A team from IRFU's Department of Particle Physics (DPhP) has just conducted the most accurate study to date of the mass of cosmic neutrinos, including both standard model neutrinos and sterile neutrinos contributing to dark matter.

The researchers used the spectra of nearly 200,000 distant quasars measured by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) eBOSS project to map the distribution of hydrogen at very remote times in the history of our universe, ten to twelve billion years ago.

Neutrinos, propagating at relativistic speeds for billions of years, prevent gravity from acting on small scales and smooth the structures (clusters of galaxies, filaments, ...) revealed by the spectra of quasars. Thanks to the accuracy of the measurements, researchers have been able to narrow the possible range for the mass of cosmic neutrinos, to the point of being able to have their word on how the different masses of the three neutrinos of the Standard Model are ordered.

‘First light’ for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI): as the installation phase nears completion, this new instrument is due to undergo final tests before starting to create a giant map of the sky in early 2020, a mission that is scheduled to run for five years. CEA, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), Aix-Marseille University and French company Winlight System have played a significant role in the project to develop this international instrument which aims to scan the sky in an attempt to understand the effects of dark energy.

"Invisible" galaxies that question the models of the Universe evolution

A study conducted by astrophysicists of the Department of Astrophysics-AIM Laboratory of CEA-Irfu has revealed a large number of galaxies as massive as the Milky Way in the distant universe, thanks to the large interferometer ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) in Chile. These galaxies have hitherto remained invisible due to the attenuation of their brightness by interstellar dust. They are 10 to 100 times more numerous than all those detected so far, at distances where the universe was only two billion years old. This great abundance of massive galaxies in the young universe is in contradiction with current theoretical models of galaxy formation and represents a new challenge for our understanding of the early ages of the universe. These results are published in the journal Nature on August 7, 2019.

The large ALMA interferometer reveals a population of galaxies not yet detected by the Hubble Space Telescope

An international team, led by researchers from the Department of Astrophysics/AIM Laboratory of CEA-Irfu has just highlighted a new population of very remote galaxies, which had so far escaped the deepest observations of the Universe. During the summer of 2016, at more than 5000 meters of altitude on the Chilean highlands, the antennas of the large interferometer ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) scrutinized for more than 20 hours one of the best studied regions of the sky. These observations revealed galaxies still unknown, very massive but opaque, emitting only a very small amont of visible light due to a large quantity of dust. These "dark" galaxies, very far away, which could be the progenitors of the most massive galaxies in the universe, reveal that the importance of star formation, during the first billion years of cosmic history, could have been largely underestimated so far. These results have just been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Neutrinos from the Big Bang have been traveling the Universe for more than 13 billion years. They are almost undetectable but their footprint on the formation of large structures in the Universe, such as galaxies, can be detected. For the first time, this trace of the "diffuse neutrino background" from the Big Bang on the "baryonic acoustic oscillations" (BAO) has been deduced from the survey of 1.2 million galaxies of the "Sloan Digital Sky Survey" (SDSS). These data correspond to 5 years of observations from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) experiment, a ground-based telescope installed in New Mexico. The result, published in the journal Nature Physics, shows how the BAO phase can constrain the number of neutrino species in the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

The DPhP group has been involved in this project for more than 10 years and is currently working on its extension, the eBOSS project. In the very near future, the DESI project will be able to study even more precisely this cosmic neutrino background produced by the Big Bang.


Star nurseries interact with their environment

Using NOEMA and the IRAM 30-m telescope, an international team of astronomers from different laboratories, including the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale (IAS-Université Paris-Sud/CNRS), the Laboratoire d’astrophysique de Marseille (Aix-Marseille Université/CNRS) and the Astrophysics Department of CEA-IRfu, just witnessed how the sites of the most intense star formation in the early Universe communicate with their surroundings through rapid gas exchange. Their findings offer unprecedented insights into the most rapid evolutionary phase of massive galaxies, about 11 billion years ago. The results are published in two diferent papers in Astronomy & Astrophysics on 2018 November, 30.


Impressing results from a large X-ray catalog of galaxy clusters

Using the ESA's XMM-Newton observatory, an international team, led by Marguerite Pierre of the Astrophysics Department of CEA-Irfu, has revealed the latest results of the XXL survey, the largest observation program X-ray produced to date by the XMM satellite. The second batch of data just published in a special issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, includes information on 365 galaxy clusters and 26,000 active galactic nuclei (AGN). By deep examination of two major regions of the sky, the XXL sounding is the first X-ray study to detect enough clusters of galaxies and AGN to trace the large-scale structure of the Universe and its evolution. in time with unprecedented details.

Read more in : Dessiner l'univers: les rayons X apportent une nouvelle lumière (in French)

The European Spatial Agency retains the mission of exploration of galaxies

The SPICA infrared space telescope has been shortlisted by the European Space Agency (ESA) to participate in the final competition which will see in September 2021 the choice of the next mission of medium size ESA (M5 mission). SPICA is a large infrared telescope (diameter 2.5 m) fully cooled to a temperature of only a few degrees above absolute zero. This concept was proposed to ESA as part of the competition for the M5 mission of the "Cosmic Vision" program (25 proposals submitted) by a consortium of European research laboratories led by Holland in close collaboration with the space agency Japan (JAXA), and in which the CEA (Département d'Astrophysique of CEA-Irfu), the CNRS and their associated universities participate in France with the support of CNES.

See the French version for more : La mission SPICA en compétition pour l'ESA


New statistical methods reveal the finest details of the Universe

A team led by University College London (UCL), in collaboration with the Astrophysics Department of CEA-Irfu, has significantly improved the analysis of dark matter maps in the Universe with new methods of data analysis. The maps produced by this analysis demonstrate the power of these new innovative methods for analyzing future large data sets such as those expected from the upcoming EUCLID cosmological mission. These results are published in the MNRAS journal.

The mass distribution of the different stars formed from a collapsing gas cloud has just been successfully reproduced by two researchers from the Astrophysics Department/AIM Laboratory of CEA-Irfu. The collapse of a gas cloud of 1000 solar mass has been reconstructed thanks to numerical simulations, varying the density and the influence of turbulence. The results of these simulations show the emergence of a characteristic mass that corresponds well to that observed and this largely independently of the initial conditions and directly related to the behavior of the gas. This leads to a very good reproduction of the different masses of stars observed. So far, the mass distribution of stars has remained largely unexplained. These results are published in two articles of the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal.

A galactic cohabitation more hectic than expected

The MegaCam camera developed at CEA-Irfu has revealed previously unsuspected structures within the famous Stephan Quintet, a spectacular combination of five galaxies. The discovery of a very large red halo, consisting of old stars, centered on one of the elliptical galaxies, NGC 7317, shows that the group of galaxies is still in very strong interaction, an aspect totally ignored in previous studies. This interaction shows that Stephan's Quintet is still the scene of generalized galactic cannibalism, in contradiction with the current theoretical predictions, which will therefore have to be revised. These results, from a team from the Strasbourg Astronomical Observatory, the CEA Astrophysics Department and the Lund Observatory (Sweden) are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society issue of January 2018.

Giant galaxies that no longer form stars have 100 times more gas than expected.

By succeeding for the first time to analyze the light of nearly 1000 very distant elliptical galaxies, more than 10 billions light-years away, a team of researchers including three astrophysicists from the Astrophysics Department of CEA-Irfu has just revealed that these galaxies of the beginning of the universe contain a lot of gas but do not form stars. A real enigma that challenges our understanding of the evolution of these giant galaxies. These results are published in the journal Nature Astronomy of January 16, 2018.

A new link between the dynamics of galaxies and the activity of their central black hole

Using images obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope, an international team of researchers led by Yu-Yen Chang from the Service d’Astrophysique-Laboratoire AIM at CEA–IRFU showed that some galaxies hosting an active nucleus are much more compact than those without nuclear activity. This discovery sheds new light on the physical processes driving the evolution of super-massive black holes at the center of distant galaxies. It suggests that the huge amount of gas needed for their growth could be funneled to the central region following the violent gravitational instabilities that occur within the galaxy gaseous disk. These instabilities may trigger a phase a dynamical contraction, hence explaining the ultra-compact morphology of the galaxies studied here. These results are published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

An old galaxy with unexpected features

An international team including a researcher from the AIM Laboratory-Astrophysics Department of CEA-Irfu has just discovered an elliptical galaxy of completely unexpected shape within the galaxy cluster Abell 2670. Deep observations made by the new MUSE multi-spectrograph recently put into operation at the European Observatory VLT in Chile revealed a highly deformed elliptical galaxy, showing in particular long gas tails and star formation regions normally absent in this type of galaxy. Astronomers now assume that this galaxy has undergone a recent fusion with another gas-rich galaxy. Much of this gas was then driven to the center of the elliptical galaxy during the collision. These results are published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters of May 2017

At the center of a small galaxy located about 1.8 billion light-years from Earth, a giant black hole swallowed a star for about a decade, which is exceptionally longer than any observed episode of this kind. This discovery was made by an international collaboration involving an astrophysicist from IRFU, thanks to a trio of orbiting X-ray telescopes.

The most energetic events of the Universe

A team of researchers led by Rémi Adam (Laboratoire Lagrange - OCA, UCA, LPSC Grenoble, CNES), Iacopo Bartalucci and Gabriel Pratt (Astrophysics Department- AIM Laboratory at CEA-Irfu) obtained for the first time an image of the gas velocity in colliding clusters of galaxies with NIKA [1], a new generation millimeter camera, at the focus of the 30 m diameter IRAM telescope of Pico Veleta (Spain). NIKA observations, which give accurate mapping of hot gas velocity in clusters, provide a new way to study the collision of clusters of galaxies, responsible for the most energetic events in the Universe after the Big Bang. This work is being published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics..


A key for unsderstanding galaxy evolution

As part of an observing program carried out with the Hubble Space Telescope, a group of researchers from the “Service d’Astrophysique-Laboratoire AIM” of CEA-IRFU led by Anita Zanella discovered the birth cry of a massive star-forming clump in the disk of a very distant galaxy. This giant clump is less than 10 million years old, and it is the very first time that such a young star-forming region is observed in the distant Universe. This discovery sheds new light on how stars were born within distant galaxies. The physical properties of this object reveal that newly-born clumps in such galaxies survive from stellar winds and supernovae feedback, and can thus live for a few hundred million years unlike the predictions from several theoretical models. Their long lifetime could enable their migration toward the inner regions of the galaxy, hence contributing to the total mass of the galactic bulge and the growth of the central black hole. These results are published in the “Nature” journal from May 2015.

A new method for the reconstruction of the finest details

Using the latest data from the Planck and WMAP satellites, the laboratory CosmoStat (LCS) of CEA-IRFU just provides the most complete and accurate picture of the diffuse microwave background of the universe considered to be the primary light emitted at the beginning of the expansion. The new map of the diffuse background was built thanks to a new method of separating components called LGMCA particularly well suited to the separation of galactic foregrounds that blur the background image. Unlike previous results, the map restores the details of the diffuse background across the entire sky including the Galactic plane region of the sky where the estimate is particularly difficult. It is also more effective in reducing the defects introduced by the existence of hot gas in galaxy clusters. These results are in press in Astronomy & Astrophysics and were presented at the conference "Horizon of Statistics" on January 21, 2014  at the Institut Henri Poincare (Paris).

To retrace the history of the Universe, physicists need to make images of it at its different ages, going back tens of billions of years.

Scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), including a group from Irfu and CNRS (IN2P3 and INSU), have produced the largest map of the distant Universe from the BOSS (Baryon Oscillations Spectroscopic Survey) survey. This three-dimensional map shows the position in space and time of intergalactic hydrogen gas clouds. It was obtained using light from the brightest objects in the cosmos, quasars, which illuminate these clouds that can then be imaged. More than 14,000 quasars were used to make this first hydrogen map of the Universe, whose 3rd dimension allows us to go back in time. At the end of 2014, a new map will be established using a number of quasars ten times higher. It will then offer a new view of the Universe as it existed 11 billion years ago and will make it possible to study how the expansion of the Universe has evolved throughout its history.

Clusters and superclusters billions of light-years away

An international team, including scientists from the Astrophysics Department-AIM and the Particle Physics Department of CEA-Irfu, has just used the Planck satellite to discover galaxy clusters with characteristics that were previously unknown. These clusters, which contain up to a thousand galaxies, are the largest structures in the Universe. Many of them are located very far away from us, and we still know relatively little about them. Astrophysicists were able to detect the new clusters thanks to the imprint left in the background radiation of the universe by the hot gas from the clusters. Of the 189 clusters detected by Planck at distances from 1 to 5 billion light-years, 20 were previously unknown. Thanks to a joint program with the XMMNewton x-ray satellite, some of these new clusters could be observed, revealing weaker luminosity and a highly perturbed gas distribution. These must therefore be clusters with different characteristics.
These results were presented at a scientific colloquium on results from the Planck satellite, held from 10th to 14th January 2011 in Paris. They were published in a special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics.

For a more detailed account, see also the French version.

