For the first time, scientists have observed the powerful whirlwinds shooting out of a newly formed star located about 450 light years away. The space outbursts occurred in the early stages of a new solar system's formation, when young stars are known to emanate jets of gas.
A star is born when large clouds of gas and dust in galaxies begin to contract and condense due to the force of gravity; eventually, the mass of gas and dust begins to collapse and its center heats up. This hot core becomes the new star. The remaining material rotates in a disc around the star and can give birth to new planets. This is how solar systems are formed.
This particular one, described in a study published this week in Nature, was observed by researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute with the ALMA telescopes — a group of 66 telescopes in Chile. The researchers were able to observe the protostar in its very early stage, when a powerful wind of space material was ejected from the star.
“We see how the wind, like a tornado, lifts material and gas up from the rotary disc, which is in the process of forming a new solar system,” Per Bjerkeli, a postdoc in astrophysics and planetary science at the Niels Bohr Institute and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, said in a statement.
The observations revealed that the star’s whirlwind didn’t originate from the center of the rotating disc of gas and dust, as researchers expected. Instead, it formed across the entire disc, says Jes Jørgensen, associate professor in astrophysics and planetary science at the Niels Bohr Institute and the Centre for Star and Planet Formation at the University of Copenhagen.
Next, the researchers want to figure out if the star’s ejected gas eventually falls back into the rotating disc and contributes to the formation of new planets.