Publication archive

Publication archive

Context. Solar tornados are dynamical, conspicuously helical magnetic structures that are mainly observed as a prominence activity. Aims. We investigate and propose a triggering mechanism for the solar tornado observed in a prominence cavity by SDO/AIA on September 25, 2011. Methods. High-cadence EUV images from the SDO/AIA and the Ahead spacecraft of STEREO/EUVI are used to correlate three flares in the neighbouring active-region (NOAA 11303) and their EUV waves with the dynamical developments of the tornado. The timings of the flares and EUV waves observed on-disk in 195 Å are analysed in relation to the tornado activities observed at the limb in 171 Å. Results. Each of the three flares and its related EUV wave occurred within ten hours of the onset of the tornado. They have an observed causal relationship with the commencement of activity in the prominence where the tornado develops. Tornado-like rotations along the side of the prominence start after the second flare. The prominence cavity expands with the accelerating tornado motion after the third flare. Conclusions. Flares in the neighbouring active region may have affected the cavity prominence system and triggered the solar tornado. A plausible mechanism is that the active-region coronal field contracted by the Hudson effect through the loss of magnetic energy as flares. Subsequently, the cavity expanded by its magnetic pressure to fill the surrounding low corona. We suggest that the tornado is the dynamical response of the helical prominence field to the cavity expansion.
Published: 07 January 2013
Formation and motion (at the initial stage) of six limb CMEs detected in the period June 2010 to June 2011 are investigated using the high-resolution data of the PROBA2 and SDO spacecraft combined with the data of SOHO/LASCO coronagraphs. It is demonstrated that several loop-like structures of enhanced brightness originate in the region of CME formation, and they move one after another with, as a rule, different velocities. These loop-like structures in the final analysis form the frontal structure of CME. Time dependences of the velocity and acceleration of the ejection's front are obtained for all CMEs under consideration. A conclusion is drawn about possible existence of two classes of CMEs depending on their velocity time profiles. Ejections, whose velocity after reaching its maximum sharply drops by a value of more than 100 km/s and then goes over into a regime of slow change, belong to the first class. Another class of CMEs is formed by ejections whose velocity changes slowly immediately after reaching the maximum. It is demonstrated that the CME's angular dimension increases at the initial stage of ejection motion up to a factor of 3 with a time scale of doubling the angular size value within the limits 3.5-11 min since the moment of the first measurement of this parameter of an ejection. For three CMEs it is shown that at the initial stage of their motion for a certain time interval they are stronger expanded than grow in the longitude direction.
Published: 01 January 2013
We observed Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) 2008 EV5 in the visible (0.30-0.92 micron) and near-IR (0.75-2.5 micron) wavelengths to determine its surface composition. This asteroid is especially interesting because it is a potential target for two sample return mission proposals (Marco Polo-R and Hayabusa-2) and human exploration due to its low delta-v for rendezvous. The spectrum of 2008 EV5 is essentially featureless with exception of a weak 0.48-micron spin-forbidden Fe3+ absorption band. The spectrum also has an overall blue slope. The albedo of 2008 EV5 remains uncertain with a lower limit at 0.05 and a higher end at 0.20 based on thermal modeling. The Busch et al. (Busch et al. [2011]. Icarus 212, 649-660) albedo estimate of 0.12 ± 0.04 is consistent with our thermal modeling results. The albedo and composition of 2008 EV5 are also consistent with a C-type taxonomic classification (Somers, J.M., Hicks, M.D., Lawrence, K.J. [2008]. Bull. Am. Astron. Soc. 40, 440). The best spectral match is with CI carbonaceous chondrites similar to Orgueil, which also have a weak 0.48-micron feature and an overall blue slope. This 0.48-micron feature is also seen in the spectrum of magnetite. The albedo of CI chondrites is at the lower limit of our estimated range for the albedo of 2008 EV5.
