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PolarLight detects first light events

On December 18, PolarLight, an X-ray polarimeter onboard a CubeSat, was powered on for in-orbit test, and detected the first events triggered by cosmic X-rays and charged particles. This is the first time that the new technique for X-ray polarimetry is demonstrated in space, implying that a new window in X-ray astronomy can be opened in the future.


X-rays Reveal Supercritically Accreting Compact Objects

Accretion onto compact objects has a critical rate when the radiation balances the gravity. The physics for supercritical accretion is still an unsolved problem. It is suggested that, because of the presence of strong radiation pressure, supercritical accretion will power a massive wind that is optically thick and Eddington-limited. Based on Chandra observations of nearby galaxies, Zhou et al. found a list of very soft X-ray sources, which are argued to be good candidates for compact objects under supercritical accretion. The results will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.


Stellar initial mass function varies across galaxies

Stars are the building blocks of galaxies. The stellar initial mass function (IMF), which describes the mass distribution of stars at birth, has been the subject of numerous investigations in the past decades. The first estimate of the IMF was obtained by Salpeter more than half a contrary ago, described simply by a power law function with a slope of 1.3, i.e. ϕ∝m^(-1.3)) across the entire mass range of stars. Subsequent studies of resolved stellar populations in the Milky Way have revealed a more bottom-light IMF, with a shallower slope at the low-mass end (<0.5M_⊙). In most galaxies, however, directly counting the number of stars in resolved stellar populations is impossible due to the limited spatial resolution of our observational facilities. A long-standing debate on IMF is whether the IMF measured from the few very local galaxies is universal to the general population of galaxies, or it varies from galaxy to galaxy or even from region to region within a single galaxy.


Talking about the Sun and solar activities

The 24th “New Worlds, New Horizons” Public Astronomy Lecture took place at 6C300, the No. 6 Teaching Building (the Yuyuan Building) in Tsinghua University on Dec. 1st, 2018. It was delivered by Professor WANG Jingxiu, from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. It attracted a large audience on site and over 1000 online viewers via the Tencent News live broadcast.


Molecular gas concentration driven by bars and interactions

Theories of galaxy dynamics have long predicted that the bar-like structure in a galaxy may effectively transport gas from the outer disk to the central region through angular momentum exchange with the disk. Tidal forces from galaxy-galaxy interactions are predicted to produce a similar effect by driving gas inwards, where it forms stars in the central region. Both physical processes are believed to play important roles driving the formation and growth of the central bulge. A recent study at the THCA, led by Ryan Chown (visiting from McMaster U.), Prof. Cheng Li (Tsinghua), and Niu Li (Tsinghua) investigated the role of bars and interactions on both the molecular gas component of the interstellar medium and the star formation history of a sample of 64 nearby galaxies, and found clear evidence in support of this theoretical picture. The work makes use of spatially-resolved maps of 12CO 1-0 emission (2.2 mm wavelength) in these galaxies observed using the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA) interferometer from the CARMA-EDGE survey (Bolatto et al. 2017), as well as optical integral field unit (IFU) data from the Calar Alto Legacy Integral Field Area (CALIFA) survey (Sanchez et al. 2016). Figure 1 shows maps of spectral features that are sensitive to recent star formation history, and those of molecular gas, for some example galaxies.


Dark Matter and the First Stars in the Universe

The 23rd "New Worlds, New Horizons" Public Astronomy Lecture took place at Ming Li Building, Tsinghua University on Sept 28th, 2018. It was delivered by Prof Rennan Barkana from Tel Aviv University on dark matter and how it's implicated in observations of the first stars in the Universe. The lecture attracted over 200 listeners from various backgrounds, apart from about 6000 online viewers via Tencent News live broadcast.