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.
Significantly more productivity in USP lasers
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
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07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine