Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers get their hands dirty as they lift the veil on galactic dust

12.10.2007
There is more to a grain of dust than meets the eye, at least for astronomers as they attempt to probe deeper into distant galaxies. Until now dust has been a nuisance because it has obscured galaxies, and the stars within them, by absorbing the radiation they emit.

But more recently dust has started to present opportunities because it emits radiation itself as a consequence of being heated up by nearby stars. Aided by new observing instruments and sophisticated computer software, this radiation enables astronomers to reconstruct what lies behind the dust. Furthermore the dust itself plays a vital role in star formation within galaxies.

The stage was set for dramatic advances in the study of galactic dust in a recent workshop funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF)'s Exploratory Workshop. The big breakthrough is the ability to detect the dust at much higher resolution from its infrared radiation, according to Simone Bianchi, co-convenor of the ESF workshop. "It has been possible to do this since the eighties, but the new instruments have a higher sensitivity," said Bianchi.

At the same time new computer models are making it possible to work out the structure of the galaxy lying behind the dust, even though it cannot be observed directly at any wavelength. The key here is that the dust is acting as a relay for radiation emitted by the stars behind it. The dust absorbs high energy radiation from the stars and then heats up as a result. It then re-emits in the infra red waveband, which can now be detected with sensitive new instruments.

Plans were made at the workshop to use the European Space Agency's new infrared space telescope called Herschel, which will be launched in 2008 and be capable of detecting infrared radiation emitted by distant galactic dust. "The new instruments will allow us to detect dust associated with less dense regions of the interstellar medium," said Bianchi.

Astronomers also hope to learn more about the role played by dust in star formation. As Bianchi pointed out, there is a well established connection between the dust and the gas from which stars are formed. But the detailed relationship is unknown, and will require knowledge about the dust itself, in particular its molecular structure and lifecycle.

The ESF workshop focused mainly on spiral galaxies, because these are heavily obscured by dust. Galaxies are split into three categories by their structure, spiral, elliptical, and irregular. There is less dust in elliptical galaxies, while irregular galaxies are more difficult to model because they lack any orderly structure. "Spiral galaxies can be modelled in a more direct way because of their relatively simple geometry," said Bianchi. "However, recent comparison with observations of dust emission has shown that models may need a higher degree of complexity. This can be achieved now with the advances in computational facilities."

The ESF workshop was well timed to help Europe exploit the full potential of the data that will be obtained from the new instruments. It has already brought together the relevant European groups specialising in spiral galaxies and modelling dust, providing the platform for major advances in the field.

The workshop, held in Ghent, Belgium in May 2007, brought together 29 researchers from 10 different countries. Each year, ESF supports approximately 50 Exploratory Workshops across all scientific domains. These small, interactive group sessions are aimed at opening up new directions in research to explore new fields with a potential impact on developments in science.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.arcetri.astro.it/radtran
http://www.esf.org/activities/exploratory-workshops.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials
17.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume
15.01.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences

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: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Polymers Based on Boron?

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered

18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>