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ALMA's image of a red giant star gives a surprising glimpse of the sun's future

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:24 pm

A Chalmers-led team of astronomers has for the first time observed details on the surface of an aging star with the same mass as the sun. ALMA's images show that the star is a giant, its diameter twice the size of Earth's orbit around the sun; they report that the star's atmosphere is affected by powerful, unexpected shock waves. The research was published in Nature Astronomy.

The team, led by Wouter Vlemmings of Chalmers University of Technology, used the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (ALMA) to make the sharpest observations yet of a star with the same original mass as the sun. The new images show for the first time details on the surface of the red giant W Hydrae, 320 light years distant in the constellation of Hydra.

W Hydrae is an example of an AGB (asymptotic giant branch) star. Such old stars are cool, bright, and lose mass via stellar winds. The name derives from their position on the famous Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, which classifies stars according to their brightness and temperature.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:25 pm

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Credit: Alma (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/W. Vlemmings

320 light years from Earth, the star W Hydrae is a few billion years further on than the Sun in its life. For comparison, the dotted ring shows the size of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, seen from an angle.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:27 pm



The star TW Hydrae is a popular target of study for astronomers because of its proximity to Earth (only about 175 light-years away) and its status as an infant star (about 10 million years old). It also has a face-on orientation as seen from Earth. This gives astronomers a rare, undistorted view of the complete protoplanetary disc around the star.

Other pronounced gaps that show up in the new images are located three billion and six billion kilometres from the central star, similar to the average distances from the Sun to Uranus and Pluto in the Solar System.

 
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Owlscrying
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Unread post Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:28 pm



This artist’s impression video shows the molecule methanol, or methyl alcohol (CH3OH). This organic compound has been found by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the closest known protoplanetary disc, around the star TW Hydrae in the huge constellation of Hydra (The Female Watersnake). This is the first such detection of the compound in a young planet-forming disc.

Its detection helps astronomers understand the chemical processes that occur during the formation of planetary systems and that ultimately lead to the creation of the ingredients for life.

 
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