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  • Small Solar System Bodies as granular media
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2019-06-25
    D. Hestroffer, P. Sánchez, L. Staron, A. Campo Bagatin, S. Eggl, W. Losert, N. Murdoch, E. Opsomer, F. Radjai, D. C. Richardson, M. Salazar, D. J. Scheeres, S. Schwartz, N. Taberlet, H. Yano

    Asteroids and other Small Solar System Bodies (SSSBs) are of high general and scientific interest in many aspects. The origin, formation, and evolution of our Solar System (and other planetary systems) can be better understood by analysing the constitution and physical properties of small bodies in the Solar System. Currently, two space missions (Hayabusa2, OSIRIS-REx) have recently arrived at their respective targets and will bring a sample of the asteroids back to Earth. Other small body missions have also been selected by, or proposed to, space agencies. The threat posed to our planet by near-Earth objects (NEOs) is also considered at the international level, and this has prompted dedicated research on possible mitigation techniques. The DART mission, for example, will test the kinetic impact technique. Even ideas for industrial exploitation have risen during the last years. Lastly, the origin of water and life on Earth appears to be connected to asteroids. Hence, future space mission projects will undoubtedly target some asteroids or other SSSBs. In all these cases and research topics, specific knowledge of the structure and mechanical behaviour of the surface as well as the bulk of those celestial bodies is crucial. In contrast to large telluric planets and dwarf planets, a large proportion of such small bodies is believed to consist of gravitational aggregates (‘rubble piles’) with no—or low—internal cohesion, with varying macro-porosity and surface properties (from smooth regolith covered terrain, to very rough collection of boulders), and varying topography (craters, depressions, ridges). Bodies with such structure can sustain some plastic deformation without being disrupted in contrast to the classical visco-elastic models that are generally valid for planets, dwarf planets, and large satellites. These SSSBs are hence better described through granular mechanics theories, which have been a subject of intense theoretical, experimental, and numerical research over the last four decades. This being the case, it has been necessary to use the theoretical, numerical and experimental tools developed within soil mechanics, granular dynamics, celestial mechanics, chemistry, condensed matter physics, planetary and computer sciences, to name the main ones, in order to understand the data collected and analysed by observational astronomy (visible, thermal, and radio), and different space missions. In this paper, we present a review of the multi-disciplinary research carried out by these different scientific communities in an effort to study SSSBs.

  • The astrophysics of nanohertz gravitational waves
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2019-06-18
    Sarah Burke-Spolaor, Stephen R. Taylor, Maria Charisi, Timothy Dolch, Jeffrey S. Hazboun, A. Miguel Holgado, Luke Zoltan Kelley, T. Joseph W. Lazio, Dustin R. Madison, Natasha McMann, Chiara M. F. Mingarelli, Alexander Rasskazov, Xavier Siemens, Joseph J. Simon, Tristan L. Smith

    Pulsar timing array (PTA) collaborations in North America, Australia, and Europe, have been exploiting the exquisite timing precision of millisecond pulsars over decades of observations to search for correlated timing deviations induced by gravitational waves (GWs). PTAs are sensitive to the frequency band ranging just below 1 nanohertz to a few tens of microhertz. The discovery space of this band is potentially rich with populations of inspiraling supermassive black hole binaries, decaying cosmic string networks, relic post-inflation GWs, and even non-GW imprints of axionic dark matter. This article aims to provide an understanding of the exciting open science questions in cosmology, galaxy evolution, and fundamental physics that will be addressed by the detection and study of GWs through PTAs. The focus of the article is on providing an understanding of the mechanisms by which PTAs can address specific questions in these fields, and to outline some of the subtleties and difficulties in each case. The material included is weighted most heavily toward the questions which we expect will be answered in the near-term with PTAs; however, we have made efforts to include most currently anticipated applications of nanohertz GWs.

  • Fast radio bursts
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2019-05-24
    E. Petroff, J. W. T. Hessels, D. R. Lorimer

    The discovery of radio pulsars over a half century ago was a seminal moment in astronomy. It demonstrated the existence of neutron stars, gave a powerful observational tool to study them, and has allowed us to probe strong gravity, dense matter, and the interstellar medium. More recently, pulsar surveys have led to the serendipitous discovery of fast radio bursts (FRBs). While FRBs appear similar to the individual pulses from pulsars, their large dispersive delays suggest that they originate from far outside the Milky Way and hence are many orders-of-magnitude more luminous. While most FRBs appear to be one-off, perhaps cataclysmic events, two sources are now known to repeat and thus clearly have a longer lived central engine. Beyond understanding how they are created, there is also the prospect of using FRBs—as with pulsars—to probe the extremes of the Universe as well as the otherwise invisible intervening medium. Such studies will be aided by the high-implied all-sky event rate: there is a detectable FRB roughly once every minute occurring somewhere on the sky. The fact that less than a hundred FRB sources have been discovered in the last decade is largely due to the small fields-of-view of current radio telescopes. A new generation of wide-field instruments is now coming online, however, and these will be capable of detecting multiple FRBs per day. We are thus on the brink of further breakthroughs in the short-duration radio transient phase space, which will be critical for differentiating between the many proposed theories for the origin of FRBs. In this review, we give an observational and theoretical introduction at a level that is accessible to astronomers entering the field.

