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Research of the Infrared/Submillimeter Group at MPE

Research of the Infrared and Submillimeter Group is focused on the fields of evolution of galaxies and galactic nuclei, including the center of our own Galaxy and starburst phenomena, as well as studies of the dense interstellar medium in star- and planet forming regions.

  • Galactic nuclei

    The Galactic Center Project (see also dedicated linkGalactic Center page)

    Our own Galactic center provides an essential laboratory for studying the black hole paradigm, and for a detailed characterisation of a (comparatively small) nuclear stellar cluster. Since 1992, we have used diffraction limited infrared imaging to study the stellar dynamics of the central parsec and the influence of the central black hole. Infrared spectroscopy characterises the stellar population evolving in an environment that is unique in our Galaxy. Flared near-infrared emission that we detected in 2003 is a unique way to probe the immediate vicinity of the black hole.

    Current group members involved: Hendrik Bartko, Frank Eisenhauer, Tobias Fritz, Reinhard Genzel, Stefan Gillessen, Reiner Hofmann, Dieter Lutz, Thomas Ott, Sascha Trippe.
    Former group members and/or collaborators: Roberto Abuter, Andreas Eckart, Rainer Schoedel, Tal Alexander, Alfred Krabbe, Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, Paco Najarro, Thibaut Paumard, Fabrice Martins

    Key publications:
    The Nuclear Cluster of the Milky Way: Star Formation and Velocity Dispersion in the Central 0.5 Parsec, A. Krabbe et al., ApJ 447, L95 (1995)
    SWS Observations of the Galactic Center, D. Lutz et al., A&A 315, L269 (1996)
    Stellar proper motions in the central 0.1pc of the Galaxy, A. Eckart & R. Genzel, MNRAS 291, 219 (1997)
    A star in a 15.2-year orbit around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, R. Schödel et al., Nature 419, 694 (2002)
    Near-infrared flares from accreting gas around the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Centre, R. Genzel et al., Nature 425, 934 (2003)
    SINFONI in the Galactic Center: Young Stars and Infrared Flares in the Central Light-Month, F. Eisenhauer et al., ApJ 628, 246 (2005)

    Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies and QSOs

    The population of Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies (ULIRGs) plays a key role in scenarios for the formation of Quasars and of elliptical galaxies, and as possible local analogues to high redshift infrared sources. We are testing the energy sources of ULIRGs and QSOs using ISO and Spitzer mid-infrared spectroscopy and near-infrared imaging spectroscopy. Dynamical studies using near-infrared spectroscopy and mm interferometry probe the evolution from ULIRGs to (disky) ellipticals and their evolutionary conncetion to QSOs.

    Current group members involved: Alessandra Contursi, Ric Davies, Reinhard Genzel, Dieter Lutz, Mario Schweitzer, Eckhard Sturm, Linda Tacconi
    Former group members and/or collaborators: Sylvain Veilleux, Alan Moorwood, Dave Sanders, Amiel Sternberg, Thorsten Naab, Andrew Baker,  Kalliopi Dasyra, Eiichi Egami, Christof Iserlohe, Dimitra Rigopoulou, Henrik Spoon, Matthias Tecza, Dan Tran, Aprajita Verma, Paul van der Werf

    Key publications:
    Near-infrared line imaging of NGC 6240 - Collision shock and nuclear starburst, P. van der Werf et al., ApJ 405, 522 (1993)
    What Powers Ultraluminous IRAS Galaxies?, R. Genzel et al., ApJ 498, 579 (1998)
    The Nature and Evolution of Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies: A Mid-Infrared Spectroscopic Survey, D. Lutz et al., ApJ, 505, L103 (1998)
    Ultraluminous Infrared Mergers: Elliptical Galaxies in Formation? R. Genzel et al., ApJ 563, 527 (2001
    Spitzer Quasar and ULIRG Evolution Study (QUEST). I. The Origin of the Far-Infrared Continuum of QSOs, M. Schweitzer et al. ApJ 649, 79 (2006)

    Starburst Galaxies and Young Clusters

    A significant fraction of star formation in the local universe occurs in a few dusty galaxies with temporarily elevated star formation rates, that cannot be sustained over times comparable to the age of the universe. Similar objects are even more important at high redshift. We are using near- and mid-infrared spectroscopic diagnostics in conjunction with evolutionary synthesis and photoionization modelling to determine the history and stellar compositions of these burst events. High spatial resolution observations are obtained to characterize the compact 'super star clusters' representing a major part of the new stars in starbursts. An important complement are direct high resolution studies of the lower end of the Initial Mass Function in Galactic and nearby extragalactic star clusters.

