An early present for astronomers, the cloud suggests that hot gas from many star-forming regions leaks into the interstellar medium.
The Orion nebula is the nearest dense star-forming region to Earth that contains stars much more massive than the Sun. XMM-Newton’s newly-discovered gas cloud is composed of winds blowing from these high-mass stars that are heated to millions of degrees as they slam into the surrounding gas.
“There is one star in particular that dominates the nebula,” says Manuel Güdel, Paul Scherrer Institut, Switzerland, who led the team that discovered the gas. The star in question is theta1 Orionis C, a giant star around 40 times mass of the Sun, with a surface temperature of 40,000°C. Güdel and his colleagues think that the violent collision between the wind from this star and the surrounding dense gas is largely responsible for the newly-discovered hot gas cloud.
The high-temperature gas fills a region of the nebula that appears to be a huge cavity in optical and infrared images. The new observations, taken with XMM-Newton’s European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera, suggest that astronomers are seeing only a particular portion of the gas. The X-rays from this portion escape absorption by patches of cold gas covering much of the front of the Orion nebula.
The surrounding pattern of absorbing clouds gives the detected gas its Santa Claus shape, with his prominent hat outlined by the northern gas bubble. In its entirety, the hot gas probably fills the whole nebula.
The team discovered it whilst conducting a survey of the young stars in the region. In the background of many of those images was a faint glow of X-rays. “The diffuse signal came up time and time again. Finally, we realized that it was something real,” says Güdel.
The presence of the hot gas in a fairly common nebula like Orion is surprising. Although theory has predicted such hot gas clouds, previous observations suggested that a large number of massive stars shedding winds, or supernova explosions are required. These are found in some regions of vigorous high-mass star formation, which are scattered only rarely throughout the galaxy. The new observations show that much smaller collections of high mass stars can produce hot gas as well.
There are many star-forming regions similar to the Orion nebula throughout the galaxy, so there should be a network of channels and bubbles being filled up by the hot gas leaking from these various regions. “This is another possible way to enrich the interstellar medium. You don’t have to wait for a sudden supernova to explode. You can do it with just one or two massive stars over millions of years,” says Güdel.
The team now plans to obtain new observations to determine how the gas flows out of the Orion nebula. In particular, they want to see whether it connects with a giant bubble created by supernova explosions from previous generations of massive stars.
Norbert Schartel | alfa
Quantum gas turns supersolid
23.04.2019 | Universität Innsbruck
Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun
18.04.2019 | University of Warwick
Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.
Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...
A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter
A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.
Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...
The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...
Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.
Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
09.04.2019 | Event News
23.04.2019 | Information Technology
23.04.2019 | Earth Sciences
23.04.2019 | Life Sciences