  • De re metallica: the cosmic chemical evolution of galaxies
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2019-02-04
    R. Maiolino, F. Mannucci

    The evolution of the content of heavy elements in galaxies, the relative chemical abundances, their spatial distribution, and how these scale with various galactic properties, provide unique information on the galactic evolutionary processes across the cosmic epochs. In recent years major progress has been made in constraining the chemical evolution of galaxies and inferring key information relevant to our understanding of the main mechanisms involved in galaxy evolution. In this review we provide an overview of these various areas. After an overview of the methods used to constrain the chemical enrichment in galaxies and their environment, we discuss the observed scaling relations between metallicity and galaxy properties, the observed relative chemical abundances, how the chemical elements are distributed within galaxies, and how these properties evolve across the cosmic epochs. We discuss how the various observational findings compare with the predictions from theoretical models and numerical cosmological simulations. Finally, we briefly discuss the open problems and the prospects for major progress in this field in the nearby future.

  • The distribution of dark matter in galaxies
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2019-02-04
    Paolo Salucci

    The distribution of the non-luminous matter in galaxies of different luminosity and Hubble type is much more than a proof of the existence of dark particles governing the structures of the Universe. Here, we will review the complex but well-ordered scenario of the properties of the dark halos also in relation with those of the baryonic components they host. Moreover, we will present a number of tight and unexpected correlations between selected properties of the dark and the luminous matter. Such entanglement evolves across the varying properties of the luminous component and it seems to unequivocally lead to a dark particle able to interact with the Standard Model particles over cosmological times. This review will also focus on whether we need a paradigm shift, from pure collisionless dark particles emerging from “first principles”, to particles that we can discover only by looking to how they have designed the structure of the galaxies.

  • Solar wind charge exchange: an astrophysical nuisance
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2018-12-04
    K. D. Kuntz

    Solar wind charge-exchange (SWCX) emission is present in every X-ray observation of an astrophysical object. The emission is problematic when one cannot remove the foreground by the simultaneous measurement of a nearby field. SWCX emission is a serious impediment to the study of the diffuse hot ISM, including the galactic halo, as its contribution to diagnostic emission lines is temporally variable. Modeling the SWCX emission, in order to remove it from our observations, has proven to be more difficult than originally anticipated. This work reviews our current understanding of SWCX emission, with special attention to all the components required for future modeling tools. Since, in the absence of such a tool, observing programs can still be constructed to minimize the effect of SWCX, mitigation strategies are discussed. Although some aspects of SWCX will be very difficult to characterize, progress continues on many fronts.

  • High-precision stellar abundances of the elements: methods and applications
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2018-10-27
    Poul Erik Nissen, Bengt Gustafsson

    Efficient spectrographs at large telescopes have made it possible to obtain high-resolution spectra of stars with high signal-to-noise ratio and advances in model atmosphere analyses have enabled estimates of high-precision differential abundances of the elements from these spectra, i.e. with errors in the range 0.01–0.03 dex for F, G, and K stars. Methods to determine such high-precision abundances together with precise values of effective temperatures and surface gravities from equivalent widths of spectral lines or by spectrum synthesis techniques are outlined, and effects on abundance determinations from using a 3D non-LTE analysis instead of a classical 1D LTE analysis are considered. The determination of high-precision stellar abundances of the elements has led to the discovery of unexpected phenomena and relations with important bearings on the astrophysics of galaxies, stars, and planets, i.e. (i) Existence of discrete stellar populations within each of the main Galactic components (disk, halo, and bulge) providing new constraints on models for the formation of the Milky Way. (ii) Differences in the relation between abundances and elemental condensation temperature for the Sun and solar twins suggesting dust-cleansing effects in proto-planetary disks and/or engulfment of planets by stars; (iii) Differences in chemical composition between binary star components and between members of open or globular clusters showing that star- and cluster-formation processes are more complicated than previously thought; (iv) Tight relations between some abundance ratios and age for solar-like stars providing new constraints on nucleosynthesis and Galactic chemical evolution models as well as the composition of terrestrial exoplanets. We conclude that if stellar abundances with precisions of 0.01–0.03 dex can be achieved in studies of more distant stars and stars on the giant and supergiant branches, many more interesting future applications, of great relevance to stellar and galaxy evolution, are probable. Hence, in planning abundance surveys, it is important to carefully balance the need for large samples of stars against the spectral resolution and signal-to-noise ratio needed to obtain high-precision abundances. Furthermore, it is an advantage to work differentially on stars with similar atmospheric parameters, because then a simple 1D LTE analysis of stellar spectra may be sufficient. However, when determining high-precision absolute abundances or differential abundance between stars having more widely different parameters, e.g. metal-poor stars compared to the Sun or giants to dwarfs, then 3D non-LTE effects must be taken into account.

  • Molecular gas in distant galaxies from ALMA studies
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2018-08-10
    Françoise Combes

    ALMA is now fully operational, and has been observing in early science mode since 2011. The millimetric (mm) and sub-mm domain is ideal to tackle galaxies at high redshift, since the emission peak of the dust at 100 \(\upmu \)m is shifted in the ALMA bands (0.3–1 mm) for \(z=\) 2–9, and the CO lines, stronger at the high-J levels of the ladder, are found all over the 0.3–3 mm range. Pointed surveys and blind deep fields have been observed, and the wealth of data collected reveal a drop at high redshifts (\(z>6\)) of dusty massive objects, although surprisingly active and gas-rich objects have been unveiled through gravitational lensing. The window of the reionization epoch is now wide open, and ALMA has detected galaxies at \(z=8\)–9 mainly in continuum, [CII] and [OIII] lines. Galaxies have a gas fraction increasing steeply with redshift, as \((1+z)^2\), while their star formation efficiency increases also but more slightly, as \((1+z)^{0.6}\) to \((1+z)^1\). Individual object studies have revealed luminous quasars, with black hole masses much higher than expected, clumpy galaxies with resolved star formation rate compatible with the Kennicutt–Schmidt relation, extended cold and dense gas in a circumgalactic medium, corresponding to Lyman-\(\alpha \) blobs, and proto-clusters, traced by their brightest central galaxies.

  • The interstellar and circumnuclear medium of active nuclei traced by H i 21 cm absorption
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2018-07-17
    Raffaella Morganti, Tom Oosterloo

    This review summarises what we have learnt in the last two decades based on H i 21 cm absorption observations about the cold interstellar medium (ISM) in the central regions of active galaxies and about the interplay between this gas and the active nucleus (AGN). H i absorption is a powerful tracer on all scales, from the parsec-scales close to the central black hole to structures of many tens of kpc tracing interactions and mergers of galaxies. Given the strong radio continuum emission often associated with the central activity, H i absorption observations can be used to study the H i near an active nucleus out to much higher redshifts than is possible using H i emission. In this way, H i absorption has been used to characterise in detail the general ISM in active galaxies, to trace the fuelling of radio-loud AGN, to study the feedback occurring between the energy released by the active nucleus and the ISM, and the impact of such interactions on the evolution of galaxies and of their AGN. In the last two decades, significant progress has been made in all these areas. It is now well established that many radio loud AGN are surrounded by small, regularly rotating gas disks that contain a significant fraction of H i. The structure of these disks has been traced down to parsec scales by very long baseline interferometry observations. Some groups of objects, and in particular young and recently restarted radio galaxies, appear to have a particularly high detection rate of H i. This is interesting in connection with the evolution of these AGN and their impact on the surrounding ISM. This is further confirmed by an important discovery, made thanks to technical upgrades of radio telescopes, namely the presence of fast, AGN-driven outflows of cold gas which give a direct view of the impact of the energy released by AGN on the evolution of galaxies (AGN feedback). In addition, evidence has been collected that clouds of cold gas can play a role in fuelling the nuclear activity. This review ends by briefly describing the upcoming large, blind H i absorption surveys planned for the new radio telescopes which will soon become operational. These surveys will allow to significantly expand existing work, but will also allow to explore new topics, in particular, the evolution of the cold ISM in AGN.

  • Radio jets from young stellar objects
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2018-06-26
    Guillem Anglada, Luis F. Rodríguez, Carlos Carrasco-González

    Jets and outflows are ubiquitous in the process of formation of stars since outflow is intimately associated with accretion. Free–free (thermal) radio continuum emission in the centimeter domain is associated with these jets. The emission is relatively weak and compact, and sensitive radio interferometers of high angular resolution are required to detect and study it. One of the key problems in the study of outflows is to determine how they are accelerated and collimated. Observations in the cm range are most useful to trace the base of the ionized jets, close to the young central object and the inner parts of its accretion disk, where optical or near-IR imaging is made difficult by the high extinction present. Radio recombination lines in jets (in combination with proper motions) should provide their 3D kinematics at very small scale (near their origin). Future instruments such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the Next Generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) will be crucial to perform this kind of sensitive observations. Thermal jets are associated with both high and low mass protostars and possibly even with objects in the substellar domain. The ionizing mechanism of these radio jets appears to be related to shocks in the associated outflows, as suggested by the observed correlation between the centimeter luminosity and the outflow momentum rate. From this correlation and that of the centimeter luminosity with the bolometric luminosity of the system it will be possible to discriminate between unresolved HII regions and jets, and to infer additional physical properties of the embedded objects. Some jets associated with young stellar objects (YSOs) show indications of non-thermal emission (negative spectral indices) in part of their lobes. Linearly polarized synchrotron emission has been found in the jet of HH 80–81, allowing one to measure the direction and intensity of the jet magnetic field, a key ingredient to determine the collimation and ejection mechanisms. As only a fraction of the emission is polarized, very sensitive observations such as those that will be feasible with the interferometers previously mentioned are required to perform studies in a large sample of sources. Jets are present in many kinds of astrophysical scenarios. Characterizing radio jets in YSOs, where thermal emission allows one to determine their physical conditions in a reliable way, would also be useful in understanding acceleration and collimation mechanisms in all kinds of astrophysical jets, such as those associated with stellar and supermassive black holes and planetary nebulae.

  • Origin and evolution of the atmospheres of early Venus, Earth and Mars
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2018-05-10
    Helmut Lammer, Aubrey L. Zerkle, Stefanie Gebauer, Nicola Tosi, Lena Noack, Manuel Scherf, Elke Pilat-Lohinger, Manuel Güdel, John Lee Grenfell, Mareike Godolt, Athanasia Nikolaou

    We review the origin and evolution of the atmospheres of Earth, Venus and Mars from the time when their accreting bodies were released from the protoplanetary disk a few million years after the origin of the Sun. If the accreting planetary cores reached masses \(\ge 0.5 M_\mathrm{Earth}\) before the gas in the disk disappeared, primordial atmospheres consisting mainly of H\(_2\) form around the young planetary body, contrary to late-stage planet formation, where terrestrial planets accrete material after the nebula phase of the disk. The differences between these two scenarios are explored by investigating non-radiogenic atmospheric noble gas isotope anomalies observed on the three terrestrial planets. The role of the young Sun’s more efficient EUV radiation and of the plasma environment into the escape of early atmospheres is also addressed. We discuss the catastrophic outgassing of volatiles and the formation and cooling of steam atmospheres after the solidification of magma oceans and we describe the geochemical evidence for additional delivery of volatile-rich chondritic materials during the main stages of terrestrial planet formation. The evolution scenario of early Earth is then compared with the atmospheric evolution of planets where no active plate tectonics emerged like on Venus and Mars. We look at the diversity between early Earth, Venus and Mars, which is found to be related to their differing geochemical, geodynamical and geophysical conditions, including plate tectonics, crust and mantle oxidation processes and their involvement in degassing processes of secondary \(\hbox {N}_2\) atmospheres. The buildup of atmospheric \(\hbox {N}_2\), \(\hbox {O}_2\), and the role of greenhouse gases such as \(\hbox {CO}_2\) and \(\hbox {CH}_4\) to counter the Faint Young Sun Paradox (FYSP), when the earliest life forms on Earth originated until the Great Oxidation Event \(\approx \) 2.3 Gyr ago, are addressed. This review concludes with a discussion on the implications of understanding Earth’s geophysical and related atmospheric evolution in relation to the discovery of potential habitable terrestrial exoplanets.

  • Mass loss of stars on the asymptotic giant branch
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2018-01-09
    Susanne Höfner, Hans Olofsson

    As low- and intermediate-mass stars reach the asymptotic giant branch (AGB), they have developed into intriguing and complex objects that are major players in the cosmic gas/dust cycle. At this stage, their appearance and evolution are strongly affected by a range of dynamical processes. Large-scale convective flows bring newly-formed chemical elements to the stellar surface and, together with pulsations, they trigger shock waves in the extended stellar atmosphere. There, massive outflows of gas and dust have their origin, which enrich the interstellar medium and, eventually, lead to a transformation of the cool luminous giants into white dwarfs. Dust grains forming in the upper atmospheric layers play a critical role in the wind acceleration process, by scattering and absorbing stellar photons and transferring their outward-directed momentum to the surrounding gas through collisions. Recent progress in high-angular-resolution instrumentation, from the visual to the radio regime, is leading to valuable new insights into the complex dynamical atmospheres of AGB stars and their wind-forming regions. Observations are revealing asymmetries and inhomogeneities in the photospheric and dust-forming layers which vary on time-scales of months, as well as more long-lived large-scale structures in the circumstellar envelopes. High-angular-resolution observations indicate at what distances from the stars dust condensation occurs, and they give information on the chemical composition and sizes of dust grains in the close vicinity of cool giants. These are essential constraints for building realistic models of wind acceleration and developing a predictive theory of mass loss for AGB stars, which is a crucial ingredient of stellar and galactic chemical evolution models. At present, it is still not fully possible to model all these phenomena from first principles, and to predict the mass-loss rate based on fundamental stellar parameters only. However, much progress has been made in recent years, which is described in this review. We complement this by discussing how observations of emission from circumstellar molecules and dust can be used to estimate the characteristics of the mass loss along the AGB, and in different environments. We also briefly touch upon the issue of binarity.

  • The Main Belt Comets and ice in the Solar System
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2017-11-14
    Colin Snodgrass, Jessica Agarwal, Michael Combi, Alan Fitzsimmons, Aurelie Guilbert-Lepoutre, Henry H. Hsieh, Man-To Hui, Emmanuel Jehin, Michael S. P. Kelley, Matthew M. Knight, Cyrielle Opitom, Roberto Orosei, Miguel de Val-Borro, Bin Yang

    We review the evidence for buried ice in the asteroid belt; specifically the questions around the so-called Main Belt Comets (MBCs). We summarise the evidence for water throughout the Solar System, and describe the various methods for detecting it, including remote sensing from ultraviolet to radio wavelengths. We review progress in the first decade of study of MBCs, including observations, modelling of ice survival, and discussion on their origins. We then look at which methods will likely be most effective for further progress, including the key challenge of direct detection of (escaping) water in these bodies.

  • Radio observations of active galactic nuclei with mm-VLBI
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2017-11-06
    B. Boccardi, T. P. Krichbaum, E. Ros, J. A. Zensus

    Over the past few decades, our knowledge of jets produced by active galactic nuclei (AGN) has greatly progressed thanks to the development of very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI). Nevertheless, the crucial mechanisms involved in the formation of the plasma flow, as well as those driving its exceptional radiative output up to TeV energies, remain to be clarified. Most likely, these physical processes take place at short separations from the supermassive black hole, on scales which are inaccessible to VLBI observations at centimeter wavelengths. Due to their high synchrotron opacity, the dense and highly magnetized regions in the vicinity of the central engine can only be penetrated when observing at shorter wavelengths, in the millimeter and sub-millimeter regimes. While this was recognized already in the early days of VLBI, it was not until the very recent years that sensitive VLBI imaging at high frequencies has become possible. Ongoing technical development and wide band observing now provide adequate imaging fidelity to carry out more detailed analyses. In this article, we overview some open questions concerning the physics of AGN jets, and we discuss the impact of mm-VLBI studies. Among the rich set of results produced so far in this frequency regime, we particularly focus on studies performed at 43 GHz (7 mm) and at 86 GHz (3 mm). Some of the first findings at 230 GHz (1 mm) obtained with the Event Horizon Telescope are also presented.

