Spinning slowly in the web

Sep 26, 2007
Spinning slowly in the web

University of St Andrews astronomers have succeeded in tracing the magnetic web that binds newly forming stars to their surrounding gas and dust. The findings will improve understanding of how stars, including the Sun, form.

The Scottish scientists were part of an international team led by French astronomer Jean-Francois Donati.

St Andrews researcher Dr Moira Jardine said, "This is the first time that we've been able to map the magnetic field of a star that is so young that it is still forming. We know that new stars form in molecular clouds and, as they collapse they should spin up - just like an ice-skater pulling in their arms to spin. That was the theoretical prediction anyway but, when young stars were first observed, it was found that they were in fact spinning quite slowly, contrary to the original prediction."

"We've thought for some time now that this rapid spinning is prevented by the magnetic web that links the new star to the disk of gas and dust out of which it formed. Now, for the first time, we've been able to trace the individual strands of this web along which gas drains out of the disk and onto the star. These new observations will help us to understand how stars like the Sun formed, and how their surrounding disks might evolve to form planets like our own".

The baby star in question (V2129 Ophiuchi) is only a few million years old and is so young that it is still forming. It is currently shrinking down to its adult proportions so, although it is about the same weight as the Sun, it is about 2.5 times its size. It can be found in the constellation Ophiuchus but, at a distance of 420 light years, is about a million times too faint to be seen with the naked eye.

The paper is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Source: University of St Andrews

Explore further: Magnetar discovered close to supernova remnant Kesteven 79

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mysteries of space dust revealed

Aug 29, 2014

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

Evidence for supernovas near Earth

Aug 27, 2014

Once every 50 years, more or less, a massive star explodes somewhere in the Milky Way. The resulting blast is terrifyingly powerful, pumping out more energy in a split second than the sun emits in a million ...

Recommended for you

Raven soars through first light and second run

19 hours ago

Raven, a Multi-Object Adaptive Optics (MOAO) science demonstrator, successfully saw first light at the Subaru Telescope on the nights of May 13 and 14, 2014 and completed its second run during the nights ...

How can we find tiny particles in exoplanet atmospheres?

Aug 29, 2014

It may seem like magic, but astronomers have worked out a scheme that will allow them to detect and measure particles ten times smaller than the width of a human hair, even at many light-years distance.  ...

User comments : 0