At the very beginning of the Universe, not only elementary particles and radiation were generated but also magnetic fields. A team of researchers led by the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics now calculated what these magnetic fields should look like today in the local universe – in great detail and in 3D. To achieve this, first they traced back the current distribution of matter to the time of the Big Bang; this distribution of matter was then used to calculate the generation of the magnetic field; and finally the resulting fields were translated back to the present. Thus, the researchers were able to predict the structure and morphology of the primordial magnetic field in our cosmic neighbourhood for the first time. This field is incredibly weak; nevertheless, the prediction could help to address the challenge of measuring it.
Buoyant bubbles of relativistic plasma in galaxy cluster cores plausibly play a key role in conveying the energy from a supermassive black hole to the intracluster medium (ICM). While the amount of energy supplied by the bubbles to the ICM is set by energy conservation, the physical mechanisms involved in coupling the bubbles and the ICM are still being debated. A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) and the University of Oxford argues that internal waves might be efficient in extracting energy from the bubbles and distributing it over large masses of the ICM.
Astrophysicists from Heidelberg, Garching, and the USA gained new insights into the formation and evolution of galaxies. They calculated how black holes influence the distribution of dark matter, how heavy elements are produced and distributed throughout the cosmos, and where magnetic fields originate. This was possible by developing and programming a new simulation model for the universe, which created the most extensive simulations of this kind to date.
Modified gravity models often contain some form of screening to reduce to general relativity in our immediate cosmic neighbourhood. Scalar waves from astrophysical or cosmological events were thought to significantly disrupt this screening of the Solar System, invalidating previously viable modified gravity models. MPA scientists show that disruptions are actually generally negligible for physically relevant setups.
Neutron stars are the densest objects in the Universe; however, their exact characteristics remain unknown. Using recent observations and simulations, an international team of scientists including researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) has managed to narrow down the size of these stars. Thus the scientists were able to exclude a number of theoretical descriptions for the neutron star matter.
In observations of galaxy clusters, astronomers in collaboration with the MPA discovered a new class of cosmic radio sources. With the digital radio telescope Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) they received the longest radio waves that can be measured on Earth. They identified a remarkable "tail"behind a galaxy in the radio light, which must have been re-energized after it had faded away.
A team of astrophysicists from Queen’s University Belfast, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), and Monash University (Australia) has, for the first time, performed three-dimensional computer simulations that follow the evolution of a massive star in its final stages. The simulations show that the large-scale violent convective motions that stir the oxygen burning layer at the onset of core collapse can provide crucial support for the explosion of the star.
Gravitational lensing is becoming increasingly important for the study of distant galaxies and dark matter. Two groups have recently detected transient events emanating from far-away lensed galaxies, apparently due to extreme magnification of individual stars. MPA researchers Giulia Chirivì and Sherry Suyu contributed to the mass modelling of the galaxy cluster MACS J0416.1-2403, one of the most efficient lenses in the sky. In 2014, the Hubble Space Telescope observed two unusual transient events that appeared behind the galaxy cluster in a strongly lensed galaxy at z~1, faster and fainter than any supernova, but significantly more luminous than a classical nova. The findings are published in Nature Astronomy by Rodney et al. (2018).
The WMAP science team has received the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for detailed maps of the early universe that greatly improved our knowledge of the evolution of the cosmos and the fluctuations that seeded the formation of galaxies. The prize will be shared among the entire 27-member WMAP experimental team including Eiichiro Komatsu, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching.