Publication archive

Publication archive

Collisions between galaxy clusters provide a test of the nongravitational forces acting on dark matter. Dark matter's lack of deceleration in the "bullet cluster" collision constrained its self-interaction cross section σDM/m < 1.25 square centimeters per gram (cm2/g) [68% confidence limit (CL)] (σDM, self-interaction cross section; m, unit mass of dark matter) for long-ranged forces. Using the Chandra and Hubble Space Telescopes, we have now observed 72 collisions, including both major and minor mergers. Combining these measurements statistically, we detect the existence of dark mass at 7.6σ significance. The position of the dark mass has remained closely aligned within 5.8 ± 8.2 kiloparsecs of associated stars, implying a self-interaction cross section σDM/m < 0.47 cm2/g (95% CL) and disfavoring some proposed extensions to the standard model.
Published: 27 March 2015
Powerful winds driven by active galactic nuclei are often thought to affect the evolution of both supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, quenching star formation and explaining the close relationship between black holes and galaxies. Recent observations of large-scale molecular outflows in ultraluminous infrared galaxies support this quasar-feedback idea, because they directly trace the gas from which stars form. Theoretical models suggest that these outflows originate as energy-conserving flows driven by fast accretion-disk winds. Proposed connections between large-scale molecular outflows and accretion-disk activity in ultraluminous galaxies were incomplete because no accretion-disk wind had been detected. Conversely, studies of powerful accretion-disk winds have until now focused only on X-ray observations of local Seyfert galaxies and a few higher-redshift quasars. Here we report observations of a powerful accretion-disk wind with a mildly relativistic velocity (a quarter that of light) in the X-ray spectrum of IRAS F11119+3257, a nearby (redshift 0.189) optically classified type 1 ultraluminous infrared galaxy hosting a powerful molecular outflow. The active galactic nucleus is responsible for about 80 per cent of the emission, with a quasar-like luminosity of 1.5 × 1046 ergs per second. The energetics of these two types of wide-angle outflows is consistent with the energy-conserving mechanism that is the basis of the quasar feedback in active galactic nuclei that lack powerful radio jets (such jets are an alternative way to drive molecular outflows).
Published: 26 March 2015
Published online 19 March 2015.

Molecular nitrogen (N2) is thought to have been the most abundant form of nitrogen in the protosolar nebula. It is the main N-bearing molecule in the atmospheres of Pluto and Triton, and probably the main nitrogen reservoir from which the giant planets formed. Yet in comets, often considered as the most primitive bodies in the solar system, N2 has not been detected. Here we report the direct in situ measurement of N2 in the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko made by the ROSINA mass spectrometer aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. A N2/CO ratio of (5.70 ± 0.66) × 10-3 (SEM) corresponds to depletion by a factor of ~25.4 ± 8.9 compared to the protosolar value. This depletion suggests that cometary grains formed at low temperature conditions below ~30 K.

Published: 19 March 2015
First published online: 19 March 2015

We present Cluster measurements of large amplitude electric fields correlated with intense downward field-aligned currents, observed during a nightside crossing of the auroral zone. The data are reproduced by a simple model of magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling which, under different conditions, can also produce a divergent electric field signature in the downward current region, or correlation between the electric and perturbed magnetic fields. We conclude that strong electric field associated with intense downward field-aligned current, such as this observation, is a signature of ionospheric plasma depletion caused by the downward current. It is also shown that the electric field in the downward current region correlates with downward current density if a background field is present, e.g., due to magnetospheric convection.