Published: 31 December 2012
We investigate and compare Cluster observations of electron dynamics in different locations of the ion diffusion region for magnetic reconnection in the Earth's magnetotail. On the basis of the 2-D reconstructed magnetic field map from Cluster 1 (C1), we pinpoint that the observed Hall field is ~6000 km (~9 ion inertial lengths) away from the magnetic X-point, and reveal that C3 was the one in closest proximity to the X-point at the time when the reconnection jet reversal was simultaneously seen by three spacecraft, namely, C1, C3, and C4. No evidence is found for strong wave emission and energetic electron enhancement near to the X-point, as compared to that within the diffusion region. We find that (1) the Hall current loop is mainly carried by the low-energy, field-aligned counterstreaming electrons; (2) a flat-top distribution in phase space density is a common feature for Hall-related electrons; (3) an enhancement of energetic electrons is observed together with the presence of the flat-top electrons; and (4) electromagnetic wave emission is enhanced within the diffusion region. Two different regions of field-aligned counterstreaming (FC) electrons are identified: one is associated with the Hall current loop (i.e., the electron flow reversal) while another one stays at the edge of the loop. Interestingly, observations show that at the transition between the two FC regions, the waves seem to suppress the energetic electrons but to promote the flat-top electrons.
Published: 22 December 2012
Globular star clusters that formed at the same cosmic time may have evolved rather differently from the dynamical point of view (because that evolution depends on the internal environment) through a variety of processes that tend progressively to segregate stars more massive than the average towards the cluster centre. Therefore clusters with the same chronological age may have reached quite different stages of their dynamical history (that is, they may have different 'dynamical ages'). Blue straggler stars have masses greater than those at the turn-off point on the main sequence and therefore must be the result of either a collision or a mass-transfer event. Because they are among the most massive and luminous objects in old clusters, they can be used as test particles with which to probe dynamical evolution. Here we report that globular clusters can be grouped into a few distinct families on the basis of the radial distribution of blue stragglers. This grouping corresponds well to an effective ranking of the dynamical stage reached by stellar systems, thereby permitting a direct measure of the cluster dynamical age purely from observed properties.
Published: 20 December 2012
In Press - Available online 19 December 2012

Past exploration of Jupiter's diverse satellite system has forever changed our understanding of the unique environments to be found around gas giants, both in our solar system and beyond. The detailed investigation of three of Jupiter's Galilean satellites (Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto), which are believed to harbour subsurface water oceans, is central to elucidating the conditions for habitability of icy worlds in planetary systems in general. The study of the Jupiter system and the possible existence of habitable environments offer the best opportunity for understanding the origins and formation of the gas giants and their satellite systems. The JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission, selected by ESA in May 2012 to be the first large mission within the Cosmic Vision Program 2015-2025, will perform detailed investigations of Jupiter and its system in all their inter-relations and complexity with particular emphasis on Ganymede as a planetary body and potential habitat. The investigations of the neighbouring moons, Europa and Callisto, will complete a comparative picture of the Galilean moons and their potential habitability. Here we describe the scientific motivation for this exciting new European-led exploration of the Jupiter system in the context of our current knowledge and future aspirations for exploration, and the paradigm it will bring in the study of giant (exo) planets in general.

Published: 19 December 2012
Published online on 12 December 2012

A subset of ultraluminous X-ray sources (those with luminosities < 1040 erg/s) are thought to be powered by the accretion of gas onto black holes with masses of ~5-20 MSun, probably via an accretion disc. The X-ray and radio emission are coupled in such Galactic sources, with the radio emission originating in a relativistic jet thought to be launched from the innermost regions near the black hole, with the most powerful emission occurring when the rate of infalling matter approaches a theoretical maximum (the Eddington limit). Only four such maximal sources are known in the Milky Way, and the absorption of soft X-rays in the interstellar medium precludes determining the causal sequence of events that leads to the ejection of the jet. Here we report radio and X-ray observations of a bright new X-ray source whose peak luminosity can exceed 1039 erg/s in the nearby galaxy, M31. The radio luminosity is extremely high and shows variability on a timescale of tens of minutes, arguing that the source is highly compact and powered by accretion close to the Eddington limit onto a stellar mass black hole. Continued radio and X-ray monitoring of such sources should reveal the causal relationship between the accretion flow and the powerful jet emission.
