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 A better way to weigh millions of solitary stars
15.12.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht A chip for environmental and health monitoring
15.12.2017 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

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: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>