Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

International team observe 'hungry twin' stars gobbling their first meals

01.02.2013
Just-forming stars, like growing babies, are always hungry and must “feed” on huge amounts of gas and dust from dense envelopes surrounding them at birth.
Now a team of astronomers including Robert Gutermuth, a University of Massachusetts Amherst expert in imaging data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, reports observing an unusual “baby” star that periodically emits infrared light bursts, suggesting it may be twins, that is, a binary star. The discovery is reported this month in Nature.

The extremely young object, dubbed LRLL 54361, is about 100,000 years old and is located about 950 light years away toward the Perseus constellation. Years of monitoring its infrared with the Spitzer instrument reveal that it becomes 10 times brighter every 25.34 days, Gutermuth and colleagues say. This periodicity suggests that a companion to the central forming star is likely inhibiting the infall of gas and dust until its closest orbital approach, when matter eventually comes crashing down onto the protostellar “twins.”

Gutermuth, who surveys star-forming molecular clouds with Spitzer to search for protostars, says, “The idea that this object is a baby binary system fits our data, so, twins fit our data. In single protostars, we would still see matter dumping onto the star non-uniformly, but never with the regularity or intensity of the bursts we observe in LRLL 54361. The 25.43-day period is consistent with the orbital period we would expect from a very close binary star.”

The protostar twins, embedded in a gas “cocoon” many times larger than our solar system, offer an unusual chance to study what looks like a developing binary star system, he adds. Because dense envelopes of gas and dust surround embryonic stars, the only detectable light to escape is at longer, infrared wavelengths. “Spitzer’s infrared camera is perfect for penetrating this cool dust to detect emission from the warm center,” says Gutermuth.

“When you have two young stars feeding from the same circumstellar disk, the gravitational influence of the secondary companion can cause hiccups, an inhibition of infalling material from the disk. But when the orbital paths approach closely, that material can rush in, triggering feeding pulses for both stars and releasing a bright burst of light. The flash moves out from the center, reflecting off the disk and cavities in the envelope like an echo reverberating out from cave walls. We’ve seen the light flashes with Spitzer and have imaged the echo-tracing cavities in its envelope with the Hubble Space Telescope.”

The light echo to which Gutermuth refers is seen in images taken at the near-infrared limit of the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument. The lead investigator for this work and the Spitzer study is UMass Amherst alumnus James Muzerolle, now of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore. The investigators are careful to point out that they’re not sure what is at the center of object LRLL 54361, but if it is an embryonic binary star, the prospects are exciting.

Scientists have shown that close binary low mass stars are a somewhat rare outcome of the star formation process. But understanding their formation is critical to address some of the fundamental open questions in star and planet formation, such as how protostars form, how they accumulate their mass and how planets form from their circumstellar disks, Gutermuth points out. It’s believed that most of a central star’s mass is assembled early, whereas planet formation in spinning outer gaseous disks may take several million years to complete.

Another reason this object is so interesting, he says, is that it provides a new demonstration of the impact of time-domain astronomy. “By analyzing the variability of this object’s light over time, we have obtained a unique set of constraints on its physical nature. This system offers us a rare chance to observe the evolution of the disk and envelope around a binary star in almost real time.”

“Looking ahead, we’ll characterize this system further at millimeter wavelengths with the aid of the Large Millimeter Telescope now becoming operational under a partnership between UMass Amherst and Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica. Studying millimeter variability over time will be part of our approach.”

Janet Lathrop | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umass.edu
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v493/n7432/full/nature11746.html

Further reports about: Amherst Space Telescope gas and dust planet formation young star

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht MEMS chips get metatlenses
21.02.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht International team publishes roadmap to enhance radioresistance for space colonization
21.02.2018 | Biogerontology Research Foundation

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected

21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>