro/

More about the project:

https://www.gsonet.org/foerderprogramme/klaus-tschira-boost-fund/fellows/fellows2020/marcel-pawlowski.html

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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Science donates equipment to health care facilities

In the laboratories of the AIP, gloves are used to inspect sensitive components, such as this holographic grating. Credit: AIP

Science donates equipment to health care facilities

1 April 2020. The Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) provides protective equipment to fight the corona epidemic. The Minister of Science and Culture Manja Schüle hands over the utens...

Several boxes of protective suits, overalls, breathing masks, gloves, and disinfectants will be collected centrally at the fire station and distributed by the city as needed. In addition to the AIP, the donors include the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Potsdam-Golm, the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy in Potsdam, the Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops in Großbeeren and DESY in the Helmholtz Association in Zeuthen as well as the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF. Further material comes from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm.

The AIP provides gloves, face masks, and overshoes, which are normally used by the institute’s Technical Section. This protective clothing and equipment comes from the laboratories and workshops, where instruments for telescopes and satellites are developed and built. For example, it is not possible to enter a cleanroom without protective clothing. Likewise, the equipment in the laboratories provides protection against hazardous substances and prevents the contamination of sensitive components such as cameras or lenses.

 

MWFK press release

https://mwfk.brandenburg.de/mwfk/de/service/pressemitteilungen/ansicht/~31-03-2020-schutzausruestung-fuer-potsdam

Media contact AIP

Dr. Janine Fohlmeister, 0331 7499 802, 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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Total lunar eclipse: observing the Earth as a transiting planet

The Sun as seen from the Tycho crater on the Moon during a total lunar eclipse on Earth. When the Sun sets behind the northern Pacific, its disk completely disappears behind Earth. Credit: AIP/Strassmeier/Fohlmeister

Total lunar eclipse: observing the Earth as a transiting planet

2 March 2020. Astronomers succeeded in recording sunlight shining through the Earth’s atmosphere in a manner similar to the study of distant exoplanets. During the extraordinary occasion of a lun...

When an exoplanet transits in front of its host star, astronomers may be able to record both the dimming of the starlight that the planet blocks and also the starlight that shines through the planet’s atmosphere. While it is only a tiny signal, it contains the imprint of the planet’s chemical and physical signature and provides the principal possibility to measure the planet’s atmospheric constituents. In astrophysics, this technique is called transmission spectroscopy, and is a relatively young technique booming since many exoplanet transits were detected from space. “While, so far, only applicable to super-sized Jupiters, that is oversized Jupiter-like planets orbiting close to their host star, we are most interested in Earth-like planets and whether we could detect more complex molecular signatures in an exo-Earth transmission spectrum possibly even hinting for life,” explains Klaus Strassmeier from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP), the leading author of the now published study. „While not yet doable for any Earth-like exoplanet transit, a total lunar eclipse, which is a total solar eclipse when seen from our own Moon, is nothing else than a transit of our own Earth, and indirectly observable.”

The sunlight that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere before it reaches the Moon and back reflects to Earth is called the Earthshine. The Earth’s atmosphere contains many by-products of biological activity, such as oxygen and ozone in association with water vapor, methane and carbon dioxide. These biogenic molecules present attractive narrow molecular bands at optical and near infrared wavelengths for detection in atmospheres of other planets. Taking the Earth as the prototype of a habitable planet, Earthshine observations provide the possibility to verify biogenic and related chemical elemental presence with the same techniques that otherwise are being used for observing stars with super Jupiter planets. Earthshine is thus an ideal test case for future exo-Earth detections with the new generation of extremely large telescopes.

January 2019 featured a total lunar eclipse. The Moon dimmed by a factor of 20,000 during totality which is the reason why the light gathering capability of the 11.8 m Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona was needed for the observations. Additionally, the high spectral resolution of the Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) was necessary to separate the expected tiny spectral-line absorptions of the Earth’s atmosphere from the normal solar spectrum at unprecedented spectral resolution and in polarized light.

“PEPSI has already made significant contributions to the study of exoplanets through the observation of their transit in front of their sun,” adds Christian Veillet, LBT Observatory's Director. “Looking at the Earth as an exoplanet thanks to a total lunar eclipse well-suited to LBT's location in Arizona, and adding polarimetry to the exquisite resolution of the PEPSI spectrograph, resulted in the detection of sodium, calcium, and potassium in Earth's atmosphere."

 

Snapshot spectra of terrestrial molecular oxygen and water vapor absorption. Intensity is plotted versus wavelength in Angstroem. Time increases from bottom up as indicated in UT hh:mm:ss. Immediately noticeable is the dramatic increase of O2 and H2O absorption during eclipse (central four spectra) with respect to outside eclipse (other spectra). Oxygen molecules create the so-called A-band at 7600 Å, H2O is seen as myriads of individual absorption lines in the range 7850–9100 Å.

Credit: AIP/Strassmeier


Detailed look at the wavelengths around the potassium line at 7699 Å. Time increases bottom up and is again indicated as UT. The bottom spectrum is a comparison spectrum of the full moon outside of eclipse. Red color denotes times of totality, black times of partiality, and blue out of eclipse. Note that the spectral lines flanking the potassium line are from two terrestrial water vapor absorptions.

Credit: AIP/Strassmeier

 

More information on PEPSI and the LBT

https://pepsi.aip.de

http://www.lbto.org

Science contact

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

Media contact

Dr. Janine Fohlmeister, 0331-7499-803, presse@aip.de

Publication

Klaus G. Strassmeier, Ilya Ilyin, Engin Keles, Matthias Mallonn, Arto Järvinen, Michael Weber, Felix Mackebrandt, and John M. Hill, 2020, Astronomy & Astrophysics, in press

http://arxiv.org/abs/2002.08690

 

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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