Skip to content
International News, Science

Cosmic chemistry unveils stellar dance: ALMA telescope discovers hidden orbit secrets

Monash University 2 mins read

A team of international scientists, armed with the powerful ALMA telescope array in Chile, has unravelled the cosmic mysteries surrounding a dying star, revealing an intricate celestial dance shaped by unusual chemistry.

The ground-breaking study, published today in Nature Astronomy, sheds light on the orbit of a cool red giant star, shedding its outer layers in a dramatic stellar wind during the twilight of its existence.

In a captivating exploration of the final stages of a star’s life, researchers stumbled upon unexpected molecular emissions on one side of the star, a cosmic anomaly pointing to the involvement of a hotter companion star.

Lead author Dr Taïssa Danilovich, an Australian Research Council (ARC) DECRA Fellow from the Monash University School of Physics and Astronomy said:

"Once we noticed the peculiar silicon nitride emission on one side, we knew something extraordinary was unfolding."

This cosmic spectacle unfolds in the W Aquilae system, where the dying star is not a lone performer but shares its cosmic stage with a longer-lived sunlike star. Until now, the intricacies of their orbit remained veiled in cosmic mystery, with only speculation that it might span centuries.

However, recent revelations from the study provide a stunning answer — a highly elliptical orbit, taking approximately a millennium to complete one mesmerising cycle.

The research team employed hydrodynamical simulations to decode the impact of the sunlike companion on the dying star’s stellar wind. Visualised as concentric rings when viewed from the side, these patterns were not just theoretical; they were vividly confirmed by ALMA data.

Complemented by observations from the SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, and historic insights from the Hubble Space Telescope, the team unlocked the secrets of the stellar moves.

The implications extend beyond the cosmic stage of W Aquilae. The study pioneers a technique using ALMA to detect chemical signatures left by past stellar encounters, a tool that promises to unveil the hidden companions of other enigmatic dying stars shrouded in cosmic dust.

In a galaxy where nearly half of stars like our Sun exist in pairs or triples, this research marks a crucial milestone in understanding how stellar companions shape the destinies of their celestial neighbours.

- ENDS -


MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Silvia Dropulich

+61 3 9902 4513
+61 435 138 743
silvia.dropulich@monash.edu  

GENERAL MEDIA ENQUIRIES

Monash Media
+61 (0) 3 9903 4840
media@monash.edu


For more Monash media stories, visit our news and events site

More from this category

  • Science
  • 28/02/2024
  • 11:00
Monash University

Monash expert: Three record low Antarctic sea ice summers in the past three years

A Monash University expert from the Securing Antarctica's Environmental Future research group is available to comment on the three record low Antarctic sea ice summers over the past three years, highlighting what could be a critical transition for Antarctic sea ice Dr Ariaan Purich, Lecturer in the School of Earth Atmosphere and Environment, Faculty of Science, Monash UniversityContact: +61 3 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu or ariaan.purich@monash.eduRead more of Dr Purich’s commentary at Monash Lens The following can be attributed to Dr Purich: “In February 2023, Antarctic sea ice extent broke the record minimum, set only a year earlier in February…

  • Environment, Science
  • 28/02/2024
  • 08:35
Parliament of Australia

New inquiry into Antarctica

TheJoint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territorieswill examine theimportance of Antarctica to Australia’s national interestin a new inquiry launched today. Committee Chair,Alicia Payne MP, said, “Australia has a proud history as an Antarctic leader. The Australian Antarctic Territory covers approximately 42 per cent of the continent and Australia plays a significant role in maintaining the continent for peace, scientific exploration, and environmental protection.” “Australia’s ongoing and future commitments in Antarctica are now more important than ever. Australia has a responsibility to itself and the international community to remain a strong advocate for Antarctica through its domestic and…

  • Engineering, Science
  • 28/02/2024
  • 08:30
UNSW Sydney

Making light work! Researchers create synthetic methane using only the sun

Engineers at UNSW have developed a way to produce a synthetic fuel from carbon dioxide using only sunlight. The research team’s process involves utilising light and heat to induce a reaction which creates synthetic methane from CO₂. Their research, published inEES Catalysis, could help to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. “Methane is the major component of natural gas, and already widely used as a source of fuel, but is also a powerful greenhouse gas. Creating synthetic methane using only the natural resource of the sun is a cleaner and greener alternative for usage in heavy transportation, shipping, and other specific…

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.