Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sub-millimetre Astronomy In Full Swing On Southern Skies

Date:
July 20, 2006
Source:
European Southern Observatory
Summary:
The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) 12-m sub-millimetre telescope lives up to the ambitions of the scientists by providing access to the "Cold Universe" with unprecedented sensitivity and image quality. As a demonstration, no less than 26 articles based on early science with APEX are published this week in the research journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The APEX-Telescope. The Atacama Pfadfinder Experiment (APEX) -- a 12-metre telescope for submillimeter astronomy -- delivers new scientific insights at an astounding rate.
Credit: Image courtesy of European Southern Observatory

The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) 12-m sub-millimetre telescope lives up to the ambitions of the scientists by providing access to the "Cold Universe" with unprecedented sensitivity and image quality. As a demonstration, no less than 26 articles based on early science with APEX are published this week in the research journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. Among the many new findings, most in the field of star formation and astrochemistry, are the discovery of a new interstellar molecule, and the detection of light emitted at 0.2 mm from CO molecules, as well as light coming from a charged molecule composed of two forms of Hydrogen.

Using both APEX and the IRAM 30-metre telescope the first astronomical detection of a charged molecule composed of Carbon and Fluorine - the 'CF+ ion' - was made. Prior to this discovery, only one fluorine-containing molecular species had been found in space so far, the HF molecule ('hydrogen fluoride'), consisting of one atom of Hydrogen and one of Fluorine. The newly discovered molecule, produced through a reaction between Carbon and the HF molecule, was found in a region adjoining the Orion Nebula, one of the nearest and most active stellar nurseries in the Milky Way. This detection provides support to the astronomers' understanding of interstellar fluorine chemistry, suggesting that hydrogen fluoride is ubiquitous in interstellar gas clouds.

Another premiere is the detection - also in the Orion star-forming region - of light emitted by carbon monoxide (CO) at a wavelength of 0.2 mm. These short wavelengths are very difficult to investigate, both because the water vapour in the atmosphere attenuates the signal even more severely than elsewhere in the submillimeter range, but also because they are at the limit of the telescope's operating range. The detection of CO at these wavelengths, the very shortest accessible from Earth in any of the submillimeter 'windows', proves the superb efficiency of APEX.

Light coming from a charged molecule composed of Hydrogen and Deuterium (H2D+) was detected in several cold clouds in the Southern Sky. The H2D+ ion is interesting because it traces gas so cold (a few degrees above the absolute zero!) that only a few molecular species have not frozen out onto the surfaces of dust grains.

These are not the only significant discoveries made. Other highlights include the first observations of atomic carbon in the so-called "Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula (also known as Messier 16), a sub-millimetre study of a massive hot core, of a high-mass star forming region, as well as of a high velocity outflow coming from a young stellar object. Studies of molecular regions in the dwarf galaxy NGC 6822 and in the starburst galaxy NGC 253 were also done, proving that APEX can also contribute to the exploration of extragalactic objects.

Apart from the astronomical studies, a series of contributions deal with the technical aspects of APEX, such as the telescope itself, its software, its receivers and spectrometers. The latter were developed at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie in Bonn, Germany and at the Swedish Chalmers University, while the 0.2 mm receiver was developed at the University of Cologne (Germany).

The APEX telescope, designed to work at sub-millimetre wavelengths, in the 0.2 to 1.5 mm range, passed successfully its Science Verification phase in July 2005, and since then is performing regular science observations. It is located on the 5100 m high Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama Desert (Chile), probably the driest place on Earth. It is a collaborative effort between the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, ESO and the Onsala Space Observatory (Sweden).

With its precise antenna and large collecting area, APEX provides, at this exceptional location, unprecedented access to a whole new domain in astronomical observations. Indeed, millimetre and sub-millimetre astronomy opens exciting new possibilities in the study of the first galaxies to have formed in the Universe and of the formation processes of stars and planets. It also allows astronomers to study the chemistry and physical conditions of molecular clouds, that are dense regions of gas and dust in which new stars are forming.

APEX is the pathfinder to the ALMA project. In fact, it is a modified ALMA prototype antenna and is located at the future site of the ALMA observatory. ALMA will consist of a giant array of 12-m antennas separated by baselines of up to 14 km and is expected to gradually start operation by the end of the decade.

The Astronomy & Astrophysics special issue (volume 454 no.2 - August I, 2006) on APEX first results includes 26 articles. They are freely available in PDF format from the publisher web site.

These results are partly based on APEX science verification data that are available from the ESO archive at http://www.eso.org/science/apexsv/.

More information on APEX is available at http://www.apex-telescope.org/.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Southern Observatory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Southern Observatory. "Sub-millimetre Astronomy In Full Swing On Southern Skies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 July 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060720105510.htm>.
European Southern Observatory. (2006, July 20). Sub-millimetre Astronomy In Full Swing On Southern Skies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060720105510.htm
European Southern Observatory. "Sub-millimetre Astronomy In Full Swing On Southern Skies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/07/060720105510.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) — The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) — Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) — Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins