Miriam Garcia wins the Spanish contest ‘We are scientists, get us out of here!’

The contest ‘We are scientists, get us out of here!’ in its Spanish version has a winner: Miriam Garcia Santa-Maria, an astrophysicist member of our group and PhD student in the IFF (Instituto de Física Fundamental). She was the most voted scientist by the students of the 17 participating schools in the Zona CSIC, all of them in the villages of the Ciudad Ciencia net.

After two weeks answering questions through a chat, students have been able to know more about six scientists and their jobs, their lives and their expertise.  1972 young students, between 10 an d 18 years old, have participated, sending 1366 questions and having 95 text chats online. The ‘Zona CSIC’ received more participants than other zones of the contest.

Congratulations, Miriam!

Evidence of interstellar molecular gas and dust orbiting around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/ J. R. Goicoechea (Instituto de Física Fundamental, CSIC, Spain)

Dr. Javier R. Goicoechea is leading a new research that proves the existence of short-lived molecular cloudlets (ages less than 10,000 years and total mass of about 60 solar masses) around Sgr A*, the location of the super massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. This research has revealed exciting evidence of molecular gas, the fuel that forms stars, orbiting within the central parsec of the Milky Way at high speeds, up to about 300 km/s. The images (1″-resolution ALMA observations, see above) reveal the small spatial scale morphology of the interstellar gas in this fascinating region and the presence of molecular “cloudlets” (less than 20,000 AU size) at about one light year from SgrA*. While it is unlikely that the observed cloudlets will directly form new massive stars, their presence is a piece of the puzzle toward understanding the formation of stars close to supermassive black holes. The above image is ESO’s Picture of the Week (see below).

More information:

This research was presented in the paper “High-speed molecular cloudlets around the Galactic center’s supermassive black hole“, published in Astronomy and Astrophysics Volume 618,  A35 (19pp), 11 October 2018. The authors are: Javier R. Goicoechea (Instituto de Física Fundamental, IFF-CSIC, Madrid, Spain), Jerome Pety (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM), France), Edwige Chapillon (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM) and OASU/LAB-UMR5804, CNRS, Université Bordeaux, France), José Cernicharo (Instituto de Física Fundamental, IFF-CSIC, Madrid, Spain), Maryvonne Gerin (Sorbonne Université, Observatoire de Paris, France), Cinthya Herrera (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM), France), Miguel A. Requena-Torres (Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland, USA) and Miriam G. Santa-Maria (Instituto de Física Fundamental, IFF-CSIC, Madrid, Spain).

Link to ESO Picture of the Week and description (European Southern Observatory)


Time for the Cycle 1 of the JWST

Artist’s impression of James Webb Space Telescope in space. Credit: STScI-JWST

After the Peer Review Panels and final review by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) Director, the James Webb Space Telescope Proposal, led by Olivier Berne (IRAP-CNRS, France), “Radiative Feedback from Massive Stars as Traced by Multiband Imaging and Spectroscopic Mosaics” has been approved for the Cycle 1  Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science (DD ERS) Program with 27.8 hours of observation time.

Two members of the team are from our group: Javier R. Goicoechea and Emeric Bron.

A total of 106 proposals requesting 3683.4 hours of observations were submitted in response to the DD ERS Call and 13 Proposals for 460 Hours have been approved by the Director.
The proposal makes a strong case for the role and significance of interstellar photodissociation regions (PDR) observations with JWST, with a plethora of anticipated science-enabling products and templates for the community ahead of Cycle 2, while also anticipating a series of papers on the ERS data.

The JWST launch window is set for March to June 2019.

Congratulations on the success of the proposal and best wishes for your future participation in and contributions to the scientific program of JWST.

Link to the new: Selections Made for the JWST Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science Program

More information (in Spanish):

Three new doctors

The Molecular Astrophysics Group has three new doctors, who defended their thesis in the last months. Luis Velilla, Alicia López and Sara Cuadrado: here we present a resume of their work. Congratulations!

