Astronomers discover a new type of star called “ancient smokers”

A decade-long survey of the night sky has revealed a mysterious new type of star that astronomers refer to as an “ancient smoker.” These previously hidden stellar objects are aging giant stars located near the heart of the Milky Way. Stars remain inactive for decades, fading until they are almost invisible before spewing out clouds of smoke and dust, which astronomers believe could play a role in the distribution of elements across the universe. In the video player above: “Old Smoker” images and films four studies detailing the observations published on January 25 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Astronomers noticed ancient smoky stars for the first time during a survey that involved observing nearly a billion stars in infrared light, which is invisible. The observations were made using the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope, located at a vantage point high in the Chilean Andes at the Observatory. Cerro Paranal. Searching for newborn stars The team's initial goal was to search for newborn stars, which are difficult to detect. To detect it in visible light because it is obscured by dust and gas in the Milky Way. But infrared light can penetrate high concentrations of dust in the galaxy to pick up hidden or faint objects. While two-thirds of the stars were easy to classify, the rest were more difficult, so the team used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. To study individual stars, Philip Lucas, professor of astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire, said. Lucas was the lead author of one study and a co-author of the other three. While astronomers were observing hundreds of millions of stars, they tracked 222 stars that experienced noticeable shifts in brightness. The team found that 32 of them were newborn stars at least 40 times brighter, and some up to 300 times brighter. A large percentage of explosions are ongoing, so astronomers can continue to monitor how stars evolve over time. “It's years or even decades,” Dr. Chen Guo, a Fondecyt Postdoc Fellow at Valparaiso University in Chile, said in a statement. Gu was the lead author of two studies, and co-author of the other two. “Planetaries are forming. We don't yet understand why disks become so unstable,” Guo said. An unexpected stellar discovery During their observations of stars near the galactic center, the team identified 21 red stars that had undergone unusual changes in brightness that puzzled astronomers. “The brightness is caused by a disk or crust of dust in front of the star — or if they are older giant stars shedding matter in the late stages of their lives,” Lucas said. The team focused on seven of the stars and compared the new data. They combined data from previous surveys to determine that the stellar objects were a new type of red giant star. Red giants form when stars exhaust their stores of hydrogen needed for nuclear fusion and begin to die. In about 5 or 6 billion years, our Sun will become a red giant, inflating and expanding as it releases layers of material and potentially vaporizing the inner planets of the solar system, although Earth's fate remains unclear, according to NASA. But the stars that were observed during the Physics Department of Andres Bello University in Chile and co-author of three studies said, “These aging stars sit quietly for years or decades and then puff out clouds of smoke in a completely unexpected way.” Of the studies, in a statement. “They appear so dim and red for several years that sometimes we can't see them at all.” The stars are found largely in the innermost nuclear disk of the Milky Way, where stars are more concentrated in heavy elements. Understanding how ancient smokes ejected elements into space could change the way astronomers think about the way these elements are distributed across the universe. Astronomers are still trying to understand the process behind stars releasing thick smoke, and what happens next. “Stars ejected from ancient stars play a key role in the life cycle of elements, helping to form the next generation of stars and planets,” Lucas said. “This was thought to occur mainly in a well-studied type of star called a Mira variable. However, the discovery of a new type of star that sheds matter could have greater significance for the spread of heavy elements in the nuclear disk and metal-rich regions of other galaxies.” ”

See also  New evidence suggests that the world's largest known asteroid impact structure is buried deep in southeastern Australia

A decade-long survey of the night sky has revealed a mysterious new type of star that astronomers refer to as an “ancient smoker.”

These previously hidden stellar objects are ancient, giant stars located near the heart of the Milky Way. Stars remain inactive for decades, fading until they are almost invisible before spewing out clouds of smoke and dust, which astronomers believe could play a role in the distribution of elements across the universe.

In the video player above: Photos and filming of “The Old Smoker”

Four studies Details of the observations were published on January 25 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Astronomers observed ancient smoky stars for the first time during a survey that included observing nearly a billion stars in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye.

The observations were made using the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope, located at a vantage point high in the Chilean Andes at the Cerro Paranal Observatory.

Searching for newborn stars

The team's initial goal was to search for newborn stars, which are difficult to detect in visible light because they are obscured by dust and gas in the Milky Way. But infrared light can penetrate high concentrations of dust in the galaxy to pick up hidden or faint objects.

Philip Lucas, professor of astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire, said that while two-thirds of the stars were easy to classify, the rest were more difficult, so the team used the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope to study individual stars. Lucas was the primary author of One study and co-author of the other three.

See also  Possible source of ancient methane eruption identified - Ars Technica

While astronomers were observing hundreds of millions of stars, they tracked 222 stars that experienced noticeable changes in brightness. The team found that 32 of them were newborn stars at least 40 times brighter, and some up to 300 times brighter. A large percentage of explosions are ongoing, so astronomers can continue to monitor how stars evolve over time.

“Our main goal was to find rarely seen newborn stars, also called protostars, as they undergo a massive explosion that can last for months, years, or even decades,” said Dr. Chen Guo, a Fondecyt Postdoc Fellow at UCLA. Valparaiso, Chile, in a statement. It was Guo Lead author Of two studiesand co-authored the other two.

“These explosions occur in the slowly rotating disk of matter that forms a new solar system. They help the newborn star in the center grow, but they make it difficult for planets to form. We don’t yet understand why the disks are unstable,” Guo said. this”.

An unexpected stellar discovery

During their observation of stars near the galactic center, the team identified 21 red stars that had undergone unusual changes in brightness that puzzled astronomers.

“We weren't sure if these stars were protostars starting to explode, or recovering from a drop in brightness caused by a disk or crust of dust in front of the star — or if they were older giant stars shedding matter in the late stages,” Lucas said. Of their lives.”

The team focused on seven of the stars and compared the new data they collected with data from previous surveys to determine that the stellar objects are a new type of red giant star.

See also  An entirely new type of magnetic wave sweeping through the Earth's outer core has been discovered

Red giants form when stars exhaust their stores of hydrogen needed for nuclear fusion and begin to die. In about 5 or 6 billion years, our Sun will become a red giant, inflating and expanding as it releases layers of material and likely vaporizes the inner planets of the solar system, although Earth's fate remains unclear, according to NASA.

But the stars observed during the survey are different.

“These old stars sit quietly for years or decades and then spew out clouds of smoke in a completely unexpected way,” said Dante Minniti, a professor in the Department of Physics at Andres Bello University in Chile and co-author on three of the studies. a permit. “They look so dull and red for several years, that sometimes we can't see them at all.”

The stars are found largely in the innermost nuclear disk of the Milky Way, where stars are more concentrated in heavy elements. Understanding how ancient smokers released elements into space could change the way astronomers think about the way these elements are distributed across the universe.

Astronomers are still trying to understand the process behind stars giving off thick smoke, and what happens next.

“Material ejected from ancient stars plays a key role in the life cycle of elements, helping to form the next generation of stars and planets,” Lucas said. “This was thought to occur mainly in a well-studied type of star called a Mira variable. However, the discovery of a new type of star that sheds matter could have greater significance for the spread of heavy elements in the nuclear disk and metal-rich regions of other galaxies.” ”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *