Research Highlights

On this page you can find a monthly updated list of short articles highlighting current MPA research topics.

Current Research Highlights

Current Research Highlights

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Finding needles in a haystack

May 01, 2018
Previous studies of large AGN samples both a low and at high redshifts seemed to rule out galaxy mergers as the drivers for black hole growth. A new technique developed at MPA for selecting a rare type of active galactic nuclei now show that it is possible to identify a new class of AGN in which more than  80% of the galaxies turn out to be merging or interacting systems, with clear indications of an accreting black hole. A detailed statistical analysis then reveals that mergers drive  black hole formation in the most massive galaxies in the local Universe. [more]
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The primordial magnetic field in our cosmic backyard

April 01, 2018
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. [more]
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Buoyant bubbles in galaxy clusters and heating of the intracluster medium

March 01, 2018
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. [more]
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Tsunamis and Ripples: Effects of Scalar Waves on Screening in the Milky Way

February 01, 2018
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. [more]
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Neutron Stars on the Brink of Collapse

January 01, 2018
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. [more]
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LOFAR radio observations document rejuvenation in space

December 01, 2017
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. In the journal Science Advances, the team describes this discovery, which either confirms a theoretical prediction on the interaction between shock waves and radio plasma or represents a novel phenomenon. [more]
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Bridging the Gap: From Massive Stars to Supernovae in 3D

November 01, 2017
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 from its final phase of nuclear burning, through the collapse of the stellar iron core, into the first seconds of the beginning explosion as a supernova. The simulations show that the large-scale violent convective motions that stir the oxygen burning layer at the onset of collapse can provide crucial support for the explosion of the star. [more]
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