The universe is teeming with planets. Almost 5,000 of these celestial bodies, which orbit distant stars like the Earth orbits our Sun, have been detected so far. Most of them can only be detected indirectly. All the more astonishing is the feat that a team with the participation of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has achieved: with ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array, the researchers have not only directly imaged the exoplanet PDS 70c at a distance of around 400 light years, but for the first time also a dust disk that surrounds it. This circumplanetary disk - seen as a small washed-out patch to the right of centre - is about the same diameter as the distance from the Sun to Earth and has enough mass to form up to three natural satellites the size of our Moon. The mother sun PDS 70 is also surrounded by dust. This matter appears here as a central cloud, but more importantly as a large circumstellar disk that resembles a ring in the photo.
Read more: The birth of exomoons
Artificial organs from the lab are one of the great visions of the future in medicine. But in order to create functional tissue, it must also be possible to grow vessels in it. This is the only way to ensure the supply of organs. Max Planck researchers have now succeeded in creating functioning vascular systems in an artificial hydrogel. To do this, they prick two parallel channels into the gel with an acupuncture needle. In one channel, they seed endothelial cells, which also line the blood vessels in natural tissues. After about a day, these cells form a functional vessel. Through the second channel, the scientists deliver a cocktail of growth factors that induce the endothelial cells (recognisable here by their pink-stained cell nuclei) to migrate into the surrounding gel. There they form new vessels, which were perfused with a liquid containing yellow fluorescent bead in the experiment.Read more: Synthetic tissue modell
The sun vibrates like a bell. Convective motions just below its surface excite millions of acoustic wave modes with periods of about five minutes. Earth-based telescopes and space observatories have been observing these fast oscillations for such a huge stellar gas ball since the mid-1990s. Helioseismology uses their properties to learn about the inner structure and dynamics of the Sun. Recently, a team from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and the University of Göttingen has now discovered new types of global oscillations with very long periods - they correspond roughly to the 27-day rotation time of our central star. These oscillations show up on the surface of the sun as huge vortex movements with speeds of around five kilometres per hour. The researchers compare their data with the results of computer models. In the animation, the long-period oscillations are shifted into the audible range and can thus be heard as a hum.
Read more here: The sound of the Sun
Instead of ox and donkey, there are alpacas in the stable at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen – and not only at Christmas. What makes them so intriguing for science (and, in the future, also for medicine) is a special property of their blood. If an alpaca comes into contact with foreign proteins, e.g. pathogens, antibodies against this protein are formed in its blood. So far, so ordinary. But alpacas can do even more: they form a second type of antibodies, which are much smaller and simpler. And which can be simplified even further in the laboratory, into so-called “nanobodies”. These have all the properties of the original antibodies desired by the researchers, but are much simpler, faster and can also be used with better results, e.g. in labelling cancer cells. Most importantly, once established, nanobodies can be produced in large quantities using bacteria. So the alpacas are only needed for a vaccination and a blood donation everything else happens in the lab. As has recently been shown, alpaca nanobodies are also very promising as a drug against Covid-19.Read more: Alpaca Nanobodies stop SARS-CoV-2