    Current group members involved: Alessandra Contursi, Frank Eisenhauer, Natascha Förster Schreiber, Reinhard Genzel, Dieter Lutz, Fabrice Martins
    Former group members and/or collaborators: Amiel Sternberg, Alan Moorwood, Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, Adi Pauldrach, Dan Jaffe, Marco Barden, Bernhard Brandl, Frank Bertoldi, Peter Englmaier, Andrea Gilbert, Yohei Harayama, Alfred Krabbe, Harald Kroker, Dietmar Kunze, Sabine Mengel, Matt Lehnert, Leslie Looney, Emmanuel Moy, Dimitra Rigopoulou, Bill Vacca, Bruce Sams, Michele Thornley, Aprajita Verma

    Key Publications:
    Stellar Content of the Galactic Starburst Template NGC 3603 from Adaptive Optics Observations, F. Eisenhauer et al., ApJ 498, 278 (1998).
    Massive Star Formation and Evolution in Starburst Galaxies: Mid-infrared Spectroscopy with the ISO Short Wavelength Spectrometer, M. Thornley et al., ApJ 539, 641 (2000)
    Dynamical masses of young star clusters in NGC 4038/4039, S. Mengel et al., A&A 383, 137 (2002)

    Nearby AGN and Black Holes

    Several open questions concerning active galactic nuclei and their environment are best addressed by our tools of high spatial resolution near-infrared spectroscopy, mm interferometry and mid-infrared spectroscopy. Among others, projects have dealt with characterization of cirumnuclear starbursts, distribution and dynamics of circumnuclear gas, reconstruction of the AGN SED from photoionisation modelling, and searches for obscured broad line regions. In quiescent objects, we are probing for the dynamical signature of non-active black holes using high spatial and spectral resolution near-infrared spectroscopy.

    Current group members involved: Ric Davies, Reinhard Genzel, Erin Hicks, Dieter Lutz, Francisco Mueller-Sanchez, Mario Schweitzer, Eckhard Sturm, Linda Tacconi
    Former group members and/or collaborators: Tal Alexander, Stefan Anders, Andrew Baker, Markus Blietz, Murray Cameron, Andreas Eckart, Jack Gallimore, Matt Lehnert, Roberto Maiolino, Alan Moorwood, Hagai Netzer, Tino Oliva, Andreas Quirrenbach, Eva Schinnerer, Amiel Sternberg, Lowell Tacconi-Garman, Niranjan Thatte, Lothar Weitzel

    Key publications:
    The nature of the dense obscuring material in the nucleus of NGC 1068, L. Tacconi et al., ApJ 426, L77 (1994)
    Infrared imaging and spectroscopy of NGC 7469, R. Genzel et al., ApJ 444, 129 (1995)
    2.5-45μm SWS spectroscopy of the Circinus Galaxy, A. Moorwood et al., A&A 315, L109 (1996)
    The Star-forming Torus and Stellar Dynamical Black Hole Mass in the Seyfert 1 Nucleus of NGC 3227, R. Davies et al. ApJ 646, 754 (2006)

  • Evolution of Galaxies

    Identification and Nature of High Redshift Infrared and Submm Sources

    Surveys at mid-infrared and (sub)mm wavelengths with ISO, SCUBA, MAMBO and Spitzer have uncovered populations of massively star forming galaxies at high redshift that constitute a major part of the total cosmic star forming activity and a key phase in the evolution of massive galaxies. We are carrying out several projects aiming at identifying these objects, studying their nature, and determining their relation to other objects classes like the Lyman Break galaxies representing the bulk of the unobscured z~3 population.

    Current group members involved: Reinhard Genzel, Dieter Lutz, Eckhard Sturm, Linda Tacconi, Elisabetta Valiante
    Former group members and/or collaborators: Karl Menten, Frank Bertoldi, Chris Carilli, James Dunlop, Dave Sanders, Lin Yan, Paola Andreani, Andrew Baker, Helmut Dannerbauer, Matt Lehnert, Emmanuel Moy, Dimitra Rigopoulou, Aprajita Verma

    Key publications:
    Properties of Millimeter Galaxies: Constraints from K-Band Blank Fields, H. Dannerbauer et al., ApJ 573, 473 (2002)
    Spatially Resolved Millimeter Interferometry of SMM J02399-0136: A Very Massive Galaxy at z = 2.8, R. Genzel et al., ApJ 584, 663 (2003)
    Interferometric Observations of Powerful CO Emission from Three Submillimeter Galaxies at z=2.39, 2.51, and 3.35, R. Neri et al., ApJ 597, L113 (2003)
    Luminous Lyman Break Galaxies at z>5 and the Source of Reionization, M.D. Lehnert & M. Bremer, ApJ 593, 630 (2003)
    Molecular Gas in the lensed Lyman Break Galaxy cB58, A. Baker et al., ApJ 604, 125 (2004)

    Dynamics and Evolution of Massive High Redshift Galaxies (see also dedicated linkSINS page)

    Determining the evolution of massive galaxies with redshift is a key long term goal in studying galaxy evolution and a crucial test for current hierarchical models. We have started to address this issue using IRAM mm interferometry of submm sources and Lyman Break galaxies, and are now studying a large sample representing several categories of  high redshift galaxies using integral field spectroscopy with SINFONI at the VLT. We are obtaining spatially resolved measures of dynamics, metallicity, and ionization in order to determine the physical properties and relations of these different categories of high redshift galaxies.

