Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The sky through three giant eyes

22.02.2007
AMBER instrument on VLT delivers a wealth of results

The ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer, which allows astronomers to scrutinise objects with a precision equivalent to that of a 130-m telescope, is proving itself an unequalled success every day. One of the latest instruments installed, AMBER, has led to a flurry of scientific results, an anthology of which is being published this week as special features in the research journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

"With its unique capabilities, the VLT Interferometer (VLTI) has created itself a niche in which it provide answers to many astronomical questions, from the shape of stars, to discs around stars, to the surroundings of the supermassive black holes in active galaxies," says Jorge Melnick (ESO), the VLT Project Scientist. The VLTI has led to 55 scientific papers already and is in fact producing more than half of the interferometric results worldwide.

"With the capability of AMBER to combine up to three of the 8.2-m VLT Unit Telescopes, we can really achieve what nobody else can do," added Fabien Malbet, from the LAOG (France) and the AMBER Project Scientist.

Eleven articles will appear this week in Astronomy & Astrophysics' special AMBER section. Three of them describe the unique instrument, while the other eight reveal completely new results about the early and late stages in the life of stars.

The first results presented in this issue cover various fields of stellar and circumstellar physics. Two papers deal with very young solar-like stars, offering new information about the geometry of the surrounding discs and associated outflowing winds. Other articles are devoted to the study of hot active stars of particular interest: Alpha Arae, Kappa Canis Majoris, and CPD -57o2874. They provide new, precise information about their rotating gas envelopes.

An important new result concerns the enigmatic object Eta Carinae. Using AMBER with its high spatial and spectral resolution, it was possible to zoom into the very heart of this very massive star. In this innermost region, the observations are dominated by the extremely dense stellar wind that totally obscures the underlying central star. The AMBER observations show that this dense stellar wind is not spherically symmetric, but exhibits a clearly elongated structure. Overall, the AMBER observations confirm that the extremely high mass loss of Eta Carinae's massive central star is non-spherical and much stronger along the poles than in the equatorial plane. This is in agreement with theoretical models that predict such an enhanced polar mass-loss in the case of rapidly rotating stars.

Several papers from this special feature focus on the later stages in a star's life. One looks at the binary system Gamma 2 Velorum, which contains the closest example of a star known as a Wolf-Rayet. A single AMBER observation allowed the astronomers to separate the spectra of the two components, offering new insights in the modeling of Wolf-Rayet stars, but made it also possible to measure the separation between the two stars. This led to a new determination of the distance of the system, showing that previous estimates were incorrect. The observations also revealed information on the region where the winds from the two stars collide.

The famous binary system RS Ophiuchi, an example of a recurrent nova, was observed just 5 days after it was discovered to be in outburst on 12 February 2006, an event that has been expected for 21 years. AMBER was able to detect the extension of the expanding nova emission. These observations show a complex geometry and kinematics, far from the simple interpretation of a spherical fireball in extension. AMBER has detected a high velocity jet probably perpendicular to the orbital plane of the binary system, and allowed a precise and careful study of the wind and the shockwave coming from the nova.

The stream of results from the VLTI and AMBER is no doubt going to increase in the coming years with the availability of new functionalities.

"In addition to the 8.2-m Unit Telescopes, the VLTI can also combine the light from up to 4 movable 1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes. AMBER fed by three of these AT's will be offered to the user community as of April this year, and from October we will also make FINITO available," said Melnick. "This 'fringe-tracking' device allows us to stabilise changes in the atmospheric conditions and thus to substantially improve the efficiency of the observations. By effectively 'freezing' the interferometric fringes, FINITO allows astronomers to significantly increase the exposure times."

Henri Boffin | alfa
Further information:
http://www.eso.org/outreach/press-rel/pr-2007/pr-06-07.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht SF State astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet
20.01.2017 | San Francisco State University

nachricht Molecule flash mob
19.01.2017 | Technische Universität Wien

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>