The hot gas found in stars produced by laser pulses

A major international collaboration [1], involving researchers from the CEA-IRFU Astrophysics Department, CEA-IRAMIS and CEA-DAM, has succeeded in measuring for the first time the effects of light absorption by nickel in high temperature plasmas similar to those found around Cepheid-type variable stars. These stars are important indicators of distance in the Universe. They exhibit a periodic pulsing behavior caused by sudden increases in the absorption of light by the hot gas surrounding the star. These variations result from interactions between partially ionized elements including helium, oxygen, iron and nickel. Until now, these absorptions could only be evaluated using complex models of atomic physics and plasmas. Using a pulsed laser, the researchers have succeeded in recreating a nickel plasma in the laboratory at temperatures of between 116 000 and 440 000 degrees and with densities of around a few milligrams per cubic centimeter, similar in magnitude to the ionic distributions found in stellar envelopes. A direct measurement of the opacity of nickel is an essential step in the verification of current models of star structures.

The most famous collision of galaxies decoded using ‘high-resolution’ simulations

‘High-resolution’ numerical simulations carried out by scientists at the Astrophysics Department of the CEA-Irfu/AIM  have just revealed that the most famous galactic collision ever, the Antennae collision, produces far more stars than observations suggested. When two galaxies meet, the resulting gas compression causes the ignition of new stars. Until now, it seemed that these new stars appeared only in high-density regions, mainly near the core of the collision. A computer re-creation of the collision, with a sufficiently high resolution to pick out the smallest gas clouds for the first time, shows that the starburst is in fact distributed far more uniformly inside the large number of star superclusters scattered across the disks of the galaxies. This important result helps scientists to understand why, in certain collisions, around 100 to 1000 stars per year can appear at the same time. This work was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The giant gas ring in Leo, formed when two galaxies collided

An international team led by astrophysicists from the Lyon Observatory (CRAL, CNRS/INSU, Université Lyon 1) and the AIM laboratory (CEA-Irfu, CNRS, Université Paris 7) has just shed some light on the origins of the giant gas ring in Leo.  The astrophysicists were able to detect an optical counterpart to this cloud, which corresponds to stars in formation, using the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope (INSU-CNRS, CNRC, U. Hawaii). The scientists then carried out numerical simulations on the supercomputers at the CEA and suggested a scenario for the formation of this ring. This involved a violent collision between two galaxies. The researchers were able to identify the galaxies involved in the collision and estimate the date of impact. This discovery supports the assertion that the gas in the ring is not primordial, but of galactic origin. This work was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Promising scientific results for the largest space telescope

One year on from the launch of the Herschel European satellite, the European Space Agency (ESA) is carrying out an initial scientific assessment of the mission, starting with the first symposium of Herschel scientific results, held from 4th to 7th May on the ESTEC site in Noordwijk (Netherlands).
The scientific community has been analyzing the initial data received since Herschel was declared 'science-ready' in September 2009. More than 400 scientists gathered at ESTEC to present their initial results, which have lived up to everyone's expectations. These results are due for publication in a special issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics in the autumn of 2010, and are mentioned in a CNRS-CEA press release.
The French community is deeply involved in the Herschel project, accounting for 25% of the participants, including several teams from the Astrophysics Department of the CEA-IRFU-AIM Laboratory.

High resolution mapping of the first light in the Universe

Following its launch on 14 May 2009, the Planck satellite [1] has been continually observing the celestial vault and has mapped the entire sky since 13 August to obtain the first very high resolution image of the dawn of the universe. The Planck satellite has just finished its first sky coverage. The preliminary images reveal undreamed of details of emissions of gas and dust in our own galaxy. Scientists from CEA-IRFU, as part of a broad international collaboration, are currently working on the extraction and exploitation of the catalogues of objects detected by Planck. These preliminary catalogues are essential to understanding and subtracting stray foreground emissions from the background light of the universe, a fossil trace of its earliest epochs. It is also improving understanding of the formation of the largest structures in the universe, clusters of galaxies. The first catalogue will be published in January 2011. In contrast, the definitive scientific publications on the first light of the universe are not expected until the end of 2012.

The dark galaxy may just be tidal debris (15 novembre 2007)

What is a galaxy ? Stars, gas, some dust and surrounding them an invisible dark matter halo. The discovery a few years ago of a so-called « dark galaxy »  devoid of its most famous component - the stars - raised a lot of interest in the public and among astrophysicists puzzled by a specimen which had not been predicted by classical models. A team from the Service d'Astrophysique (SAp) and laboratory AIM (CNRS, CEA-Saclay, Université Paris Diderot has used numerical simulations to show that VirgoHI21, believed to be a massive dark galaxy, was in fact most probably collisional debris from a past encounter between two massive galaxies in the Virgo Cluster. The prototypical dark galaxy is no longer one ! These results will be published in the February 2008 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.


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