Astronomy: Merged stars dodge black hole
Nature 515, 7527 (2014). doi:10.1038/515315c
A mysterious cloud-like object that survived a close encounter with a black hole might be a merged pair of stars.Andrea Ghez of the University of California in Los Angeles and her team used the Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to observe the
The power of relativistic jets is larger than the luminosity of their accretion disks
Nature 515, 7527 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13856
Authors: G. Ghisellini, F. Tavecchio, L. Maraschi, A. Celotti & T. Sbarrato
Theoretical models for the production of relativistic jets from active galactic nuclei predict that jet power arises from the spin and mass of the central supermassive black hole, as well as from the magnetic field near the event horizon. The physical mechanism underlying the contribution from the magnetic field is the torque exerted on the rotating black hole by the field amplified by the accreting material. If the squared magnetic field is proportional to the accretion rate, then there will be a correlation between jet power and accretion luminosity. There is evidence for such a correlation, but inadequate knowledge of the accretion luminosity of the limited and inhomogeneous samples used prevented a firm conclusion. Here we report an analysis of archival observations of a sample of blazars (quasars whose jets point towards Earth) that overcomes previous limitations. We find a clear correlation between jet power, as measured through the γ-ray luminosity, and accretion luminosity, as measured by the broad emission lines, with the jet power dominating the disk luminosity, in agreement with numerical simulations. This implies that the magnetic field threading the black hole horizon reaches the maximum value sustainable by the accreting matter.
Philae’s 64 hours of comet science yield rich data
Nature 515, 7527 (2014). http://www.nature.com/doifinder/10.1038/515319a
Author: Elizabeth Gibney
Comet lander is now hibernating, but has already altered our understanding of these objects.
H2D+ observations give an age of at least one million years for a cloud core forming Sun-like stars
Nature 516, 7530 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13924
Authors: Sandra Brünken, Olli Sipilä, Edward T. Chambers, Jorma Harju, Paola Caselli, Oskar Asvany, Cornelia E. Honingh, Tomasz Kamiński, Karl M. Menten, Jürgen Stutzki & Stephan Schlemmer
The age of dense interstellar cloud cores, where stars and planets form, is a crucial parameter in star formation and difficult to measure. Some models predict rapid collapse, whereas others predict timescales of more than one million years (ref. 3). One possible approach to determining the age is through chemical changes as cloud contraction occurs, in particular through indirect measurements of the ratio of the two spin isomers (ortho/para) of molecular hydrogen, H2, which decreases monotonically with age. This has been done for the dense cloud core L183, for which the deuterium fractionation of diazenylium (N2H+) was used as a chemical clock to infer that the core has contracted rapidly (on a timescale of less than 700,000 years). Among astronomically observable molecules, the spin isomers of the deuterated trihydrogen cation, ortho-H2D+ and para-H2D+, have the most direct chemical connections to H2 (refs 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) and their abundance ratio provides a chemical clock that is sensitive to greater cloud core ages. So far this ratio has not been determined because para-H2D+ is very difficult to observe. The detection of its rotational ground-state line has only now become possible thanks to accurate measurements of its transition frequency in the laboratory, and recent progress in instrumentation technology. Here we report observations of ortho- and para-H2D+ emission and absorption, respectively, from the dense cloud core hosting IRAS 16293-2422 A/B, a group of nascent solar-type stars (with ages of less than 100,000 years). Using the ortho/para ratio in conjunction with chemical models, we find that the dense core has been chemically processed for at least one million years. The apparent discrepancy with the earlier N2H+ work arises because that chemical clock turns off sooner than the H2D+ clock, but both results imply that star-forming dense cores have ages of about one million years, rather than 100,000 years.
Hubble has uncovered young, massive, compact galaxies whose raucous star-making parties are ending early. The firestorm of star birth has blasted out most of the remaining gaseous fuel needed to make future generations of stars. Now the party's over for these gas-starved galaxies, and they are on track to possibly becoming so-called "red and dead galaxies," composed only of aging stars. An analysis of 12 merging galaxies is suggesting that energy from the star-birthing frenzy created powerful winds that are blowing out the gas, squelching future generations of stars. This activity occurred when the universe was half its current age of 13.7 billion years.