Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers observe acidic Milky Way galaxies

21.11.2007
SRON astronomer Floris van der Tak is the first to have observed acidic particulate clouds outside of our own Milky Way galaxy. He did this by focusing the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, located on Hawaii, on two nearby Milky Way galaxies.

Astronomers think that acidification inhibits the formation of stars and planets in the dust clouds. Now it is a case of waiting for precise measurements from the SRON-built HIFI space instrument that will be launched on the Herschel space telescope next year. Van der Tak: ‘I have already submitted my observation proposal’.

The formation of stars and planets in the universe is a delicate process. Clouds of gas and matter rotate and draw together under the influence of gravity. Pressure and temperature then rise, which eventually leads to the kindling of a new star with planets potentially orbiting it. Yet why does this happen at some locations in the universe and not at others? What are the conditions for star and planet formation? How does this process start and when does it stop? Astronomers are fumbling in the dark.

‘The quantity of charged molecules in the dust cloud appears to have an inhibitory effect’, says Floris van der Tak. ‘These ensure that the magnetic fields can exert a greater influence on the cloud, as a result of which the entire cloud becomes agitated and the star-forming process is disrupted’. Observing these charged molecules directly is difficult. The ratio of acidic water molecules to ordinary water molecules is a measure of the quantity of charged molecules.

However, it is difficult to observe water molecules from under an atmosphere that is itself predominantly made up of water molecules. ‘It is like looking for stars in the daylight.’ On Earth it can only be done from a high mountain where the air is rarefied. Such a spot is the 4092 metre-high top of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea, where the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope is located. Van der Tak focused this telescope on the Milky Way galaxies M82 en Arp 220, where he discovered areas rich in acidic water molecules.

‘Amazingly, what causes these acid water molecules to be present in both Milky Way galaxies is completely different’, says Van der Tak. ‘In Arp 220 they develop under the influence of X-rays in the vicinity of the central supermassive black hole. In M82, the cause is the ultraviolet radiation emitted by hot young stars in the star-forming area. Therefore, in these particular galaxies the process of star formation inhibits itself, due to more and more charged molecules being created.’

The astronomer will be able to deploy even heavier equipment for his research in the not too distant future. Next year, the European Space Agency (ESA) is launching the Herschel space telescope with the SRON-constructed Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) attached to it. And in the 5000 metre-high and completely arid Atacama Desert in Chile, a start has been made on the construction of ALMA, 66 smart telescopes that can together produce detailed maps of the Milky Way galaxies. SRON is one of the partners involved in developing the detectors for these telescopes.

The results of the research of Floris van der Tak and his collegues Susanne Aalto of the Chamlers University of Technology, Onsala Sweden and Rowen Meijerink of the University of California are published this week in the scientific journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Jasper Wamsteker | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sron.nl/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular Force Sensors

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Producing electricity during flight

20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>