Star collision helps solve 16-year-old mystery of the Blue Ring Nebula

Star collision helps solve 16-year-old mystery of the Blue Ring Nebula

NASA / JPL-Caltech / R. Injury

Imagine for a moment from this hellish year that a small star is orbiting our Sun. After eons, Two stars collide. The chaotic smash leaves behind a star and surrounds a blue cloud of dust and gas, A nebula, Pervades the universe. The cloud extends over a distance of about 13 light-years, which is sufficient to eliminate 10 solar systems.

While such luck does not wait for our sun (although it is 2020, so …), that exact scenario would have occurred a few thousand years ago on TYC 2597-735-1, a star that contained more than 6,000 light. – Years away from Earth. Since the discovery of the star and its intriguing blue ring by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer Space Telescope in 2004, astronomers have been surprised to see how it happened.

“Every time we thought we’d come to know that something would tell us’ no, that’s not right,” said Mark Karber, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science and co-authored a new study published in the journal. On Author Nature. Wednesday.

Using data from the telescope, also known as GALEX, and a suite of other ground- and space-based telescopes to study the so-called Blue Ring Nebula in greater detail, the team of astronomers believe Is that a stellar collision may have caused cosmic asymmetry.

GALEX was launched in 2003 and studied the universe in ultraviolet light, before being decommissioned 10 years later. It saw an ultraviolet ring around TYC 2597-735-1 in 2004. To help visualize the cloud, researchers can color it. The image below shows the UV light displayed in blue and a faint pink ring encasing the debris, which signifies visible light. The bright yellow ball in the center is TYC 2597-735-1.

Blue ring nebula

Our view of the Blue Ring Nebula from Earth produces this stunning image, in which the UV light is artificially blue and the visible light is light pink. Astronomers believe that they have worked on its strange 3D geometry.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / NASA / JPL-Caltech / M. Seibert (Carnegie Institution for Science) / K. Hoadley (Caltech) / GALEX Team

With the help of space-based telescopes such as Hawaii’s WM Keck Observatory, the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, and NASA’s retired Spitzer, researchers began to establish some facts about the cloud. Observations at various wavelengths of light and computer modeling helped to tell the whole story and explain the origin of the Blue Ring.

It includes a star about the size of our Sun that collides in a small stellar merge. The sun-like star began to form a balloon, capturing the larger star in its gravity. The two danced, gravitationally bound, for years and as the asteroid got closer, it began to break the limbs of his large dancing partner, forming a disk of gas that wrapped the pair. When the small star was finally consumed, one ton of energy slipped through the gaseous disk and was ejected into two cone-shaped clouds.

Because the Blue Ring Nebula faces the Earth directly, we see cone clouds as a grand ring in the sky. It looks like an ice cream cone. If you place the cone horizontally up to your eye (a bad idea), you can see that there is a ring of ice-cream at the top (before sliding to the ground.) Ultraviolet light is heated by hydrogen atoms. is. In the cone.

The animation at the top of the article exposes the nebula’s 3D structure in impressive detail by moving the cloud around and giving us a better angle. (You can also see an optical illusion where it appears that the two cones are moving towards each other instead of moving around the central star.)

Astronomers are also excited because they have caught the merger process in the most timely manner. Don Neil, a Caltech research scientist and co-author on the paper, compared it to capturing a child’s first step in a Caltech release. “If you nap, you can miss it,” he said. This is the first time researchers have been able to see a merger system like this Dipped in excessive dust, staring at the star in its center.

In a few hundred thousand years, the Blue Ring Nebula would have faded away, as if it had never been. Perhaps we can say the same about 2020 in a few months.

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