Published: 12 December 2012
In the equatorial region of the Earth's inner magnetosphere, the electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) triggered emissions are generated through interaction with energetic protons. We investigate the generation process of the EMIC triggered emissions in the He+ branch and associated precipitation of the energetic protons using a one-dimensional hybrid simulation with a cylindrical parabolic magnetic geometry. The simulation results show a good agreement with the nonlinear wave growth theory. As the electron density becomes higher as in the plasmasphere or the plasmaplume, the wave amplitude thresholds for both H+ and He+ band triggered emissions become lower and their nonlinear growth rates become higher. The higher hot proton density also makes the thresholds lower. While the H+ branch triggered emissions interact with a few keV protons, the He+ branch triggered emissions interact with more energetic protons of a few hundred keV with a larger nonlinear growth rate.
Published: 08 December 2012
We present Keck spectroscopic observations and redshifts for a sample of 767 Herschel-SPIRE selected galaxies (HSGs) at 250, 350, and 500 micron, taken with the Keck I Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS) and the Keck II DEep Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS). The redshift distribution of these SPIRE sources from the Herschel Multitiered Extragalactic Survey (HerMES) peaks at z=0.85, with 731 sources at z<2 and a tail of sources out to z~5. We measure more significant disagreement between photometric and spectroscopic redshifts (delta_z/(1+z)>=0.29) than is seen in non-infrared selected samples, likely due to enhanced star formation rates and dust obscuration in infrared-selected galaxies. We estimate that the vast majority (72-83%) of z<2 Herschel-selected galaxies would drop out of traditional submillimeter surveys at 0.85-1mm. We estimate the luminosity function and implied star-formation rate density contribution of HSGs at z<1.6 and find overall agreement with work based on 24micron extrapolations of the LIRG, ULIRG and total infrared contributions. This work significantly increased the number of spectroscopically confirmed infrared-luminous galaxies at z>>0 and demonstrates the growing importance of dusty starbursts for galaxy evolution studies and the build-up of stellar mass throughout cosmic time. [abridged]
Published: 04 December 2012
We present spectroscopic observations for a sample of 36 Herschel-SPIRE 250-500 micron selected galaxies (HSGs) at 22 in six extragalactic legacy fields. Observations were taken with the Keck I Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS) and the Keck II DEep Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS). Precise astrometry, needed for spectroscopic follow-up, is determined by identification of counterparts at 24 um or 1.4 GHz using a cross-identification likelihood matching method. Individual source luminosities range from log(LIR/LSun)=12.5-13.6 (corresponding to star formation rates 500-9000 MSun/yr, assuming a Salpeter IMF), constituting some of the most intrinsically luminous, distant infrared galaxies yet discovered. We present both individual and composite rest-frame ultraviolet spectra and infrared spectral energy distributions (SEDs). The selection of these HSGs is reproducible and well characterized across large areas of sky in contrast to most z>2 HyLIRGs in the literature which are detected serendipitously or via tailored surveys searching only for high-z HyLIRGs; therefore, we can place lower limits on the contribution of HSGs to the cosmic star formation rate density at (7+/-2)x10-3MSun/yr h3Mpc-3 at z~2.5, which is >10% of the estimated total star formation rate density (SFRD) of the Universe from optical surveys. The contribution at z~4 has a lower limit of 3x10-3MSun/yr h3Mpc-3, ~>20% of the estimated total SFRD. This highlights the importance of extremely infrared-luminous galaxies with high star formation rates to the build-up of stellar mass, even at the earliest epochs.
