Cosmic dust inteferes with astronomical observations

February 7th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 7 (IANS) Space dust interferes with the observation of distant stars and annoys astronomers just as much as the household variety does.”We not only do not know what the stuff is, but we do not know where it is made or how it gets into space,” said Donald York, professor in astronomy at the University of Chicago.

But now York and University of Toledo’s Adolf Witt and their collaborators have observed a double-star system that displays all the characteristics that astronomers suspect are associated with dust production.

The double star system, designated HD 44179, sits within what astronomers call the Red Rectangle, an interstellar cloud of gas and dust (nebula) located approximately 2,300 light years from earth, said a Chicago release.

One of the double stars is of a type that astronomers regard as a likely source of dust. These stars, unlike the sun, have already burned all the hydrogen in their cores. Labelled post-AGB (post-asymptotic giant branch) stars, these objects collapsed after burning their initial hydrogen, until they could generate enough heat to burn a new fuel, helium.

The Astrophysical Journal will publish a paper reporting their discovery in March.

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