Death Star Lasers Reveal The Secret Battle Which Is Going On At The Heart of The Ant Nebula: I T is an enormous explosion of two symmetrical, billowing bubbles of gas reaching out to form what we call the Ant Nebula. Now the pulse of lasers has been detected rippling through its shattered heart. The Ant Nebula is already odd. Its shape is not a common one.
Death Star Lasers Reveal The Secret Battle Which Is Going On At The Heart of The Ant Nebula
That is why the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory is taking a look at it back in the year 2013.
Even the infra-red space telescope has a long since decommissioned. Astronomers are still sifting through its mountains of data and imagery.
They have finally got around to looking at the heart of the Ant Nebula in some 8000 light years away.
This particular cloud is called Menzel 3. It is made up of dense gas, so what is going on with the dying star beneath it all is particularly difficult to observe.
Then astronomers spot with the lasers.
Thanks to the sensitivity and a wide wavelength range of the Herschel observatory that we detected a rare type of emission is called hydrogen recombination line laser emission which is providing a way to reveal the nebula’s structure and physical conditions, Leiden University astrophysicist Isabel Aleman says.
These lasers reveal a lot about what is going on inside.
When we observe Menzel 3, we see an amazingly intricate structure made up of ionized gas, but we cannot see the object in its center producing this pattern,” Aleman says.
Astronomers believe the dying star is a yellow dwarf, similar to our own. It reaches the end of its life. It ejects outer layers of gas as the core shrinks. What remains white deaf gets even hotter, ionizing the surrounding gas clouds and forming a nebula.
But the shape of Ant Nebula is odd. It is in a handful of other cases.
It sees to have something to do with the density of the central Menzel 3 gas cloud calculating to some 10,000 times thicker than usual.
Something is preventing the gas from escaping.
The only way to keep gas close to the star is if it is orbiting around it in a disc, University of Manchester astrophysics and study co-author Albert Zijlstra says.
In this case, we have observed a compact disc in the very center that is seen approximately edge-on.
This orientation helps to amplify the laser signal. The disc suggests the white dwarf has a binary companion because it is hard to get the ejected gas to go into orbit unless a companion star deflects it in the right direction.
The idea is the gas being cast off by the dying star is catching by a nearby neighbor a second star orbiting the first. The gas then falls to its surface and reacts as an accretion disc.
It is influencing the shape and composition of the gas clouds that do manage to escape.
Herschel offered the perfect observing capabilities to detect this extraordinary laser in the Ant Nebula. The findings will help constrain the conditions under which this phenomenon occurs, and help us to refine our models of stellar evolution.
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