  • Major achievements of the Rosetta mission in connection with the origin of the solar system
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2017-10-24
    M. A. Barucci, M. Fulchignoni

    Comets have been studied from a long time and are believed to preserve pristine materials, so they are fundamental to understand the origin of the solar system and life. Starting in the early 1990s, ESA decided to have a more risky and fantastic mission to a comet. As Planetary Cornerstone mission of the ESA Horizon 2000 program, the Rosetta mission was selected with the aim of realizing two asteroid fly-bys, a rendezvous with a comet to deliver a surface science package and to hover around the comet from 4 AU inbound up to perihelion and outbound back to 3.7 AU. The mission was successfully launched on March 2, 2004 with Ariane V that started its 10-year journey toward comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. After several planetary gravity assists, Rosetta flew by two asteroids—on September 5, 2008 (Steins) and on July 10, 2010 (Lutetia), respectively, and performed the comet orbit insertion maneuver on August 6, 2014. The onboard instruments characterized the nucleus orbiting the comet at altitudes down to few kilometers. On November 12, 2014, the lander Philae was delivered realizing the first landing ever on a comet surface. Although the exploration of the comet was planned up to the end of 2015, the mission duration was extended for nine more months than the nominal one, to follow the comet on its outbound orbit. To terminate the mission, following a series of very low orbits, a controlled impact of Rosetta spacecraft with the comet was realized on September 30, 2016. The scientific objectives of the mission have been largely achieved. The challenging mission provided the science community with an enormous quantity of data of extraordinary scientific value. In this paper, a detailed description of the mission and the highlights of the obtained scientific results on the exploration of an extraordinary world are presented. The paper also includes lessons learned and directions for the future.

  • Active galactic nuclei: what’s in a name?
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2017-08-23
    P. Padovani, D. M. Alexander, R. J. Assef, B. De Marco, P. Giommi, R. C. Hickox, G. T. Richards, V. Smolčić, E. Hatziminaoglou, V. Mainieri, M. Salvato

    Active galactic nuclei (AGN) are energetic astrophysical sources powered by accretion onto supermassive black holes in galaxies, and present unique observational signatures that cover the full electromagnetic spectrum over more than twenty orders of magnitude in frequency. The rich phenomenology of AGN has resulted in a large number of different “flavours” in the literature that now comprise a complex and confusing AGN “zoo”. It is increasingly clear that these classifications are only partially related to intrinsic differences between AGN and primarily reflect variations in a relatively small number of astrophysical parameters as well the method by which each class of AGN is selected. Taken together, observations in different electromagnetic bands as well as variations over time provide complementary windows on the physics of different sub-structures in the AGN. In this review, we present an overview of AGN multi-wavelength properties with the aim of painting their “big picture” through observations in each electromagnetic band from radio to \(\gamma \)-rays as well as AGN variability. We address what we can learn from each observational method, the impact of selection effects, the physics behind the emission at each wavelength, and the potential for future studies. To conclude, we use these observations to piece together the basic architecture of AGN, discuss our current understanding of unification models, and highlight some open questions that present opportunities for future observational and theoretical progress.

  • Giant star seismology
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2017-06-15
    S. Hekker, J. Christensen-Dalsgaard

    The internal properties of stars in the red-giant phase undergo significant changes on relatively short timescales. Long near-uninterrupted high-precision photometric timeseries observations from dedicated space missions such as CoRoT and Kepler have provided seismic inferences of the global and internal properties of a large number of evolved stars, including red giants. These inferences are confronted with predictions from theoretical models to improve our understanding of stellar structure and evolution. Our knowledge and understanding of red giants have indeed increased tremendously using these seismic inferences, and we anticipate that more information is still hidden in the data. Unraveling this will further improve our understanding of stellar evolution. This will also have significant impact on our knowledge of the Milky Way Galaxy as well as on exo-planet host stars. The latter is important for our understanding of the formation and structure of planetary systems.

  • Mars: a small terrestrial planet
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-11-16
    N. Mangold, D. Baratoux, O. Witasse, T. Encrenaz, C. Sotin

    Mars is characterized by geological landforms familiar to terrestrial geologists. It has a tenuous atmosphere that evolved differently from that of Earth and Venus and a differentiated inner structure. Our knowledge of the structure and evolution of Mars has strongly improved thanks to a huge amount of data of various types (visible and infrared imagery, altimetry, radar, chemistry, etc) acquired by a dozen of missions over the last two decades. In situ data have provided ground truth for remote-sensing data and have opened a new era in the study of Mars geology. While large sections of Mars science have made progress and new topics have emerged, a major question in Mars exploration—the possibility of past or present life—is still unsolved. Without entering into the debate around the presence of life traces, our review develops various topics of Mars science to help the search of life on Mars, building on the most recent discoveries, going from the exosphere to the interior structure, from the magmatic evolution to the currently active processes, including the fate of volatiles and especially liquid water.

  • What is a globular cluster? An observational perspective
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2019-11-04
    Raffaele Gratton, Angela Bragaglia, Eugenio Carretta, Valentina D’Orazi, Sara Lucatello, Antonio Sollima

    Globular clusters are large and dense agglomerate of stars. At variance with smaller clusters of stars, they exhibit signs of some chemical evolution. At least for this reason, they are intermediate between open clusters and massive objects such as nuclear clusters or compact galaxies. While some facts are well established, the increasing amount of observational data are revealing a complexity that has so far defied the attempts to interpret the whole data set in a simple scenario. We review this topic focusing on the main observational features of clusters in the Milky Way and its satellites. We find that most of the observational facts related to the chemical evolution in globular clusters are described as being primarily a function of the initial mass of the clusters, tuned by further dependence on the metallicity—that mainly affects specific aspects of the nucleosynthesis processes involved—and on the environment, that likely determines the possibility of independent chemical evolution of the fragments or satellites, where the clusters form. We review the impact of multiple populations on different regions of the colour–magnitude diagram and underline the constraints related to the observed abundances of lithium, to the cluster dynamics, and to the frequency of binaries in stars of different chemical composition. We then re-consider the issues related to the mass budget and the relation between globular cluster and field stars. Any successful model of globular cluster formation should explain these facts.

  • Pulsating white dwarfs: new insights
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2019-09-03
    Alejandro H. Córsico, Leandro G. Althaus, Marcelo M. Miller Bertolami, S. O. Kepler

    Stars are extremely important astronomical objects that constitute the pillars on which the Universe is built, and as such, their study has gained increasing interest over the years. White dwarf stars are not the exception. Indeed, these stars constitute the final evolutionary stage for more than 95% of all stars. The Galactic population of white dwarfs conveys a wealth of information about several fundamental issues and are of vital importance to study the structure, evolution and chemical enrichment of our Galaxy and its components—including the star formation history of the Milky Way. Several important studies have emphasized the advantage of using white dwarfs as reliable clocks to date a variety of stellar populations in the solar neighborhood and in the nearest stellar clusters, including the thin and thick disks, the Galactic spheroid and the system of globular and open clusters. In addition, white dwarfs are tracers of the evolution of planetary systems along several phases of stellar evolution. Not less relevant than these applications, the study of matter at high densities has benefited from our detailed knowledge about evolutionary and observational properties of white dwarfs. In this sense, white dwarfs are used as laboratories for astro-particle physics, being their interest focused on physics beyond the standard model, that is, neutrino physics, axion physics and also radiation from “extra dimensions”, and even crystallization. The last decade has witnessed a great progress in the study of white dwarfs. In particular, a wealth of information of these stars from different surveys has allowed us to make meaningful comparison of evolutionary models with observations. While some information like surface chemical composition, temperature and gravity of isolated white dwarfs can be inferred from spectroscopy, and the total mass and radius can be derived as well when they are in binaries, the internal structure of these compact stars can be unveiled only by means of asteroseismology, an approach based on the comparison between the observed pulsation periods of variable stars and the periods predicted by appropriate theoretical models. The asteroseismological techniques allow us to infer details of the internal chemical stratification, the total mass, and even the stellar rotation profile. In this review, we first revise the evolutionary channels currently accepted that lead to the formation of white-dwarf stars, and then, we give a detailed account of the different sub-types of pulsating white dwarfs known so far, emphasizing the recent observational and theoretical advancements in the study of these fascinating variable stars.

  • The realm of the galaxy protoclusters
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-11-11
    Roderik A. Overzier

    The study of galaxy protoclusters is beginning to fill in unknown details of the important phase of the assembly of clusters and cluster galaxies. This review describes the current status of this field and highlights promising recent findings related to galaxy formation in the densest regions of the early universe. We discuss the main search techniques and the characteristic properties of protoclusters in observations and simulations, and show that protoclusters will have present-day masses similar to galaxy clusters when fully collapsed. We discuss the physical properties of galaxies in protoclusters, including (proto-)brightest cluster galaxies, and the forming red sequence. We highlight the fact that the most massive halos at high redshift are found in protoclusters, making these objects uniquely suited for testing important recent models of galaxy formation. We show that galaxies in protoclusters should be among the first galaxies at high redshift making the transition from a gas cooling regime dominated by cold streams to a regime dominated by hot intracluster gas, which could be tested observationally. We also discuss the possible connections between protoclusters and radio galaxies, quasars, and \(\hbox {Ly}\alpha \) blobs. Because of their early formation, large spatial sizes and high total star-formation rates, protoclusters have also likely played a crucial role during the epoch of reionization, which can be tested with future experiments that will map the neutral and ionized cosmic web. Lastly, we review a number of promising observational projects that are expected to make significant impact in this growing, exciting field.

  • The faint radio sky: radio astronomy becomes mainstream
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-09-29
    Paolo Padovani

    Radio astronomy has changed. For years it studied relatively rare sources, which emit mostly non-thermal radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, i.e. radio quasars and radio galaxies. Now, it is reaching such faint flux densities that it detects mainly star-forming galaxies and the more common radio-quiet active galactic nuclei. These sources make up the bulk of the extragalactic sky, which has been studied for decades in the infrared, optical, and X-ray bands. I follow the transformation of radio astronomy by reviewing the main components of the radio sky at the bright and faint ends, the issue of their proper classification, their number counts, luminosity functions, and evolution. The overall “big picture” astrophysical implications of these results, and their relevance for a number of hot topics in extragalactic astronomy, are also discussed. The future prospects of the faint radio sky are very bright, as we will soon be flooded with survey data. This review should be useful to all extragalactic astronomers, irrespective of their favourite electromagnetic band(s), and even stellar astronomers might find it somewhat gratifying.

  • Time delay cosmography
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-07-21
    Tommaso Treu, Philip J. Marshall

    Gravitational time delays, observed in strong lens systems where the variable background source is multiply imaged by a massive galaxy in the foreground, provide direct measurements of cosmological distance that are very complementary to other cosmographic probes. The success of the technique depends on the availability and size of a suitable sample of lensed quasars or supernovae, precise measurements of the time delays, accurate modeling of the gravitational potential of the main deflector, and our ability to characterize the distribution of mass along the line of sight to the source. We review the progress made during the last 15 years, during which the first competitive cosmological inferences with time delays were made, and look ahead to the potential of significantly larger lens samples in the near future.

  • Radio AGN in the local universe: unification, triggering and evolution
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-06-03
    Clive Tadhunter

    Associated with one of the most important forms of active galactic nucleus (AGN) feedback, and showing a strong preference for giant elliptical host galaxies, radio AGN (\(L_{1.4\,\mathrm{GHz}} > 10^{24}\) W \(\hbox {Hz}^{-1}\)) are a key sub-class of the overall AGN population. Recently their study has benefitted dramatically from the availability of high-quality data covering the X-ray to far-IR wavelength range obtained with the current generation of ground- and space-based telescope facilities. Reflecting this progress, here I review our current state of understanding of the population of radio AGN at low and intermediate redshifts (\(z < 0.7\)), concentrating on their nuclear AGN and host galaxy properties, and covering three interlocking themes: the classification of radio AGN and its interpretation; the triggering and fuelling of the jet and AGN activity; and the evolution of the host galaxies. I show that much of the observed diversity in the AGN properties of radio AGN can be explained in terms of a combination of orientation/anisotropy, mass accretion rate, and variability effects. The detailed morphologies of the host galaxies are consistent with the triggering of strong-line radio galaxies (SLRG) in galaxy mergers. However, the star formation properties and cool ISM contents suggest that the triggering mergers are relatively minor in terms of their gas masses in most cases, and would not lead to major growth of the supermassive black holes and stellar bulges; therefore, apart from a minority (<20 %) that show evidence for higher star formation rates and more massive cool ISM reservoirs, the SLRG represent late-time re-triggering of activity in mature giant elliptical galaxies. In contrast, the host and environmental properties of weak-line radio galaxies (WLRG) with Fanaroff–Riley class I radio morphologies are consistent with more gradual fuelling of the activity via gas accretion at low rates onto the supermassive black holes.

  • Accurate abundance analysis of late-type stars: advances in atomic physics
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-05-31
    Paul S. Barklem

    The measurement of stellar properties such as chemical compositions, masses and ages, through stellar spectra, is a fundamental problem in astrophysics. Progress in the understanding, calculation and measurement of atomic properties and processes relevant to the high-accuracy analysis of F-, G-, and K-type stellar spectra is reviewed, with particular emphasis on abundance analysis. This includes fundamental atomic data such as energy levels, wavelengths, and transition probabilities, as well as processes of photoionisation, collisional broadening and inelastic collisions. A recurring theme throughout the review is the interplay between theoretical atomic physics, laboratory measurements, and astrophysical modelling, all of which contribute to our understanding of atoms and atomic processes, as well as to modelling stellar spectra.

  • Complex organics in space from Solar System to distant galaxies
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-02-29
    Sun Kwok

    Recent observational and experimental evidence for the presence of complex organics in space is reviewed. Remote astronomical observations have detected \(\sim \)200 gas-phased molecules through their rotational and vibrational transitions. Many classes of organic molecules are represented in this list, including some precursors to biological molecules. A number of unidentified spectral phenomena observed in the interstellar medium are likely to have originated from complex organics. The observations of these features in distant galaxies suggests that organic synthesis had already taken place during the early epochs of the Universe. In the Solar System, almost all biologically relevant molecules can be found in the soluble component of carbonaceous meteorites. Complex organics of mixed aromatic and aliphatic structures are present in the insoluble component of meteorites. Hydrocarbons cover much of the surface of the planetary satellite Titan and complex organics are found in comets and interplanetary dust particles. The possibility that the early Solar System, or even the early Earth, have been enriched by interstellar organics is discussed.

  • Accretion disks in luminous young stellar objects
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-01-11
    M. T. Beltrán, W. J. de Wit

    An observational review is provided of the properties of accretion disks around young stars. It concerns the primordial disks of intermediate- and high-mass young stellar objects in embedded and optically revealed phases. The properties were derived from spatially resolved observations and, therefore, predominantly obtained with interferometric means, either in the radio/(sub)millimeter or in the optical/infrared wavelength regions. We make summaries and comparisons of the physical properties, kinematics, and dynamics of these circumstellar structures and delineate trends where possible. Amongst others, we report on a quadratic trend of mass accretion rates with mass from T Tauri stars to the highest mass young stellar objects and on the systematic difference in mass infall and accretion rates.

  • GG Tau: the ringworld and beyond
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2016-01-11
    Anne Dutrey, Emmanuel Di Folco, Tracy Beck, Stéphane Guilloteau

    In binary stellar systems, exoplanet searches have revealed planetary mass companions orbiting both in circumstellar and in circumbinary orbits. Modelling studies suggest increased dynamical complexity around the young stars that form such systems. Circumstellar and circumbinary disks likely exhibit different physical conditions for planet formation, which also depends on the stellar separation. Although binaries and higher order multiple stars are relatively common in nearby star-forming regions, surprisingly few systems with circumbinary distributions of proto-planetary material have been found. With its spectacular ring of dust and gas encircling the central triple star, one such system, GG Tau A, has become a unique laboratory for investigating the physics of circumsystem gas and dust evolution. We review here its physical properties.

  • Magnetic fields in spiral galaxies
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2015-12-29
    Rainer Beck

    Radio synchrotron emission, its polarization and Faraday rotation of the polarization angle are powerful tools to study the strength and structure of magnetic fields in galaxies. Unpolarized synchrotron emission traces isotropic turbulent fields which are strongest in spiral arms and bars (20–30 \(\upmu \)G) and in central starburst regions (50–100 \(\upmu \)G). Such fields are dynamically important; they affect gas flows and drive gas inflows in central regions. Polarized emission traces ordered fields, which can be regular or anisotropic turbulent, where the latter originates from isotropic turbulent fields by the action of compression or shear. The strongest ordered fields (10–15 \(\upmu \)G) are generally found in interarm regions. In galaxies with strong density waves, ordered fields are also observed at the inner edges of spiral arms. Ordered fields with spiral patterns exist in grand-design, barred and flocculent galaxies and in central regions. Ordered fields in interacting galaxies have asymmetric distributions and are a tracer of past interactions between galaxies or with the intergalactic medium.—Faraday rotation measures of the diffuse polarized radio emission from galaxy disks reveal large-scale spiral patterns that can be described by the superposition of azimuthal modes; these are signatures of regular fields generated by mean-field dynamos. “Magnetic arms” between gaseous spiral arms may also be products of dynamo action, but need a stable spiral pattern to develop. Helically twisted field loops winding around spiral arms were found in two galaxies so far. Large-scale field reversals, like the one found in the Milky Way, could not yet be detected in external galaxies. In radio halos around edge-on galaxies, ordered magnetic fields with X-shaped patterns are observed. The origin and evolution of cosmic magnetic fields, in particular their first occurrence in young galaxies and their dynamical importance during galaxy evolution, will be studied with forthcoming radio telescopes like the Square Kilometre Array.

  • Spectroradiometry with space telescopes
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2015-12-21
    Anuschka Pauluhn, Martin C. E. Huber, Peter L. Smith, Luis Colina

    Radiometry, i.e. measuring the power of electromagnetic radiation—hitherto often referred to as “photometry”—is of fundamental importance in astronomy. We provide an overview of how to achieve a valid laboratory calibration of space telescopes and discuss ways to reliably extend this calibration to the spectroscopic telescope’s performance in space. A lot of effort has been, and still is going into radiometric “calibration” of telescopes once they are in space; these methods use celestial primary and transfer standards and are based in part on stellar models. The history of the calibration of the Hubble Space Telescope serves as a platform to review these methods. However, we insist that a true calibration of spectroscopic space telescopes must directly be based on and traceable to laboratory standards, and thus be independent of the observations. This has recently become a well-supported aim, following the discovery of the acceleration of the cosmic expansion by use of type-Ia supernovae, and has led to plans for launching calibration rockets for the visible and infrared spectral range. This is timely, too, because an adequate exploitation of data from present space missions, such as Gaia, and from many current astronomical projects like Euclid and WFIRST demands higher radiometric accuracy than is generally available today. A survey of the calibration of instruments observing from the X-ray to the infrared spectral domains that include instrument- or mission-specific estimates of radiometric accuracies rounds off this review.

  • The extragalactic gamma-ray sky in the Fermi era
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2015-12-19
    Francesco Massaro, David J. Thompson, Elizabeth C. Ferrara

    The Universe is largely transparent to \(\gamma \)-rays in the GeV energy range, making these high-energy photons valuable for exploring energetic processes in the cosmos. After 7 years of operation, the Fermi  Gamma-ray Space Telescope has produced a wealth of information about the high-energy sky. This review focuses on extragalactic \(\gamma \)-ray sources: what has been learned about the sources themselves and about how they can be used as cosmological probes. Active galactic nuclei (blazars, radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies) and star-forming galaxies populate the extragalactic high-energy sky. Fermi observations have demonstrated that these powerful non-thermal sources display substantial diversity in energy spectra and temporal behavior. Coupled with contemporaneous multifrequency observations, the Fermi results are enabling detailed, time-dependent modeling of the energetic particle acceleration and interaction processes that produce the \(\gamma \)-rays, as well as providing indirect measurements of the extragalactic background light and intergalactic magnetic fields. Population studies of the \(\gamma \)-ray source classes compared to the extragalactic \(\gamma \)-ray background place constraints on some models of dark matter. Ongoing searches for the nature of the large number of \(\gamma \)-ray sources without obvious counterparts at other wavelengths remain an important challenge.

  • Extragalactic HI surveys
    Astron. Astrophys. Rev. (IF 15.143) Pub Date : 2015-12-09
    Riccardo Giovanelli, Martha P. Haynes

    We review the results of HI line surveys of extragalactic sources in the local Universe. In the last two decades major efforts have been made in establishing on firm statistical grounds the properties of the HI source population, the two most prominent being the HI Parkes All Sky Survey and the Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA survey. We review the choices of technical parameters in the design and optimization of spectro-photometric “blind” HI surveys, which for the first time produced extensive HI-selected data sets. Particular attention is given to the relationship between optical and HI populations, the differences in their clustering properties and the importance of HI-selected samples in contributing to the understanding of apparent conflicts between observation and theory on the abundance of low mass halos. The last section of this paper provides an overview of currently ongoing and planned surveys which will explore the cosmic evolution of properties of the HI population.

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