The Optical Depth of [CII]: the Implications for Galaxies both Near and Far

By Cristian Guevara and Joan Schmelz

Paper: [C II] 158 µm self-absorption and optical depth effects
Guevara, C., et al., 2020/04, A&A, 636A, A16.

Photodissociation Regions (PDRs) are zones of the interstellar medium in which Far-UV photons dominate the thermal balance, chemistry, structure, as well as the distribution of the gas and dust. The incident FUV field photodissociates molecules, photoionizes atoms and molecules, and heats the gas and dust.

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SOFIA Detects Water on the Moon

By Casey Honniball, Paul Lucey, and Joan Schmelz

Paper: Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA
C.I. Honniball, et al., Nature Astronomy 2020.

Researchers using SOFIA have made the first-ever detection of the water molecule (H2O) on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery refines our understanding of the behavior of water and how volatile elements and compounds interact with airless bodies throughout the Solar System and beyond.

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Star Formation Across Cosmic Time

By Joan Schmelz

How do astronomers understand galaxies that are so far away that they may appear as a simple point source, even when observed with the most powerful telescopes? One proven technique is to study local analogues, galaxies that might have similar properties but are close enough to resolve their structures. A study like this was underway when researchers discovered something extraordinary – their observation was 10 times stronger than predicted.

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Magnetic Field May Be Keeping Milky Way’s Black Hole Quiet

By Kassandra Bell and Joan Schmelz

Supermassive black holes exist at the center of most galaxies, and our Milky Way is no exception. But many other galaxies have highly active black holes, meaning a lot of material is falling into them, emitting high-energy radiation in this “feeding” process. The Milky Way’s central black hole, on the other hand, is relatively quiet. New observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, are helping scientists understand the differences between active and quiet black holes.

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