The Very Large Telescope peaks into an old star system for the first time
ESO’s Very Large Telescope has captured an incredibly detailed image of dusty disc surrounding an old star and it is possibly the sharpest view ever of such kind.
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Stars used to form discs of dust and gas around themselves both in early and later stages of their lives. The material is obtained by stellar winds and it helps form future planets.
Astronomers have been able to capture dusty discs around young stars before because they were close enough to be studied in depth but it’s the first time when they have reached out to an aging star and taken an incredibly close view of the celestial object.
“Our image provides the most detailed view into the heart of the dusty circumstellar disc to date.” Authors wrote in the study.
The aging star, named IRAS 08544-4431 is located 4000 light years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Vela and surprisingly harbors two stars. One is red giant star which discharges material and the other is a more normal star orbiting close to it.
Thanks to the sharp eye of The Very Large Telescope Infrerometer installed at European Southern Observatory, researchers were able to remove central stars from the image that had been obscuring the aging star system and could separate all the building blocks of the star in this milliarcsecond-resolution image
“By combining light from several telescopes of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, we obtained an image of stunning sharpness – equivalent to what a telescope with a diameter of 150 meters would see. The resolution is so high that, for comparison, we could determine the size and shape of one euro coin seen from a distance of two thousand kilometers.” Jacques Kluska, a team member said in a statement.
The most prominent feature of the image is the dusty ring itself which is broken from the inside, suggesting that the dust closer to the stars disappears because of the fierce radiation emitting from their host stars.
Researches also observed a faint glow which is likely produced by the accretion disc around the companion star. This is the first time when researcher not only gazed at the inner regions of a distant system but also able to compare the dusty disc around the old star with that of the young ones.
Researchers found that the disc of IRAS 08544-4431 looks similar to the young star’s disk but they are unsure whether its material also has the ability to form future crop of planets.
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“Our observations and modeling open a new window to study the physics of these discs, as well as stellar evolution in those doubles starts,” said co-researcher Hans Van Winckel. “For the first time the complex interactions between close binary systems and their dusty environments can now be resolved in space and time.”