Research Highlights

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

Current Research Highlights

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New limits on the spectral distortions of the Cosmic Microwave Background

September 01, 2015
New data from the Planck satellite and the South Pole Telescope on the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) combined with a new component separation algorithm developed at MPA give much tighter limits on two parameters measuring the deviation of the CMB from a blackbody radiation. These results can be used to constrain new physics in the very early universe and to study the correlations between the primordial fluctuations on very small and very large angular scales. [more]
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Three-dimensional computer simulations support neutrinos as cause of supernova explosions

August 01, 2015
Latest three-dimensional computer simulations are closing in on the solution of an decades-old problem: how do massive stars die in gigantic supernova explosions? Since the mid-1960s, astronomers thought that neutrinos, elementary particles that are radiated in huge numbers by the newly formed neutron star, could be the ones to energize the blast wave that disrupts the star. However, only now the power of modern supercomputers has made it possible to actually demonstrate the viability of this neutrino-driven mechanism. [more]
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Understanding how stars form from molecular gas

July 01, 2015
The star formation rate in galaxies varies greatly both across different galaxy types and over galactic time scales. MPA astronomers have been trying to gain insight into how the interstellar medium may change in different galaxies by studying molecular gas in a wide variety of galaxies, ranging from gas-poor, massive ellipticals to strongly star-forming irregulars, and in environments ranging from inner bulges to outer disks. They find that the gas depletion time depends both on the strength of the local gravitational forces and the star formation activity inside the galaxy. [more]
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A new observable of the large-scale structure: the position-dependent two-point correlation function

June 01, 2015
Observations of the large-scale structure, such as galaxy surveys, are one of the most important tools to study our universe. In particular, how the growth of structure is affected by the large-scale environment can be used to test our understanding of gravity, as well as the physics of inflation. A research group at MPA has recently developed a new technique to extract this signal more efficiently from real observations. Specifically, we divide a galaxy survey into sub-volumes, quantify the structure and the environment in each sub-volume, and measure the correlation between these two quantities. This technique thus opens a new avenue to critically test fundamental physics from real observations. [more]
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Understanding X-ray emission from galaxies and galaxy clusters

May 01, 2015
By combining data for more than 250,000 individual objects, an MPA-based team has for the first time been able to measure X-ray emission in a uniform manner for objects with masses ranging from that of the Milky Way up to that of rich galaxy clusters. The results are surprisingly simple and give insight into how ordinary matter is distributed in today's universe, and how this distribution has been affected by energy input from galactic nuclei. [more]
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Computer simulation confirms supernova mechanism in three dimensions

April 01, 2015
Massive stars explode as supernovae at the end of their lives, but how exactly does the explosion begin and what is the role of different physical processes? For the first time, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics have been able to simulate such a stellar explosion in all three dimensions with detailed physical input. The results show that the energetic neutrinos radiated by the newly formed neutron star indeed trigger the explosion by heating the stellar matter. Turbulent flows support this process and lead to an even more energetic explosion. [more]
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Measuring gas velocities in galaxy clusters with X-ray images

March 01, 2015
X-ray observations provide us with detailed information on the density and temperature of the hot gas inside galaxy clusters. The other major gas characteristic that still needs to be measured is the gas velocity. While current generation X-ray observatories lack the required energy resolution to measure velocities directly, future observatories such as ASTRO-H and ATHENA will address this limitation. An international team including MPA scientists has shown that the power spectrum of the velocity field can inferred indirectly from existing X-ray images of relaxed clusters. Numerical simulations confirm this simple theoretical idea, opening a way of probing gas velocities using already existing X-ray data. [more]
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