Published: 19 March 2015
Detection of sodium-salt-rich ice grains emitted from the plume of the Saturnian moon Enceladus suggests that the grains formed as frozen droplets from a liquid water reservoir that is, or has been, in contact with rock. Gravitational field measurements suggest a regional south polar subsurface ocean of about 10 kilometres thickness located beneath an ice crust 30 to 40 kilometres thick. These findings imply rock–water interactions in regions surrounding the core of Enceladus. The resulting chemical 'footprints' are expected to be preserved in the liquid and subsequently transported upwards to the near-surface plume sources, where they eventually would be ejected and could be measured by a spacecraft. Here we report an analysis of silicon-rich, nanometre-sized dust particles (so-called stream particles) that stand out from the water-ice-dominated objects characteristic of Saturn. We interpret these grains as nanometre-sized SiO2 (silica) particles, initially embedded in icy grains emitted from Enceladus' subsurface waters and released by sputter erosion in Saturn's E ring. The composition and the limited size range (2 to 8 nanometres in radius) of stream particles indicate ongoing high-temperature (>90 °C) hydrothermal reactions associated with global-scale geothermal activity that quickly transports hydrothermal products from the ocean floor at a depth of at least 40 kilometres up to the plume of Enceladus.
Published: 12 March 2015
In 1964, Refsdal hypothesized that a supernova whose light traversed multiple paths around a strong gravitational lens could be used to measure the rate of cosmic expansion. We report the discovery of such a system. In Hubble Space Telescope imaging, we have found four images of a single supernova forming an Einstein cross configuration around a redshift z = 0.54 elliptical galaxy in the MACS J1149.6+2223 cluster. The cluster's gravitational potential also creates multiple images of the z = 1.49 spiral supernova host galaxy, and a future appearance of the supernova elsewhere in the cluster field is expected. The magnifications and staggered arrivals of the supernova images probe the cosmic expansion rate, as well as the distribution of matter in the galaxy and cluster lenses.
Published: 06 March 2015
On 2014 October 14 the Sun Watcher with Active Pixels and Image Processing EUV solar telescope on board the Project for On Board Autonomy 2 spacecraft observed an eruption that led to the formation of perhaps the largest post-eruptive loop system seen in the solar corona in solar cycle 24. The initial eruption occurred at about 18:30 UT on October 14, behind the east Solar limb, and was observed as a a coronal mass ejection and an M2.2 solar flare. In the 48 hr following the eruption, the associated post-eruptive loops grew to a height of approximately 4 × 105 km > 0.5 RSun) at rates between 2 and 6 km s-1. We conclude from our observations of this event that ordinary post-eruptive loops and so-called post-flare giant arches are fundamentally the same and are formed by the same magnetic reconnection mechanism.
Published: 01 March 2015
Published online 2 February 2015

The internal ocean of Enceladus can be expected to present conditions favorable to the trapping of volatiles in clathrates. This process could influence the eventual composition of the ocean and therefore of the plumes emitted by the south polar region. Here we used a statistical thermodynamic model to assess which species detected in the plumes by the Cassini-INMS experiment are trapped in clathrates. We treated Enceladus' internal ocean as a terrestrial subglacial lake with a mixture of dissolved volatiles indicated by plume gas measurements. We find that the conditions for clathrate formation are met in this ocean, except above 20 km or in hypothetical hot spots. The formation of multiple guest clathrates depletes methane below plume levels, suggesting that clathrates eventually dissociate (releasing methane) in the fissure that connects the ocean to the surface or that another mechanism (such as hydrothermal reactions) is compensating by adding methane into the ocean.

Published: 26 February 2015
The evolution of galaxies is connected to the growth of supermassive black holes in their centers. During the quasar phase, a huge luminosity is released as matter falls onto the black hole, and radiation-driven winds can transfer most of this energy back to the host galaxy. Over five different epochs, we detected the signatures of a nearly spherical stream of highly ionized gas in the broadband x-ray spectra of the luminous quasar PDS 456. This persistent wind is expelled at relativistic speeds from the inner accretion disk, and its wide aperture suggests an effective coupling with the ambient gas. The outflow's kinetic power larger than 1046 ergs per second is enough to provide the feedback required by models of black hole and host galaxy coevolution.
Published: 20 February 2015
Stars which pass close to the Sun can perturb the Oort cloud, injecting comets into the inner solar system where they may collide with the Earth. Using van Leeuwen's re-reduction of the HIPPARCOS data complemented by the original HIPPARCOS and Tycho-2 catalogues, along with recent radial velocity surveys, I integrate the orbits of over 50 000 stars through the Galaxy to look for close encounters. The search uses a Monte Carlo sampling of the covariance of the data in order to properly characterize the uncertainties in the times, distances, and speeds of the encounters. I show that modelling stellar encounters by assuming instead a linear relative motion produces, for many encounters, inaccurate and biased results. I find 42, 14, and 4 stars which have encounter distances below 2, 1, and 0.5 pc respectively, although some of these stars have questionable data. Of the 14 stars coming within 1 pc, 5 were found by at least one of three previous studies (which found a total of 7 coming within 1 pc). The closest encounter appears to be Hip 85605, a K or M star, which has a 90% probability of coming between 0.04 and 0.20 pc between 240 and 470 kyr from now (90% Bayesian confidence interval). However, its astrometry may be incorrect, in which case the closest encounter found is the K7 dwarf GL 710, which has a 90% probability of coming within 0.10–0.44 pc in about 1.3 Myr. A larger perturbation may have been caused by gamma Microscopii, a G6 giant with a mass of about 2.5 M, which came within 0.35–1.34 pc (90% confidence interval) around 3.8 Myr ago.
Published: 19 February 2015
Context. The first release of astrometric data from Gaia will contain the mean stellar positions and magnitudes from the first year of observations, and proper motions from the combination of Gaia data with Hipparcos prior information (HTPM).
Aims. We study the potential of using the positions from the Tycho-2 Catalogue as additional information for a joint solution with early Gaia data. We call this the Tycho-Gaia astrometric solution (TGAS).
Methods. We adapt Gaia's Astrometric Global Iterative Solution (AGIS) to incorporate Tycho information, and use simulated Gaia observations to demonstrate the feasibility of TGAS and to estimate its performance.
Results. Using six to twelve months of Gaia data, TGAS could deliver positions, parallaxes, and annual proper motions for the 2.5 million Tycho-2 stars, with sub-milliarcsecond accuracy. TGAS overcomes some of the limitations of the HTPM project and allows its execution half a year earlier. Furthermore, if the parallaxes from Hipparcos are not incorporated in the solution, they can be used as a consistency check of the TGAS/HTPM results.
Published: 04 February 2015
In the advent of the Rosetta arrival at the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, we present a global 3D hybrid simulation model of the cometary plasma interaction which resolves the innermost coma sufficiently. As Rosetta will only provide local information, global simulations are required to put these local observations into a wider global perspective. In the selected scenario close to the perihelion, the gas production of the comet is large enough to trigger a cometary bow shock and a small diamagnetic cavity around the nucleus. The simulation reveals the presence of a cometary ionopause and a recombination layer, which is in general agreement with single-fluid MHD simulations. However, we found an asymmetry in the interaction region caused by the pick-up of the cometary ions, which effects all known boundaries. In addition, we study the velocity distributions of the ions and find the presence of three distinct populations of cometary ions at the inner boundaries. The bifurcation created in the ion energy spectrum might be observable by the instruments onboard the Rosetta spacecraft.
Published: 31 January 2015
Published online 26 January 2015

Comets are composed of dust and frozen gases. The ices are mixed with the refractory material either as an icy conglomerate, or as an aggregate of pre-solar grains (grains that existed prior to the formation of the Solar System), mantled by an ice layer. The presence of water-ice grains in periodic comets is now well established. Modelling of infrared spectra obtained about ten kilometres from the nucleus of comet Hartley 2 suggests that larger dust particles are being physically decoupled from fine-grained water-ice particles that may be aggregates, which supports the icy-conglomerate model. It is known that comets build up crusts of dust that are subsequently shed as they approach perihelion. Micrometre-sized interplanetary dust particles collected in the Earth's stratosphere and certain micrometeorites are assumed to be of cometary origin. Here we report that grains collected from the Jupiter-family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko come from a dusty crust that quenches the material outflow activity at the comet surface. The larger grains (exceeding 50 micrometres across) are fluffy (with porosity over 50 per cent), and many shattered when collected on the target plate, suggesting that they are agglomerates of entities in the size range of interplanetary dust particles. Their surfaces are generally rich in sodium, which explains the high sodium abundance in cometary meteoroids. The particles collected to date therefore probably represent parent material of interplanetary dust particles. This argues against comet dust being composed of a silicate core mantled by organic refractory material and then by a mixture of water-dominated ices. At its previous recurrence (orbital period 6.5 years), the comet's dust production doubled when it was between 2.7 and 2.5 astronomical units from the Sun, indicating that this was when the nucleus shed its mantle.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]

Published: 26 January 2015
Published online 10 December 2014

The provenance of water and organic compounds on the Earth and other terrestrial planets has been discussed for a long time without reaching a consensus. One of the best means to distinguish between different scenarios is by determining the D/H ratios in the reservoirs for comets and the Earth's oceans. Here we report the direct in situ measurement of the D/H ratio in the Jupiter family comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the ROSINA mass spectrometer aboard ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, which is found to be (5.3 ± 0.7) × 10−4, that is, ~3 times the terrestrial value. Previous cometary measurements and our new finding suggest a wide range of D/H ratios in the water within Jupiter family objects and preclude the idea that this reservoir is solely composed of Earth ocean-like water.

Published: 23 January 2015
Critical measurements for understanding accretion and the dust/gas ratio in the solar nebula, where planets were forming 4.5 billion years ago, are being obtained by the GIADA (Grain Impact Analyser and Dust Accumulator) experiment on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Between 3.6 and 3.4 astronomical units inbound, GIADA and OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) detected 35 outflowing grains of mass 10-10 to 10-7 kilograms, and 48 grains of mass 10-5 to 10-2 kilograms, respectively. Combined with gas data from the MIRO (Microwave Instrument for the Rosetta Orbiter) and ROSINA (Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis) instruments, we find a dust/gas mass ratio of 4 ± 2 averaged over the sunlit nucleus surface. A cloud of larger grains also encircles the nucleus in bound orbits from the previous perihelion. The largest orbiting clumps are meter-sized, confirming the dust/gas ratio of 3 inferred at perihelion from models of dust comae and trails.
Published: 23 January 2015
Images from the OSIRIS scientific imaging system onboard Rosetta show that the nucleus of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko consists of two lobes connected by a short neck. The nucleus has a bulk density less than half that of water. Activity at a distance from the Sun of >3 astronomical units is predominantly from the neck, where jets have been seen consistently. The nucleus rotates about the principal axis of momentum. The surface morphology suggests that the removal of larger volumes of material, possibly via explosive release of subsurface pressure or via creation of overhangs by sublimation, may be a major mass loss process. The shape raises the question of whether the two lobes represent a contact binary formed 4.5 billion years ago, or a single body where a gap has evolved via mass loss.
Published: 23 January 2015
Images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko acquired by the OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System) imaging system onboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft at scales of better than 0.8 meter per pixel show a wide variety of different structures and textures. The data show the importance of airfall, surface dust transport, mass wasting, and insolation weathering for cometary surface evolution, and they offer some support for subsurface fluidization models and mass loss through the ejection of large chunks of material.
Published: 23 January 2015
Heat transport and ice sublimation in comets are interrelated processes reflecting properties acquired at the time of formation and during subsequent evolution. The Microwave Instrument on the Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) acquired maps of the subsurface temperature of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, at 1.6 mm and 0.5 mm wavelengths, and spectra of water vapor. The total H2O production rate varied from 0.3 kg s-1 in early June 2014 to 1.2 kg s-1 in late August and showed periodic variations related to nucleus rotation and shape. Water outgassing was localized to the "neck" region of the comet. Subsurface temperatures showed seasonal and diurnal variations, which indicated that the submillimeter radiation originated at depths comparable to the diurnal thermal skin depth. A low thermal inertia (~10 to 50 J K-1 m-2 s-0.5), consistent with a thermally insulating powdered surface, is inferred.
Published: 23 January 2015
The VIRTIS (Visible, Infrared and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer) instrument on board the Rosetta spacecraft has provided evidence of carbon-bearing compounds on the nucleus of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The very low reflectance of the nucleus (normal albedo of 0.060 ± 0.003 at 0.55 micrometers), the spectral slopes in visible and infrared ranges (5 to 25 and 1.5 to 5% kÅ-1), and the broad absorption feature in the 2.9-to-3.6–micrometer range present across the entire illuminated surface are compatible with opaque minerals associated with nonvolatile organic macromolecular materials: a complex mixture of various types of carbon-hydrogen and/or oxygen-hydrogen chemical groups, with little contribution of nitrogen-hydrogen groups. In active areas, the changes in spectral slope and absorption feature width may suggest small amounts of water-ice. However, no ice-rich patches are observed, indicating a generally dehydrated nature for the surface currently illuminated by the Sun.
Published: 23 January 2015
22-Nov-2019 07:09 UT

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