Published: 04 December 2012
Sulphur dioxide is a million times more abundant in the atmosphere of Venus than that of Earth, possibly as a result of volcanism on Venus within the past billion years. A tenfold decrease in sulphur dioxide column density above Venus's clouds measured by the Pioneer Venus spacecraft during the 1970s and 1980s has been interpreted as decline following an episode of volcanogenic upwelling from the lower atmosphere. Here we report that the sulphur dioxide column density above Venus's clouds decreased by an order of magnitude between 2007 and 2012 using ultraviolet spectrometer data from the SPICAV instrument onboard the Venus Express spacecraft. This decline is similar to observations during the 1980s. We also report strong latitudinal and temporal variability in sulphur dioxide column density that is consistent with supply fluctuations from the lower atmosphere. We suggest that episodic sulphur dioxide injections to the cloud tops may be caused either by periods of increased buoyancy of volcanic plumes, or, in the absence of active volcanism, by long-period oscillations of the general atmospheric circulation. The 30-year observational record from Pioneer Venus and Venus Express confirms that episodic injections of sulphur dioxide above the clouds recur on decadal timescales, suggesting a more variable atmosphere than expected.
Published: 02 December 2012
A very tenuous solar wind regime, following a series of large coronal mass ejections, impacted Venus during early August, 2010. STEREO-B downstream from Venus observed that the solar wind density at Earth orbit dropped to ~0.1 #/cm3 and persisted at this value over 1 day. A similar low value was observed at Earth in 1999 and has attracted comprehensive attention (Lazarus, A.J., 2000. Solar physics: the day the solar wind almost disappeared. Science 287, 2172-2173.), especially its consequences on Earth's ionosphere and magnetosphere (Lockwood, M., 2001. Astronomy: the day the solar wind nearly died. Nature 409, 677-679.). We now have an opportunity to examine the response of Venus' ionosphere to such a tenuous solar wind. After Venus Express spacecraft entered the ionosphere near the terminator, it continuously sampled O+ dominated planetary plasma on the nightside till it left the optical shadow region when Venus Express was located at 2 RV (Venus' Radii) to the Venus center and 1.1 RV to the Sun-Venus line. Moreover, the O+ speed was lower than the gravitational escape speed. We interpret this low-speed O+ as a constituent of the extended nightside ionosphere as a consequence of long-duration (18 h) tenuous solar wind, because the very low dynamic pressure enhances the source and reduces the sink of the nightside ionosphere. Though the full extent of the nightside ionosphere is not known due to the limitation of spacecraft's trajectory, our results suggest that the global configuration of Venus' ionosphere could resemble a teardrop-shaped cometary ionosphere.
Published: 01 December 2012
The Venus Express Radio Science Experiment VeRa retrieves atmospheric profiles in the mesosphere and troposphere of Venus in the approximate altitude range of 40-90 km. A data set of more than 500 profiles was retrieved between the orbit insertion of Venus Express in 2006 and the end of occultation season No. 11 in July 2011. The atmospheric profiles cover a wide range of latitudes and local times, enabling us to study the dependence of vertical small-scale temperature perturbations on local time and latitude. Temperature fluctuations with vertical wavelengths of 4 km or less are extracted from the measured temperature profiles in order to study small-scale gravity waves. Significant wave amplitudes are found in the stable atmosphere above the tropopause at roughly 60 km as compared with the only shallow temperature perturbations in the nearly adiabatic region of the adjacent middle cloud layer, below. Gravity wave activity shows a strong latitudinal dependence with the smallest wave amplitudes located in the low-latitude range, and an increase of wave activity with increasing latitude in both hemispheres; the greatest wave activity is found in the high-northern latitude range in the vicinity of Ishtar Terra, the highest topographical feature on Venus. We find evidence for a local time dependence of gravity wave activity in the low latitude range within +/-30° of the equator. Gravity wave amplitudes are at their maximum beginning at noon and continuing into the early afternoon, indicating that convection in the lower atmosphere is a possible wave source. [Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitation]
Published: 01 December 2013
Saturn's moon Titan has a nitrogen atmosphere comparable to Earth's, with a surface pressure of 1.4 bar. Numerical models reproduce the tropospheric conditions very well but have trouble explaining the observed middle-atmosphere temperatures, composition and winds. The top of the middle-atmosphere circulation has been thought to lie at an altitude of 450 to 500 kilometres, where there is a layer of haze that appears to be separated from the main haze deck. This 'detached' haze was previously explained as being due to the co-location of peak haze production and the limit of dynamical transport by the circulation's upper branch. Here we report a build-up of trace gases over the south pole approximately two years after observing the 2009 post-equinox circulation reversal, from which we conclude that middle-atmosphere circulation must extend to an altitude of at least 600 kilometres. The primary drivers of this circulation are summer-hemisphere heating of haze by absorption of solar radiation and winter-hemisphere cooling due to infrared emission by haze and trace gases; our results therefore imply that these effects are important well into the thermosphere (altitudes higher than 500 kilometres). This requires both active upper-atmosphere chemistry, consistent with the detection of high-complexity molecules and ions at altitudes greater than 950 kilometres, and an alternative explanation for the detached haze, such as a transition in haze particle growth from monomers to fractal structures.
Published: 29 November 2012
Debris disks have been found primarily around intermediate and solar mass stars (spectral types A-K) but rarely around low mass M-type stars. We have spatially resolved a debris disk around the remarkable M3-type star GJ 581 hosting multiple planets using deep PACS images at 70, 100 and 160 micron as part of the DEBRIS Program on the Herschel Space Observatory. This is the second spatially resolved debris disk found around an M-type star, after the one surrounding the young star AU Mic (12 Myr). However, GJ 581 is much older (2-8 Gyr), and is X-ray quiet in the ROSAT data. We fit an axisymmetric model of the disk to the three PACS images and found that the best fit model is for a disk extending radially from 25 ± 12 AU to more than 60 AU. Such a cold disk is reminiscent of the Kuiper Belt but it surrounds a low mass star (0.3 MSun) and its fractional dust luminosity Ldust/L* of ~ 10-4 is much higher. The inclination limits of the disk found in our analysis make the masses of the planets small enough to ensure the long-term stability of the system according to some dynamical simulations. The disk is collisionally dominated down to submicron-sized grains and the dust cannot be expelled from the system by radiation or wind pressures because of the low luminosity and low X-ray luminosity of GJ 581. We suggest that the correlation between low-mass planets and debris disks recently found for G-type stars also applies to M-type stars. Finally, the known planets, of low masses and orbiting within 0.3 AU from the star, cannot dynamically perturb the disk over the age of the star, suggesting that an additional planet exists at larger distance that is stirring the disk to replenish the dust.
Published: 12 November 2012
Context. A population of obscured supergiant high mass X-ray binaries has been discovered by INTEGRAL. X-ray wind tomography of IGR J17252-3616 inferred a slow wind velocity to account for the enhanced obscuration.
Aims. The main goal of this study is to understand under which conditions high obscuration could occur.
Methods. We have used an hydrodynamical code to simulate the flow of the stellar wind around the neutron star. A grid of simulations was used to study the dependency of the absorbing column density and of the X-ray light-curves on the model parameters. A comparison between the simulation results and the observations of IGR J17252-3616 provides an estimate on these parameters.
Results. We have constrained the wind terminal velocity to 500-600 km/s and the neutron star mass to 1.75-2.15 MSun.
Conclusions. We have confirmed that the initial hypothesis of a slow wind velocity with a moderate mass loss rate is valid. The mass of the neutron star can be constrained by studying its impact on the accretion flow.
Published: 01 November 2012
Context. About ten persistently highly absorbed super-giant high-mass X-ray binaries (sgHMXB) have been discovered by INTEGRAL as bright hard X-ray sources lacking bright X-ray counterparts. Besides IGR J16318-4848, which has peculiar characteristics, the other members of this family share many properties with the classical wind-fed sgHMXB systems.
Aims. Our goal is to understand the characteristics of highly absorbed sgHMXB and in particular the companion stellar wind, which is thought to be responsible for the strong absorption.
