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
Graphene gives a tremendous boost to future terahertz cameras
16.04.2019 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences
Mount Kilimanjaro: Ecosystems in Global Change
28.03.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
For the first time, physicists at the University of Basel have succeeded in measuring the magnetic properties of atomically thin van der Waals materials on the nanoscale. They used diamond quantum sensors to determine the strength of the magnetization of individual atomic layers of the material chromium triiodide. In addition, they found a long-sought explanation for the unusual magnetic properties of the material. The journal Science has published the findings.
The use of atomically thin, two-dimensional van der Waals materials promises innovations in numerous fields in science and technology. Scientists around the...
Flexible, organic and printed electronics conquer everyday life. The forecasts for growth promise increasing markets and opportunities for the industry. In Europe, top institutions and companies are engaged in research and further development of these technologies for tomorrow's markets and applications. However, access by SMEs is difficult. The European project SmartEEs - Smart Emerging Electronics Servicing works on the establishment of a European innovation network, which supports both the access to competences as well as the support of the enterprises with the assumption of innovations and the progress up to the commercialization.
It surrounds us and almost unconsciously accompanies us through everyday life - printed electronics. It starts with smart labels or RFID tags in clothing, we...
The human eye is particularly sensitive to green, but less sensitive to blue and red. Chemists led by Hubert Huppertz at the University of Innsbruck have now developed a new red phosphor whose light is well perceived by the eye. This increases the light yield of white LEDs by around one sixth, which can significantly improve the energy efficiency of lighting systems.
Light emitting diodes or LEDs are only able to produce light of a certain colour. However, white light can be created using different colour mixing processes.
Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.
Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
26.04.2019 | Life Sciences
26.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
26.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy