Publication archive

Publication archive

Very long (172 ks effective exposure time) observations of the BALQSO LBQS 2212-1759 with XMM-Newton yield a stringent upper-limit on its 0.2-10 keV (rest- frame 0.64-32.2 keV) flux, F < 6 E-17 erg/cm2/s, while simultaneous UV and optical observations reveal a rather blue spectrum extending to 650 A in the source rest frame. These results are used to set a tight upper-limit on its optical to X-ray spectral index alpha_{ox} < -2.56. Given the HI-BAL nature of LBQS 212-1759, its X-ray weakness is most likely due to intrinsic absorption. If this is the case, and assuming that the intrinsic alpha_{ox} of LBQS 2212-1759 is -1.63 - a value appropriate for a radio-quiet quasar of this luminosity - one can set a lower limit on the X-ray absorbing column N_{H} > 3.4 E25 cm-2. Such a large column has a Thomson optical depth to electron scattering tau > 23, sufficient to extinguish the optical and UV emission. The problem only gets worse if the gas is neutral since the opacity in the Lyman continuum becomes extremely large, > 2 E8, conflicting with the source detection below 912 A. This apparent contradiction probably means that our lines-of-sight to the X-ray and to the UV emitting regions are different, such that the gas covers completely the compact X-ray source but only partially the more extended source of ultraviolet photons. An extended (~ 1) X-ray source is detected 2 to the south-east of the QSO. Given its thermal spectrum and temperature (1.5 < T < 3.0 keV}, it is probably a foreground (0.29 < z < 0.46) cluster of galaxies.
Published: 04 January 2006
X-ray observations have revealed that many microquasars and low-mass X-ray binaries (LMXBs) exhibit narrow absorption features identified with resonant absorption from FeXXV and FeXXVI and other abundant ions. In many well studied systems there is evidence for blue-shifts, indicating outflowing plasmas. The changes in both the X-ray continuum and the Fe absorption features during dips from the LMXB XB 1323-619 have been modeled as resulting primarily from an increase in column density and a decrease in the ionization state of a highly-ionized absorber. We successfully fit the same ionized absorber model to the persistent and dipping emission from all the other bright dipping LMXBs observed by XMM-Newton (EXO 0748-676, XB 1254-690, X 1624-490, MXB 1659-298, 4U 1746-371 and XB 1916-053) and find similar changes in the properties of the ionized absorber as for XB 1323-619. This implies that the complex spectral changes in the X-ray continua observed from the dip sources as a class can be most simply explained primarily by changes in the highly ionized absorbers present in these systems. There is no need to invoke unusual abundances or partial covering of extended emission regions. Outside of the dips, the absorption line properties do not vary strongly with orbital phase. This implies that the ionized plasma has a cylindrical geometry with a maximum column density close to the plane of the accretion disk. Since dipping sources are simply normal LMXBs viewed from close to the orbital plane this implies that ionized plasmas are a common feature of LMXBs.
Published: 02 March 2006
The nucleus of Comet 81P/Wild 2 is modeled by assuming various smooth triaxial ellipsoidal or irregular body shapes, having different rotational periods, spin axis orientations, and thermophysical properties. For these model nuclei, a large number of surface activity patterns (e.g., maps of active and inactive areas) are studied, and in each case the resulting water production rate and non-gravitational force vector versus time are calculated. By requiring that the model nuclei simultaneously reproduce certain properties of the empirical water production curve and non-gravitational changes of the orbit (focusing on the orbital period and the longitude of perihelion), constraints are placed on several properties of the nucleus. The simulations suggest that the nucleus bulk density of Comet 81P/Wild 2 is low, rho_bulk <= 600 kg/m^3, and that the nucleus rotation is prograde rather than retrograde. The active area fraction is difficult to constrain, but at most 60% of the nucleus is likely to have near-surface ice.
Published: 01 January 2006
The definition of "electron diffusion regions" and criteria for identifying them in magnetic field reconnection events are given. By employing these criteria and further constraints on the measured parallel electric field, 117 electron diffusion regions have been found in searching through 3 years of Polar satellite subsolar data. They exist in filamentary currents in which parallel electric fields and depressed plasma densities are found and where the electron beta is generally less than 1. The average parallel electric field in these events is about 30% of the average 38 mV/m perpendicular field. The size of these regions is the order of the electron skin depth or less. These electron diffusion regions are topological boundaries in the electron and magnetic field line flows because the components of E × B/B² on their opposite sides are frequently different. These regions are found throughout the magnetopause but mainly at the magnetospheric separatrix. The divergence of the pressure tensor in the Generalized Ohm's Law may be the leading term that balances the parallel electric field if the observed large plasma density variations (and hence electron pressure variations) were spatial and not temporal. The picture resulting from this data is of a magnetopause that is highly structured and filamentary and very different from a linear, laminar, symmetric structure sometimes considered in theories or simulations. However, it is emphasized that events such as those described have been found in fewer than 20% of the magnetopauses examined, so the conventional picture may be more prevalent.
Published: 28 December 2005
Titan's substantial obliquity and the global extent of the Hadley circulation give rise to seasonal variation in the mean zonal wind speed and direction in the geostrophic lower troposphere, causing an exchange of a substantial amount of angular momentum between the surface and atmosphere. The wind-induced seasonal length-of-day variation calculated using the global wind profile predicted by a Titan general circulation model (GCM) amounts to 30 s in the absence of a deep subsurface ocean decoupling the outer ice shell from the ice mantle and ~400 s in the presence of a deep subsurface ocean. This effect should give rise to longitudinal offsets of surface landmarks by ~10 km and ~100 km, respectively, in comparison to predicted positions based on a constant rotation rate, and may be detectable by Cassini imaging.
Published: 22 December 2005
The light from historical supernovae could in principle still be visible as scattered-light echoes centuries after the explosion. The detection of light echoes could allow us to pinpoint the supernova event both in position and age and, most importantly, permit the acquisition of spectra to determine the 'type' of the supernova centuries after the direct light from the explosion first reached Earth. Although echoes have been discovered around some nearby extragalactic supernovae, targeted searches have not found any echoes in the regions of historical Galactic supernovae. Here we report three faint variable-surface-brightness complexes with high apparent proper motions pointing back to three of the six smallest (and probably youngest) previously catalogued supernova remnants in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which are believed to have been thermonuclear (type Ia) supernovae. Using the distance and apparent proper motions of these echo arcs, we estimate ages of 610 and 410 years for two of them.
Published: 22 December 2005
After another year of extraordinary success the Director of Science, David Southwood, presents a report on the activities throughout the whole Science Programme.
Published: 20 December 2005
Nineteen electron diffusion regions at magnetic field reconnection sites have been found in one hour of Cluster satellite data near the subsolar magnetopause. Investigations on previously unachieved spatial and temporal scales show the following for the first time: direct conversion of magnetic energy to electron energy (The resulting accelerated electrons, their field-aligned currents, and their post-acceleration fate were measured); the spatial dimensions of the large electric fields in the electron diffusion regions have an average thickness of 0.3 times the electron skin depth, in agreement with theory; and these electron diffusion regions were topological boundaries between open and closed magnetic field geometries that contained different plasma and magnetic field line flows. The electron diffusion regions were located at the magnetospheric separatrix where the magnetic field was large and the electron beta was less than one.
Published: 17 December 2005
We report on a puzzling event occurred during a long BeppoSAX observation of the slow-rotating binary pulsar GX1+4 . During this event, lasting about 1 day, the source X-ray flux was over a factor 10 lower than normal. The low-energy pulsations disappeared while at higher energies they were shifted in phase by 0.25 . The con- tinuum spectrum taken outside this low-intensity event was well fitted by an absorbed cut-o power law, and exhibited a broad iron line at 6.5 keV probably due to the blending of the neutral (6.4 keV) and ionised (6.7 keV) K iron lines. The spectrum during the event was Compton reflection dominated and it showed two narrow iron lines at 6.4 keV and 7.0 keV, the latter never revealed before in this source. We also present a possible model for this event in which a variation of the accretion rate thickens a torus-like accretion disc which hides for a while the direct neutron star emission from our line of sight. In this scenario the Compton reflected emission observed during the event is well explained in terms of emission reflected by the side of the torus facing our line of sight.
Published: 15 December 2005
Markarian (Mkn) 297 is a complex system comprised of two interacting galaxies that has been modelled with a variety of scenarios. Observations of this system were made with the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) using the ISOCAM, ISOPHOT and LWS instruments.
Published: 15 December 2005
We present an interval of extremely long-lasting narrow-band Pc5 pulsations during the recovery phase of a large geomagnetic storm. These pulsations occurred continuously for many hours and were observed throughout the magnetosphere and in the dusk-sector ionosphere. The subject of this paper is the favorable radial alignment of the Cluster, Polar, and geosynchronous satellites in the dusk sector during a 3-hour subset of this interval that allows extensive analysis of the global nature of the pulsations and the tracing of their energy transfer from the solar wind to the ground. Virtually monochromatic large-amplitude pulsations were observed by the CANOPUS magnetometer chain at dusk for several hours, during which the Cluster spacecraft constellation traversed the dusk magnetopause. The solar wind conditions were very steady, the solar wind speed was fast, and time series analysis of the solar wind dynamic pressure shows no significant power concentrated in the Pc5 band. The pulsations are observed in both geosynchronous electron and magnetic field data over a wide range of local times while Cluster is in the vicinity of the magnetopause providing clear evidence of boundary oscillations with the same periodicity as the ground and geosynchronous pulsations. Furthermore, the Polar spacecraft crossed the equatorial dusk magnetosphere outside of geosynchronous orbit (L ~ 6-9) and observed significant electric and magnetic perturbations around the same quasi-stable central frequency (1.4-1.6 mHz). The Poynting vector observed by the Polar spacecraft associated with these pulsations has strong field-aligned oscillations, as expected for standing Alfvén waves, as well as a nonzero azimuthal component, indicating a downtail component to the energy propagation. - Remainder of abstract truncated -
Published: 15 December 2005
SGR 1806-20 has been observed for more than 2 years with the INTEGRAL satellite. In this period the source went from a quiescent state into a very active one culminating in a giant flare on December 27 2004. Here we report on the properties of all the short bursts detected with INTEGRAL before the giant flare. We derive their number-intensity distribution and confirm the hardness-intensity correlation for the bursts found by Götz et al. (2004a). Our sample includes a very bright outburst that occurred on October 5 2004, during which over one hundred bursts were emitted in 10 minutes, involving an energy release of 3x1042 erg. We present a detailed analysis of it and discuss our results in the framework of the magnetar model.
Published: 15 December 2005
Contents: Ageing of Spectral Lamps in Space; Extracting Spectra with Optimal Weights in aXe1.5; ESA-ESO Topical Science Working Groups; NEON Observing Schools
Published: 15 December 2005
Sirius B is the nearest and brightest of all white dwarfs, but it is very difficult to observe at visible wavelengths due to the overwhelming scattered light contribution from Sirius A. However, from space we can take advantage of the superb spatial resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to resolve the A and B components. Since the closest approach in 1993, the separation between the two stars has become increasingly favourable and we have recently been able to obtain a spectrum of the complete Balmer line series for Sirius B using the HST Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). The quality of the STIS spectra greatly exceeds that of previous ground-based spectra, and can be used to provide an important determination of the stellar temperature (Teff= 25193 K) and gravity (log g= 8.556). In addition, we have obtained a new, more accurate, gravitational redshift of 80.42 +/- 4.83 km s-1 for Sirius B. Combining these results with the photometric data and the Hipparcos parallax, we obtain new determinations of the stellar mass for comparison with the theoretical mass-radius relation. However, there are some disparities between the results obtained independently from log g and the gravitational redshift which may arise from flux losses in the narrow 50 × 0.2 arcsec² slit. Combining our measurements of Teff and log g with the Wood evolutionary mass-radius relation, we obtain a best estimate for the white dwarf mass of 0.978 Msolar. Within the overall uncertainties, this is in agreement with a mass of 1.02 Msolar obtained by matching our new gravitational redshift to the theoretical mass-radius relation.
Published: 16 October 2005
We present results of the analysis of 1.275 MeV gamma-ray line global distribution derived from the all-sky data accumulated by COMPTEL on board the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) from 1991 to 1997. Previously the 1.275 MeV gamma-ray line was believed to be largely produced in the decay of radioactive isotope 22Na that is synthesised in the classical nova (CN) thermonuclear runaway (TNR). Another way to produce the 1.275 MeV line emission is via the excitation of 22Ne nuclei, e.g. through the low-energy cosmic ray interactions with the nuclei of the interstellar matter that lead to the production of 22Ne*, or of 22Na. This scenario, as we now believe, can be dominant in contributing to the total 1.275 MeV gamma-ray line emission from the galactic bulge.

Unfortunately, systematic uncertainties in the analysis of the COMPTEL data hinder a clear distinction between two alternative scenarios.

Published: 15 November 2005
Observations of four WR galaxies (NGC 5430, NGC 6764, Mrk 309 and VII Zw 19) using the Infrared Space Observatory are presented here. ISOCAM maps of NGC 5430, Mrk 309 and NGC 6764 revealed the location of star formation regions in each of these galaxies. ISOPHOT spectral observations from 4 to 12 microns detected the ubiquitous PAH bands in the nuclei of the targets and several of the disk star forming regions, while LWS spectroscopy detected [OI] and [CII] emission lines from two galaxies, NGC 5430 and NGC 6764.

Using a combination of ISO and IRAS flux densities, a dust model based on the sum of modified blackbody components was successfully fitted to the available data. These models were then used to calculate new values for the total IR luminosities for each galaxy, the size of the various dust populations, and the global SFR.

The derived flux ratios, the SFRs, the high L(PAH)/L(40-120 microns) and F(PAH 7.7 microns)/F(7.7 microns continuum) values suggest that most of these galaxies are home to only a compact burst of star formation. The exception is NGC 6764, whose F(PAH 7.7 microns)/F(7.7 microns continuum) value of 1.22 is consistent with the presence of an AGN, yet the L(PAH)/L(40-120 microns) is more in line with a starburst, a finding in line with a compact low-luminosity AGN dominated by the starburst.

Published: 16 August 2005
Titan has been observed with UVES, the UV-Visual Echelle Spectrograph at the Very Large Telescope, with the aim of characterizing the zonal wind flow. We use a retrieval scheme originally developed for absolute stellar accelerometry [Connes, P., 1985. Astrophys. Space Sci., 110, 211-255] to extract the velocity signal by simultaneously taking into account all the lines present in the spectrum. The method allows to measure the Doppler shift induced at a given point by the zonal wind flow, with high precision. The short-wavelength channel (420-520 nm) probes one scale height higher than the long-wavelength one (520-620 nm), and we observe statistically significant evidence for stronger winds at higher altitudes. The results show a high dispersion. Globally, we detect prograde zonal winds, with lower limits of 62 and 50 ms-1 at the regions centered at 200 and 170 km altitude, but approximately a quarter of the measurements indicates null or retrograde winds.
Published: 15 December 2005
The European Space Agency together with industrial partners has studied a concept for low-cost in-situ exploration of the atmosphere of Venus: the Venus Entry Probe. The Venus Entry Probe is one of ESA's Technology Reference Studies (TRS). TRSs are model science-driven missions that are, although not part of the ESA science programme, able to provide focus to future technology requirements. This is accomplished through the study of several technologically demanding and scientifically meaningful mission concepts, which are strategically chosen to address diverse technological issues. The TRSs complement ESA's current mission specific development programme and allow the ESA Science Directorate to strategically plan the development of technologies that will enable potential future scientific missions. Venus has been targeted because in-situ exploration of the atmosphere of Venus is both scientifically interesting and technologically challenging.
Published: 09 December 2005
On the basis of previous ground-based and fly-by information, we knew that Titan's atmosphere was mainly nitrogen, with some methane, but its temperature and pressure profiles were poorly constrained because of uncertainties in the detailed composition. The extent of atmospheric electricity ('lightning') was also hitherto unknown. Here we report the temperature and density profiles, as determined by the Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument (HASI), from an altitude of 1,400 km down to the surface. In the upper part of the atmosphere, the temperature and density were both higher than expected. There is a lower ionospheric layer between 140 km and 40 km, with electrical conductivity peaking near 60 km. We may also have seen the signature of lightning. At the surface, the temperature was 93.65 ± 0.25 K, and the pressure was 1,467 ± 1 hPa.
Published: 08 December 2005
Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only Solar System planetary body other than Earth with a thick nitrogen atmosphere. The Voyager spacecraft confirmed that methane was the second-most abundant atmospheric constituent in Titan's atmosphere, and revealed a rich organic chemistry, but its cameras could not see through the thick organic haze. After a seven-year interplanetary journey on board the Cassini orbiter, the Huygens probe was released on 25 December 2004. It reached the upper layer of Titan's atmosphere on 14 January and landed softly after a parachute descent of almost 2.5 hours. Here we report an overview of the Huygens mission, which enabled studies of the atmosphere and surface, including in situ sampling of the organic chemistry, and revealed an Earth-like landscape. The probe descended over the boundary between a bright icy terrain eroded by fluvial activity-probably due to methane-and a darker area that looked like a river- or lake-bed. Post-landing images showed centimetre-sized surface details.
Published: 08 December 2005
27-May-2024 18:43 UT

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