Methods. We monitored IGR J17252-3616, a highly absorbed system featuring eclipses, with XMM-Newton to study the variability of the column density and the Fe K-alpha emission line along the orbit and during the eclipses. We also compiled a 3D model of the stellar wind to reproduce the observed variability.
Results. We first derive a refined orbital solution based on INTEGRAL, RXTE, and XMM-Newton data. We find that the XMM-Newton monitoring campaign reveals significant variations in the intrinsic absorbing column density along the orbit and the Fe K-alpha line equivalent width around the eclipse. The origin of the soft X-ray absorption is associated with a dense and extended hydrodynamical tail, trailing the neutron star. This structure extends along most of the orbit, indicating that the stellar wind has been strongly disrupted.
The remainder of the abstract is truncated.
Published: 01 February 2011
Recent observations of the solar wind have pointed out the existence of a cascade of magnetic energy from the scale of the proton Larmor radius rhop down to the electron Larmor radius rhoe scale. In this Letter we study the spatial properties of magnetic field fluctuations in the solar wind and find that at small scales the magnetic field does not resemble a sea of homogeneous fluctuations, but rather a two-dimensional plane containing thin current sheets and discontinuities with spatial sizes ranging from l>=rhop down to rhoe and below. These isolated structures may be manifestations of intermittency that localize sites of turbulent dissipation. Studying the relationship between turbulent dissipation, reconnection, and intermittency is crucial for understanding the dynamics of laboratory and astrophysical plasmas.
Published: 08 November 2012
Many theoretical models require powerful active galactic nuclei (AGNs) to suppress star formation in distant galaxies and reproduce the observed properties of today's massive galaxies. A recent study based on Herschel-SPIRE submillimeter observations claimed to provide direct support for this picture, reporting a significant decrease in the mean star formation rates (SFRs) of the most luminous AGNs (Lx >1044 erg s-1) at z ~ 1-3 in the Chandra Deep Field-North (CDF-N). In this Letter, we extend these results using Herschel-SPIRE 250 micron data in the COSMOS and Chandra Deep Field-South fields to achieve an order-of-magnitude improvement in the number of sources at Lx >1044 erg s-1. On the basis of our analysis, we find no strong evidence for suppressed star formation in Lx >1044 erg s-1 AGNs at z ~ 1-3. The mean SFRs of the AGNs are constant over the broad X-ray luminosity range of Lx 1043-1045 erg s-1 (with mean SFRs consistent with typical star-forming galaxies at z ~ 2; SFRs ~ 100-200 M_Sun yr-1). We suggest that the previous CDF-N results were likely due to low number statistics. We discuss our results in the context of current theoretical models.
Published: 02 November 2012
Water is a crucial molecule in molecular astrophysics as it controls much of the gas/grain chemistry, including the formation and evolution of more complex organic molecules in ices. Pre-stellar cores provide the original reservoir of material from which future planetary systems are built, but few observational constraints exist on the formation of water and its partitioning between gas and ice in the densest cores. Thanks to the high sensitivity of the Herschel Space Observatory, we report on the first detection of water vapor at high spectral resolution toward a dense cloud on the verge of star formation, the pre-stellar core L1544. The line shows an inverse P-Cygni profile, characteristic of gravitational contraction. To reproduce the observations, water vapor has to be present in the cold and dense central few thousand AU of L1544, where species heavier than helium are expected to freeze out onto dust grains, and the ortho:para H2 ratio has to be around 1:1 or larger. The observed amount of water vapor within the core (about 1.5 × 10-6 M) can be maintained by far-UV photons locally produced by the impact of galactic cosmic rays with H2 molecules. Such FUV photons irradiate the icy mantles, liberating water vapor in the core center. Our Herschel data, combined with radiative transfer and chemical/dynamical models, shed light on the interplay between gas and solids in dense interstellar clouds and provide the first measurement of the water vapor abundance profile across the parent cloud of a future solar-type star and its potential planetary system.
Published: 10 November 2012
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