Luis Velilla:

“Molecular complexity in envelopes of evolved stars: detailed study of the molecular emission of the objects IKTau, OH231.8+4.2, and IRC+10216”

Circumstellar envelopes of evolved stars are the main contributors to the enrichment of the interstellar medium, and are excellent laboratories to study the molecular complexity and the chemical evolution of the Universe. In this thesis, we present our study of the molecular emission in the millimeter wavelength range with the IRAM-30m telescope, Herschel-HIFI, and ALMA, of three circumstellar envelopes around the evolved stars IKTau, OH231.8+4.2, and IRC+10º216.

The main results obtained show that the chemistry of oxygen-rich objects is not as poor as it was previously thought. In particular, the chemistry of OH231.8+4.2 has been probably altered by high-speed shocks caused by the interaction between the slow AGB wind and fast (few 100 km· s−1) highly collimated bipolar winds. We also present the first sub-arcsecond resolution observations obtained with ALMA, for species such as SiO, SiS, or SiC2 towards IRC+10º216. This work will serve as a reference for future studies of the molecular emission in circumstellar envelopes of evolved stars, particularly for the oxygen rich envelopes.

Thesis defense: 09/06/2017

Thesis directors: Carmen Sánchez Contreras, José Cernicharo.

Alicia López:

 “Organic molecules chemistry in massive stars formation regions”

“Radioastronomy needs information from the laboratory for the spectral characterization and identification of abundant molecules in the Orion-KL molecular cloud. The temperature of this high-mass star forming region causes many of the low-lying vibrational states of these molecules to be excited so that, in addition to lines from rare isotopologues, we have to identify lines arising from vibrationally excited states, thanks to the availability of laboratory measurements in the millimeter and submillimeter domains. This work has permitted to characterize the spectrum of this prototypical hot core and will be of great importance to detect and identify molecular lines using ALMA in other high-mass star forming regions.”

Thesis defense: 14/09/2017

Thesis directors: José Cernicharo, Belén Tercero.

Sara Cuadrado:

“Molecular content in the Orion Bar photodissociation region”

“In this PhD thesis, a detailed study of the molecular emission of the Orion Bar photodissociation region (PDR) has been presented. The Orion Bar is the prototypical warm PDR with a far-UV (FUV) radiation field of a few 104 times the mean interstellar field. Owing to its proximity (~414 pc) and nearly edge-on orientation, the Orion Bar offers the opportunity to determine the chemical content, spatial stratification of different species, and chemical formation-destruction routes in strongly FUV-illuminated gas.

We carried out a millimetre line survey of the irradiated edge of the Orion Bar PDR using the IRAM-30m telescope, and complemented it with ~7′′ resolution maps at 0.8 mm, in order to study the chemistry prevailing in molecular gas that is directly exposed to strong FUV fields. Despite being a very harsh environment, our observations show a relatively rich molecular line spectra, with hundreds of lines arising from hydrocarbons and complex organic molecules (Cuadrado et al. 2015, 2017). We have also reported the first interstellar detection of the less stable conformer of formic acid, cis-HCOOH (Cuadrado et al. 2016). In addition, we have used ALMA to observe a small field-of-view with a high angular resolution (~1′′) where the transition from atomic to molecular gas takes place, in the context of investigating the structure and dynamics of FUV-irradiated molecular gas. The images (in the rotationally excited emission of CO, HCO+, SH+, HOC+, SO+, and SO) reveal a pattern of high-density substructures, photo-ablative gas flows and instabilities at the edge of the molecular cloud (Goicoechea et al. 2016, 2017).

Thesis defense: 15/09/2017

Thesis directors: Javier R. Goicoechea, José Cernicharo.

Acknowledgements: AYA2009-07304, AYA2012-32032, CSD2009-00038, and ERC-610256 (Nanocosmos).


“Multi-molecular views of a stellar nursery”, an article in Nature about the Orion-B mapping program

Gratier et al. 2017.

The journal Nature recently published an article titled “Multi-molecular views of a stellar nursery” outlining the Orion-B mapping program that is being carried out with the IRAM30m telescope. Two members of our group, Emeric Bron and Javier R. Goicoechea, are involved in this research (led by Jérôme Pety, IRAM) whose goal is to simultaneously image emissions from many different molecules across a very wide area of the star-forming cloud Orion-B, in the iconic Orion constellation.

You can read the abstract here and the full article in this link.