Astronomers Spot Mysterious Ripples Racing Around A Star

Posted: Oct 8 2015, 12:06am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 8 2015, 10:14pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Astronomers Spotted Mysterious Ripples Racing Around a Star
Courtesy of NASA/ESA/Hubble Space Telescope

The wave-like structures are surrounding a large disk of dust of a young star.

NASA/ESA astronomers have discovered a star with mysterious ripples racing around it and the fast moving, wave-like structures are seen all over the disk of dust of a young star.

Scientists were actually studying debris disc of the star called AU Microscopii or AU Mic to get a clue about its origin when they found something really unusual, a thing never seen or even predicted before.

"Our observations have shown something unexpected," said Anthony Boccaletti of the Observatoire de Paris, France, lead author of the study. "The images from SPHERE show a set of unexplained features in the disc which have an arch-like, or wave-like, structure, unlike anything that has ever been observed before."

The team of scientists spotted five moving features at different distances from the star, which looked quite similar to ripples in water. The discovery was made possible by using a recently installed ESO’s instrument named SPHERE, which has powerful high-contrast imaging capabilities.

Scientists then compared the latest image with the previous images taken by Hubble Space Telescope in 2010 and 2011 and they were amazed to see that not only these unusual features were visible in the previous images but they had changed considerably over the time. They had started to move as well and at a very fast rate.

“We reprocessed images from the Hubble data and ended up with enough information to track the movement of these strange features over a four-year period,” Christian Thalmann, a member of the team said. “By doing this, we found that the arches are racing away from the star at speeds of up to about 40,000 kilometers/hour.”

The features are continued to move faster and away from each other. It appears that at some point of time, most of them will escape the gravitational attraction of the star. However, astronomers are not sure about how these mysterious ripples came into existence and what caused them to move around the star.

Astronomers are coming forward with various explanations such as these strange structures might be triggered by star’s flares.

“AU Mic is a star with high flaring activity — it often lets off huge and sudden bursts of energy from on or near its surface,” said co-author Glenn Schneider of Steward Observatory, USA. “One of these flares could perhaps have triggered something on one of the planets — if there are planets — like a violent stripping of material which could now be propagating through the disc, propelled by the flare’s force.”

Nevertheless, the origin and nature of these features present a new mystery for astronomers to explore and they are planning to continue observing AU Mic with SPHERE and other advanced instruments to sort out the mystery.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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