Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New window on the early Universe

22.10.2014

Scientists at the Universities of Bonn and Cardiff see good times approaching for astrophysicists after hatching a new observational strategy to distill detailed information from galaxies at the edge of the Universe.

Using two world-class supercomputers, the researchers were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach by simulating the formation of a massive galaxy at the dawn of cosmic time.


The Milky Way through the ALMA telescopic composite

(c) ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), C. Padilla


The result of the simulation: the image on the right shows the simulated hydrogen distribution.

© Matteo Tomassetti, University of Bonn

The ALMA radio telescope – which stands at an elevation of 5,000 meters in the Atacama Desert of Chile, one of the driest places on earth – was then used to forge observations of the galaxy, showing how their method improves upon previous efforts.

It is extremely difficult to gather information about galaxies at the edge of the Universe: the signals from these heavenly bodies "dilute" in the course of their billion-year journey through space toward earth, making them difficult observational targets.

Estimating how much molecular hydrogen is present in these galaxies is particularly challenging: the molecule emits almost no radiation. Nevertheless, Astrophysicists are keen to map the abundance of this element: molecular hydrogen is the fundamental building block for new stars; the more of it contained within a particular galaxy, the more stars that galaxy can form.

The carbon trick

Currently, astrophysicists make use of a trick to determine the abundance of molecular hydrogen in a galaxy: they first measure the amount of carbon monoxide – which emits far more light than molecular hydrogen – and then “convert” the carbon monoxide signal to an abundance of molecular hydrogen using a complex procedure. This method, however, is imprecise and prone to error.

"We were able to show that the radiation of neutral carbon is much better suited to observe very distant galaxies", says Dr. Padelis Papadopoulos from the University of Cardiff. "The measured values allow for a very precise estimation of how much molecular hydrogen is present." Unfortunately, the radiation from neutral carbon is almost entirely absorbed by water vapor in the earth's atmosphere, which acts similar to a pair of dark sunglasses when observing the carbon signal.

However, a new radio telescope in the Chilean Atacama Desert, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (or ALMA), is designed with these limitations in mind. There, at an elevation of 5,000 meters, the conditions are so extremely dry that the telescope can easily pick up the interstellar radiation from carbon atoms.

Looking back 12 billion years into the past

"According to our calculations, ALMA can detect these distant galaxies, the signals of which have been traveling to us for more than 12 billion years", says Matteo Tomassetti, doctoral student of the University of Bonn and lead author of the publication. "Even more importantly: for the first time we are able to precisely determine how much molecular hydrogen is present in these galaxies."

The University of Bonn astrophysicist Professor Cristiano Porciani speaks of a new window to the early universe. "Our theoretical work will have an important impact on observational astronomy", he emphasizes. "It will help us to better understand the mysterious origin of the galaxies."

To carry out their work, the team was awarded resources on two world-class super-computers -- HeCTOR at the University of Edinburgh and Abel at the University of Oslo -- which were made available through a European computing cooperative known as PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe). The study was supported and funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) within the framework of the special research area 956, as well as by the International Max Planck Research School.

Publication: M. Tomassetti, C. Porciani, E. Romano-Díaz, A. D. Ludlow, P. P. Papadopoulos: Atomic carbon as a powerful tracer of molecular gas in the high-redshift Universe: perspectives for ALMA; MNRAS Letters; doi: 10/193/mnras/slu137

Contact:
Matteo Tomassetti
Argelander-Institute for Astronomy of the University of Bonn
International Max Planck Research School
Tel.: 0228/73343, E-Mail: mtomas@astro.uni-bonn.de

Professor Cristiano Porciani
Argelander-Institute for Astronomy
Tel.: 0228/73-3664, E-Mail: porciani@astro.uni-bonn.de

Dr. Andreas Archut | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe
23.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht New study maps space dust in 3-D
23.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall

24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

What does congenital Zika syndrome look like?

24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Steep rise of the Bernese Alps

24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>