    Current group members involved: Nicolas Bouche, Peter Buschkamp, Giovanni Cresci, Ric Davies, Frank Eisenhauer, Natascha Förster Schreiber, Shy Genel, Stefan Gillessen, Reinhard Genzel, Erin Hicks, Dieter Lutz, Linda Tacconi.
    Former group members and/or collaborators:  Chuck  Steidel, Alice Shapley, Andrea Cimatti, Alvio Renzini, Simon Lilly, Andrew Blain, Scott Chapman, Rob Ivison, Ian Smail, Roberto Neri, Pierre Cox, Alain Omont, Frank Bertoldi, Andi Burkert, Thorsten Naab, Roberto Abuter, Andrew Baker, Marco Barden, Matt Lehnert, Nicole Nesvadba, Dimitra Rigopoulou, Kirsten Shapiro, Matthias Tecza, Aprajita Verma

    Key publications:
    SPIFFI Observations of the Starburst SMM J14011+0252: Already Old, Fat, and Rich by z=2.565, M. Tecza et al., ApJ 605, L109 (2004)
    High Resolution Millimeter Imaging of Submm Galaxies, L. Tacconi et al., ApJ, 640, 228 (2006)
    SINFONI Integral Field Spectroscopy of z ~ 2 UV-selected Galaxies: Rotation Curves and Dynamical Evolution, N.M. Förster Schreiber et al. ApJ 645, 1062 (2006)

  • Studies of star formation and the (dense) interstellar medium

    external linkWater in star-forming regions

    Water is one of the most abundant and important molecules in star- and planet-forming regions, not in the least because of its direct association with the biology of living organisms on Earth. Although only a trace species in general clouds, water becomes the third most abundant molecule in the warm regions created by the presence of newly-formed stars. In a Herschel external linkguaranteed time and external linkopen time program, we will use the HIFI and PACS instruments to observe water towards a large sample of protostars, covering a wide range of masses and luminosities -from the lowest to the highest mass protostars-, and a large range of evolutionary stages -from the first stages represented by the pre-stellar cores to the last stages represented by pre-main sequence stars surrounded only by protoplanetary disks. Prepatory and complementary observations are carried out using the JCMT, APEX and SMA submillimeter telescopes, and external linkmolecular excitation and radiative transfer tools are being developed.

    Current group members involved: Ewine van Dishoeck, Gregory Herczeg
    Former group members and/or collaborators: Michiel Hogerheijde, Jes Jorgensen, Tim van Kempen, Lars Kristensen, Umut Yildiz, external linkthe WISH team, Neal Evans, the external linkDIGIT team

    Key publications:
    Water emission from low-mass protostellar envelopes, T. van Kempen et al., A&A, 487, 975 (2008)
    Warm molecular gas in the envelope and outflow of IRAS 12496-7650 (DK Cha), T. van Kempen et al., A&A, 454, L75 (2006)
    Probing the inner 200 AU of low-mass protostars with the Submillimeter Array: dust and organic molecules in NGC 1333 IRAS 2A, J.K. Jorgensen et al., ApJ, 632, 973 (2005)
    Molecular inventories and chemical evolution of low-mass protostellar envelopes, J.K. Jorgensen et al., A&A 416, 603 (2004)

    Structure and evolution of protoplanetary disks

    Most young pre-main sequence stars are surrounded by disks of gas and dust out of which planets can form. We are carrying out a number of projects using infrared spectroscopy with VLT-CRIRES and Spitzer-IRS (in particular through the "external linkCores to Disks" Legacy program), far-infrared spectroscopy with Herschel (through the external linkDIGIT key program), and submillimeter imaging aimed at understanding their physical and chemical structure and evolution. Of particular interest are the transitional disks with large inner holes, which are at the crucial stage in between the gas-rich and debris-disk phases when planet formation appears to be actively taking place.

    Current group members involved: Ewine van Dishoeck, Joanna Brown, Gregory Herczeg
    Former group members and/or collaborators: Jeanette Bast, Geoff Blake, Kees Dullemond, Neal Evans, Vincent Geers, Fred Lahuis, Bruno Merin, Isa Oliveira, Klaus Pontoppidan, Rachel Smith, Colette Salyk, the external linkDIGIT team

    Key publications:
    Cold disks: Spitzer spectroscopy of disks around young stars with large gaps, J.M. Brown et al. 2007, ApJ, 664, L107
    Spatial separation of small and large grains in the transitional disk around the young star IRS 48, V.C. Geers et al. 2007, A&A, 469, L35
    Hot organic molecules toward a young low-mass star: a look at inner disk chemistry, F. Lahuis et al. 2006, ApJ 636, L145
    H2O and OH gas in the terrestrial zones of protoplanetary disks around two classical T Tauri stars, C. Salyk et al., ApJ 676, L49 (2008)

© Infrared and Submillimeter Astronomy Group at MPE
last update: 20/10/2008, editor of this page: Dieter Lutz


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