NASA's New Instrument Discovers Extraordinary Gas Cloud Around ejected Young Star

NASA's New Instrument Discovers Extraordinary Gas Cloud Around ejected Young Star

Introduction

Have you ever wondered how stars are formed? Numerous young stars undergo ejection processes, where they eject material from their surroundings. These materials often contain gas and dust, which can significantly impact the star's development. A recent study led by NASA's Spitzer Science Center has discovered a unique gas cloud surrounding an ejected young star named HD 178489. The findings of this study were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Finding HD 178489

HD 178489's gas cloud consists of roughly 70% hydrogen and 28% helium. This composition is similar to the primeval material found in the interstellar medium, the material from which stars are born. The remaining 2% of the cloud is made up of carbon monoxide (CO), which is uncommon in the outer environment of young stars.

According to study co-author Luca Derijcke of the University of Leuven in Belgium, CO is a very fragile molecule normally found in cold environments. It is intriguing to find it in a warmer, hostile outer setting where it is being destroyed. This discovery suggests that there is a relatively cold, dense layer within the cloud that is protecting and containing the CO.

The unique gas cloud

The gas cloud has an estimated mass of about 0.3 solar masses and surrounds a young star that is 2-3 times the mass of our Sun. Its orbit averages around 520 astronomical units (AU) from the star, which is significantly larger than the orbit of Pluto around the Sun (39 AU).

HD 178489 is located 445 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula, which is why the researchers nicknamed it the "Fox Star." They used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe it with near-infrared light, which allowed them to pinpoint the concentrations of gas and dust. With these measurements, the team of astronomers was able to create a precise image of the dust cloud and uncover its remarkable features.

Significance

The fact that these relatively large clouds are still present around HD 178489 suggests that the star ejected them a long time ago, perhaps more than 100,000 years. This indicates that the ejection process can be very slow and that these clouds are quite durable. Given the massive size of the cloud, it is likely that it will collide with other clouds in the future. This could lead to cloud consolidation, initiating the formation of new stars or planets.

Looking ahead

NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to use its incredibly sensitive instruments to examine the chemical makeup of the cloud in greater detail. This will provide researchers with a more comprehensive understanding of the formation and evolution of planets and stars. With this advanced technology, astronomers will be able to explore the cosmos in ways never before possible.

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