Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find 'pinwheels' in Quintuplet cluster

22.08.2006
Discovery of pinwheel-shaped dust spirals around two of the mysterious cocoon stars in the Quintuplet cluster tells scientists for the first time that they contain a duo of stars instead of just one.

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.

Laura Bailey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://www.astro.lsa.umich.edu/~monnier/
http://www.astro.lsa.umich.edu/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging
17.10.2017 | American Association for the Advancement of Science

nachricht Filling the early universe with knots can explain why the world is three-dimensional
17.10.2017 | Vanderbilt University

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: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study suggests oysters offer hot spot for reducing nutrient pollution

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

17.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

World first for reading digitally encoded synthetic molecules

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>