Planets and stars helped to create dusty planetary nebulaMarch 11th, 2008 - 2:09 pm ICT by admin
Washington, March 11 (ANI): Astronomers at the University of Rochester, US, have determined that low-mass stars and possibly even super-Jupiter-sized planets may indeed be responsible for creating the planetary nebula.
A planetary nebula is an astronmical object consisting of a glowing shell of gas and plasma formed by certain types of stars at the end of their lives.
When this object was discovered 300 years ago, astronomers couldn’t tell what it was and named it for its resemblance to the planet Uranus. But as early as the mid-19th century, astronomers realized these objects are really great clouds of dust emitted by dying stars.
Now, Rochester researchers have found that planets or low-mass stars orbiting these aged stars may indeed be pivotal to the creation of the nebulae’s fantastic appearance.
For the research, the team of astronomers studied the consequences of a dying star that possesses an orbiting companion.
“Few researchers have explored how something as small as a very low-mass star, a brown dwarf, or even a massive planet can produce several flavors of nebulae and even change the chemical composition of the dust around these evolved stars,” said Eric Blackman, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester.
According to Blackman, most medium-sized stars, such as our Sun, will end their lives as planetary nebulae. The stage lasts only several tens of thousands of years, so it is a relatively rare sight.
As the star begins to deplete its fuel near the end of its life, its core contracts and its envelope expands, eventually throwing off its outermost layers millions of miles into space.
One time in five, this envelope keeps its roughly spherical shape as it expands, but much more often this envelope contorts and elongates into new and fantastic shapes, said Blackman.
The Rochester team showed that in the case when the planet or companion star is in a very wide orbit, the planet’s gravity begins to drag some of the envelope material around with it.
The envelope materialessentially a thin mixture of gas and dustbecomes compressed in spiral waves radiating out from the central star like a twisted wagon wheel, said Blackman.
The dust and gas compresses more and more in these spiral waves until they crest, much like waves breaking on a beach. Eventually, a torus of dust forms around the star’s mid-section, likely blocking much of the expanding envelope like a belt around an inflating balloon.
Over time, such constrained expansion can lead to striking shapes, such as seen in the appropriately named Dumbbell Nebula. (ANI)
- Astronomers discover new planet in planetary system similar to our own - Dec 09, 2010
- Billions of life bearing planets float in the milky way - May 14, 2012
- First multi-planet solar system spotted - Aug 29, 2012
- Parent star's long 'napping' could trigger the formation of baby stars - Mar 10, 2011
- Image from NASA shows 'glowing jellyfish' star in speckled sea - Nov 18, 2010
- First ever proof of star devouring planet - Aug 21, 2012
- New space image reveals dynamic and violent process of star birth - Feb 12, 2010
- New solar system found 127 light years away - Aug 25, 2010
- Astronomer finds planetary system larger than our own - Apr 13, 2012
- Brown dwarf star found orbiting a young sun-like star - Jul 30, 2010
- Hot Jupiter exoplanet discovery sheds light on evolution of planetary systems - Jan 16, 2011
- Massive stars are born the same way as their smaller counterparts - Jul 15, 2010
- Star's nebula may be fuelled by double engine - Aug 06, 2009
- Large mysterious object 'on edge of solar system hurling comets at Earth' - Dec 08, 2010
- 'Cosmic fireworks display' seen inside Helix Nebula - Jul 03, 2009
Tags: brown dwarf, chemical composition, clouds of dust, companion star, core contracts, dying star, flavors, low mass, mass star, mass stars, massive planet, outermost layers, planet uranus, planetary nebula, planetary nebulae, planets and stars, rare sight, rochester researchers, sized planets, spherical shape