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Space Science

Aging Star System Leaves Strange Death Spiral 79

jamie tips a post at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog about an extremely unusual astronomical phenomenon originating from a binary system about 3000 light years away. Quoting: "The name of this thing is AFGL 3068. It's been known as a bright infrared source for some time, but images just showed it as a dot. This Hubble image using the Advanced Camera for Surveys reveals an intricate, delicate and exceedingly faint spiral pattern. ... Red giants tend to blow a lot of their outer layers into space in an expanding spherical wind; think of it as a super-solar wind. The star surrounds itself with a cloud of this material, essentially enclosing it in a cocoon. In general the material isn't all that thick, but in some of these stars there is an overabundance of carbon in the outer layers which gets carried along in these winds. ... AFGL 3068 is a carbon star and most likely evolved just like this, but with a difference: it's a binary. As the two stars swing around each other, the wind from the carbon star doesn't expand in a sphere. Instead, we see a spiral pattern as the material expands."
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Aging Star System Leaves Strange Death Spiral

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  • Amazing! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:36PM (#33493226)

    That's the coolest thing I've seen in a while, and how fortunate that it's oriented just right for us to see! Good to know there's always an inexhaustible supply of strange, bizarre things out there.

  • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @07:36PM (#33493230)
    Given that the only way we could see this amazing sight is it to be "flat" to us in our line of sight, if it was side on we would never see this in the glory that is there to be seen.

    Makes me wonder the same thing about all the planet hunters and exo-planets that we are finding - how many more would we be able to find if it didn't rely on having just the right angle from our vantage point...
  • by shermo ( 1284310 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:47PM (#33494026)

    Would you expect it to be random? Assuming we're looking at our own galaxy, would you expect some preference for orientation w.r.t. the galaxy's plane of rotation?

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @09:58PM (#33494100)

    Have you noticed how, since the advent of the Internet as a massive information medium, there are suddenly all classes of strange, unexplained stuff out there?

    No. What I've noticed is that since the advent of the internet more and more people are getting access to really cool discoveries that would otherwise have been relegated to scientific journals, and accessed only by scientists in the related field(s).

    I'm sorry... but either 21st century scientists are really lame, or we humans know *shit* about the universe and the laws that rule it. Wonder which one it is...

    We know more than we've ever known before. The thing is, every time we find a real answer to something we end up creating twenty new questions. That's the way human progress has always worked, and that's why science is so friggin' awesome. The more we figure out, the more new things there are to figure out!

  • by WalksOnDirt ( 704461 ) on Monday September 06, 2010 @10:36PM (#33494250)

    The star with the spiral is behind a self produced dust cloud. It makes it look more dramatic.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @12:37AM (#33494966) Homepage

    I'm sorry... but either 21st century scientists are really lame, or we humans know *shit* about the universe and the laws that rule it. Wonder which one it is...

    No, it's more like this: There's billions of stars out there, and when you investigate billions of something you'll find oddities. Kinda like if you observed one child birth, you'd probably get the normal one. If you looked at many you'd find twins, triplets, quadruplets = binary/trinary/???nary star systems. You'd find handicapped children, one-egged twins, two-egged twins, handicapped children, siamese twins, stillborns, people borne with extra limbs and whatnot. We have, and have had, a pretty good idea of how a normal star is formed, lives and dies. We're still working on cataloging all the exceptions and oddities, but I don't think we're that clueless.

  • by yotto ( 590067 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @05:42AM (#33496296) Homepage

    Until we know a lot of them, we simply don't know. However, considering the galactic plane is tilted with respect to our own ecliptic, I suspect the working theory is that no, the two have little to nothing to do with each other.

    I'd be curious the percentages of stars that a mission like Kepler is looking at, that actually have planets transiting them. And if that percentage is roughly equal to what you'd expect with a random distribution of ecliptics. It would not surprise me in the least if the numbers matched.

  • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @08:11AM (#33496822)

    Yes, but if I'd said blossom you might not have connected it with spiral. Whereas, the way I wrote it, you did. Helping people make connections is part of communication.

  • Re:Amazing! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @12:01PM (#33498612) Homepage

    only bizarre if you continue to ignore the electric universe. gas that is that hot is not "hot gas" it's plasma. plasma is electrically conductive. a spiral is exactly the form you'd expect a birkeland current in glow discharge mode to take. no mystery there unless you absolutely insist on viewing it in terms of mechanical shock waves. then it's strange indeed.

    1) There is no mystery here in conventional cosmology whatsoever. This is exactly what you'd expect to see when the source of the emission is moving in a circle. The Slashdot submission painted it as "strange", welcoming you to make the false inference that this means "unexplained", only revealing at the end why this is unusual, but not actually mysterious: It's a binary system. The stars are circling each other, and so it is completely expected that their emissions would form a spiral. But you were happy to assume "conventional cosmology cannot explain this" even though it was both unstated and unsupported.

    2) Astrophysicists are well aware that stars and their emissions consist of plasmas; it's an important component of modern solar models. They are also aware that while plasmas are conductive if of sufficient density, a sufficiently dense plasma will also be quasi-neutral and the negatively and positively charged particles therein cannot move in the same direction under the influence of an electric field. Electric cosmologists forget this when trying to explain stellar emissions like the solar wind, which has been experimentally shown to be quasi-neutral (as would be expected by anyone who actually understood plasmas).

    Leaping on non-existent failings of conventional theory, while ignoring the blatant contradictions between EU and experiment, are par for the course however.

To err is human, to moo bovine.