In September 2019 a new Max Planck Research Group started at MPA: Adrian Hamers joined the institute and is currently building up his group to research multiple star systems. Such systems are of high importance in astrophysics, since they may lead to violent astrophysical phenomena such as Type Ia supernovae and gravitational wave events. The main goal is to use both fast and detailed modeling to make statistical predictions for observations of supernovae and gravitational waves. more

Quasars are amongst the brightest non-transient sources in the sky. Thanks to their high luminosity, they can be observed even at early cosmic times, where – surprisingly – these first quasars appear as already evolved systems: with black holes with masses exceeding one billion solar masses hosted by massive and heavily star forming galaxies. To explain such rapid growth, theorists believe these systems must reside in peculiarly dense environments, where huge gas reservoirs favour efficient inflow of material onto seed super-massive black holes. An international team of astronomers has recently found the first clear observational evidence that this is indeed the case. The new “panoramic” spectrograph called MUSE unveiled, for the first time, the almost ubiquitous presence of large amounts of cool gas in close proximity to the first quasars. This pristine fuel will fall on the primordial galaxies and sustain their growth in both stellar and black hole mass. more

The High-Performance Computing Center, Stuttgart (HLRS), has awarded MPA researcher Dylan Nelson and his colleague Annalisa Pillepich at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy the “Golden Spike Award” for TNG50: a high-resolution simulation of galaxy evolution from the Big Bang to the present day. The Gold Spike award honours the three most excellent projects of that year that have performed computations on the center’s clusters. more

Globular clusters are the densest gravitationally bound stellar systems in the Universe. They are found in all galaxy types, even low mass dwarf galaxies and they can be almost as old as the Universe. The formation mechanisms of these enigmatic systems are not yet understood. Scientist at MPA and the University of Helsinki, together with international collaborators, have now presented the first hydro-dynamical simulation at sub-parsec resolution following the entire formation history of spatially resolved globular cluster candidates in merging dwarf galaxies. This provides a general model for the formation of metal-poor globular clusters in chemically unevolved starbursting environments of low-mass galaxies at high redshifts. more

The expansion rate of the Universe today is described by the so-called Hubble constant and different techniques have come to inconsistent results about how fast our Universe actually does expand. An international team led by the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) has now used two gravitational lenses as new tools to calibrate the distances to hundreds of observed supernovae and thus measure a fairly high value for the Hubble constant. While the uncertainty is still relatively large, this is higher than that inferred from the cosmic microwave background. more

The SRG (Spektr-RG) Orbital Observatory has recently started one of its many tests by looking at a small patch of the extragalactic sky with one of the seven eROSITA telescope modules. The results are consistent with preflight expectations. The work on commissioning other modules is still underway and will be completed in the coming weeks before starting a 4-year long all-sky survey later this year. more

Hot plasma fills the entire volume of galaxy clusters and makes these objects powerful sources of X-ray radiation. While the density and temperature of this gas can be readily measured, its material properties, such as its viscosity and thermal conductivity are largely unknown. The problem stems from the poorly understood role of weak magnetic fields permeating the gas. While such fields are too weak to directly affect large-scale motions of the gas, they might change the microscopic properties of the plasma. Recent long observations of the Coma cluster in the X-ray band have shown that this is indeed the case – the behavior of the gas is markedly different from expectations for un-magnetized plasma. more

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