Astronomers Catch Young Star in Rare Growth Spurt

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first_img Rare Glimpse of Dying Star Confirms Prediction of Our Sun’s FateScientists Spot Two Dead Stars Dancing in Space Luminous spheroids of plasma—they’re just like us!Astronomers discovered a young star in the midst of a rare growth spurt.Instead of sprouting three inches, releasing strong BO, growing unwanted hair, and developing acne, the astronomical object is experiencing a “dramatic phase of stellar evolution.”According to the California Institute of Technology, matter swirling around the star has begun falling onto it, bulking up its mass.The youngster, called Gaia 17bpi, was simultaneously spotted by the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite and NASA’s asteroid-hunting Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft.NASA’s infrared-sensing Spitzer Space Telescope also detected the flare-up in more than a year before.Illustration of a young star undergoing a growth spurt (via Caltech/T. Pyle/IPAC)Stars are born from collapsing balls of gas and dust. Over time, a disc of material forms around the object, which continues siphoning elements. But previous observations suggest stars don’t pull matter onto themselves fast enough.So how do they manage to reach their final mass?FU Ori events—in which mass is dumped from the disk onto the star over a period of about 100 years—may help solve this riddle.Scientists believe all stars undergo 10 to 20 of these events in their lifetimes, but the stellar shows are likely hidden behind thick clouds of dust.“Somebody sketched this scenario on the back of an envelope in the 1980s, and, after all this time, we still haven’t done much better at determining the event rates,” Lynne Hillenbrand, a professor of astronomy at Caltech, said in a statement.The location of Gaia 17bpi, which lies in the Sagitta constellation, is indicated in the center of this image taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (via NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Kuhn/Caltech)Gaia 17bpi is only the 25th member of its class found to date, and one of about a dozen caught in the act of an outburst.“This is actually the first time we’ve ever seen one of these events as it happens in both optical and infrared light,” Hillenbrand said. “And these data have let us map the movement of material through the disk and onto the star.”As matter started to accumulate on the disk, it warmed up, giving off infrared light, Caltech explained. As this material fell onto the star, it heated up even more, giving off visible light—which is what Gaia detected.The study was published this week by the Astrophysical Journal.More on Discover ‘Farout,’ the Most Distant Solar System ObjectWe Now Know How Bright the Universe IsAstronomers Spot Evidence of Ancient Milky Way Merger Stay on targetlast_img

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