July 18th 2019
A quarter of century ago, from 16 to 22 July 1994, ca. 20 fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL9) comet impacted onto the Jupiter planet. The very first pictures (see this short movie) of this rare event were taken from Calar Alto on July 16th, 1994 with the MAGIC infrared camera mounted on the 3.5-m telescope.
Near-infrared images (Calar Alto was one of the pioneers of ground-based infrared astronomy) were used to infer the energy of the impacts (up to 6 million megatons of TNT!) and thus the size of the fragments of the comet, entering the dense atmosphere of the giant gaseous planet at velocities over 200,000 km/h.
July 2nd 2019
MONOS project studies the binary or multiple systems formed by the most massive stars
It uses data from previous surveys and catalogs, as well as observations with Astralux camera, installed in the 2.2-meter telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory
In our galactic environment only one in two million is a O-type star, a kind of objects that have from sixteen to more than a hundred solar masses and a luminosity up to several million times that of the Sun. These stars, which end in supernova explosions, have a decisive influence on the structure and evolution of galaxies. In addition, they are responsible for the existence of, among others, some of the elements that make us up, but their scarcity makes their knowledge difficult. MONOS project has been designed to collect and acquire as much information as possible about a catalog of O-type stars, and in its first phase points out that these stellar giants tend to group in multiple systems rather than in pairs.
The Governing Council of Junta de Andalucía authorizes its Administration to endorse the Hispano-German Astronomical Center (CAHA)
April 10th 2019
On April 9th, 2019, the Governing Council of the regional government of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucía) authorized its Administration, through the Ministry of Economy, Knowledge, Companies and University, to enter the Economic Interest Group of the Calar Alto Observatory (CAHA) in Almería. This decision finishes the adhesion procedure and authorizes the consequent acquisition by the Junta of 50% of the A.I.E. company's shareholdings in substitution of the German Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (MPG) which transfers them free of charge.
Junta de Andalucía is substituting the former MPG co-partner, along with the Spanish Superior Research Council (CSIC), guaranteeing the continuity of this first class scientific complex, whose science and technology strategy are co-managed by the CSIC through the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia located in Granada.
June 18th 2019
CARMENES is a visible and infrared spectrograph that operates from the Calar Alto Observatory
CARMENES instrument, designed to search for extrasolar planets from the 3.5-meter telescope of the Calar Alto Observatory, has allowed to find two planets around the Teegarden´s star, one of the closest known. With masses similar to Earth's, their temperatures could be warm enough to support liquid water on the surface, according to the study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Located at a distance of only 12.5 light years, the Teegarden´s star is the star system number twenty-four closest to ours, and one of the smallest red dwarf stars known. Despite its proximity and due to its low brightness, the Teegarden´s star was not identified until 2003.
A nearby green pea galaxy, analog to the first galaxies, shows how the young Universe became illuminated
March 25th 2019
A team of astronomers have used PMAS on the 3.5-m telescope to study a nearby star-forming galaxy, emitting energetic photons in a similar way to the first generation of galaxies
These first galaxies turned the Universe transparent, less than one billion years after the Big Bang
The young Universe was a dark place. A few hundred million years after the Big Bang, the first stars formed, and their ultraviolet radiation ionized the hydrogen atoms that populated the Universe and absorbed the radiation. This is called the Era of Reionization, and marks the time when the Universe became transparent to light (and, hence, observable). Now, a team of astronomers have used the PMAS instrument at Calar Alto Observatory to study a green pea, a local analog to the first galaxies, to better understand how ultraviolet light escapes and ionizes distant areas, in a process similar to that of Reionization.
Junta de Andalucía and the Max-Planck Institute make official the transfer of 50% of the Calar Alto Observatory
May 23rd 2019
The regional government of Andalusy is getting involved in the co-management of the observatory, along with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
La The Economy, Knowledge, Companies and University ministry of Junta de Andalucía and the German Max Planck Society (MPG) have already signed, before a notary public, the transfer of 50% of the shares (social parts) that MPG had in the Calar Alto astronomical observatory.
With this signature, the autonomous administration of Andalusy will share its exploitation with the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), which depends on the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.
After receiving for free the shares, the Andalusian department head by Rogelio Velasco will bring 1.5 million euros per year to maintain and develop the observatory activities.
February 21st 2019
Astronomers used CALIFA data to study the rotation of galaxies and found that the direction in which a galaxy rotates is influenced by its moving companions, even distant ones.
Most galaxies rotate: their billions of stars orbit around a center, or nucleus of the galaxy, like a spinning wheel. In the case of spiral galaxies, the rotation and its direction are obvious, thanks to well-visible spiral arms. But even irregular-shaped galaxies like the Large Magellanic Cloud, or “smooth”, apparently featureless elliptical and lenticular galaxies show signs of rotation when observed with integral field spectrographs, like the PMAS instrument mounted on the Calar Alto 3.5-m telescope.
Also, galaxies are rarely isolated in the Universe, being usually surrounded by various companions. These may be satellites, small galaxies orbiting close by (like the Magellanic Clouds around our Milky Way), or large ones. These neighbor galaxies can interact strongly, or even merge, with the central galaxy, affecting its shape and kinematics.