The spiral shape is a telltale sign of a binary system, which means that it is two lighter-weight stars in orbit around each other, rather than one. Although lighter, these stars are still classified as massive, and will each still become a supernovae and provide giant energy pulses in this cluster located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy.
The finding put to rest the debate among astronomers over these dust-enshrouded stars, said John Monnier, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan. It also proves that massive stars in this cluster are smaller than previously thought, and it follows that dust cocoons seen elsewhere in the galaxy are likely also harboring two stars instead of one.
The findings will appear Aug. 18 in the journal Science, in the paper " 'Pinwheels' in the Quintuplet Cluster." Monnier co-authored the paper with lead author Peter Tuthill, a research astrophysicist in the department of physics at the University of Sydney.
Scientists have debated the nature of the Quintuplet cluster stars for years. The cluster was named after its prominent five bright red stars. However, up until now, the stars have been tough to view because they are quite distant and each hidden in a shroud of dust. Astronomers used the world's biggest optical telescope, the Keck in Hawaii, to zoom in on the stars, according to Tuthill.
The magnification achieved was five times greater than the best existing images of the cluster. Although still unable to see through the dust completely, the enhanced resolution allowed researchers to see that the dust formed spiral pinwheels, the same type of dust seen in a type of massive star called a Wolf-Rayet star.
Monnier and Tuthill first identified the characteristic dust pinwheels around this type of Wolf-Rayet star in 1999. Wolf-Rayet stars are thought to be immediate precursors to supernova, the explosion at the end of a massive star's life. Supernovae are rare events, but can be identified across the universe because they produce extremely bright objects made of hot plasma that can be a millions of times brighter than the star that exploded.
The spiral dust that was observed in the Quintuplet stars is caused by colliding stellar winds from two stars near one another, Monnier said. The aftermath of the violent wind collision produces a stream of dust, and this dust stream shows researchers they are actually observing two or more stars, and allow a much better estimate of their actual masses.
Counting and weighing these massive stars correctly are crucial to understanding the history of our galaxy, since the final supernova explosions have a dominant effect on their surroundings, including producing and spreading out much of the heavier elements needed for forming planets around lower-mass stars like the Sun.
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy