Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dying Star Whirlpools

The central star of Sharpless 2-188 is 850 light years away and it is travelling at 125 kilometres per second across the sky.

Observations show a strong brightening in the direction in which the star is moving and faint material stretching away in the opposite direction.

The bright structures in the arc observed ahead of Sharpless 2-188 are the bowshock instabilities revealed in his simulations, which will form whirlpools as they spiral past the star downstream to the tail.

These vortices can improve the mixing of the stellar material back into interstellar space, benefiting the next cycle of star formation. The turbulent whirlpools have an inherent spin, or angular momentum, which is an essential ingredient for the formation of the next generation of stars." said Dr Wareing who developed the computer model during his PhD and is now using it to understand the fate of our Sun.

Dying stars eject both gas and dust into space. The dust will coalesce into planets around later generations of stars. The gas contains carbon, necessary for life and produced inside stars. How the carbon, other gas and dust are ejected from the dying star is not well understood. The whirlpools in space can play an important role in mixing these essential ingredients into the interstellar gas from which further stars and planets will form.

(Image credit: N Wright, University College London)
A combined image showing the bright regions and the faint regions behind the bright arc
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