Hubble discovery of runaway star yields clues to breakup of multiple-star system

March 17, 2017 by Karl Hille
This three-frame illustration shows how a grouping of stars can break apart, flinging the members into space. Panel 1: members of a multiple-star system orbiting each other. Panel 2: two of the stars move closer together in their orbits. Panel 3: the closely orbiting stars eventually either merge or form a tight binary. This event releases enough gravitational energy to propel all of the stars in the system outward, as shown in the third panel. Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levy (STScI)

As British royal families fought the War of the Roses in the 1400s for control of England's throne, a grouping of stars was waging its own contentious skirmish—a star wars far away in the Orion Nebula.

The stars were battling each other in a gravitational tussle, which ended with the system breaking apart and at least three stars being ejected in different directions. The speedy, wayward stars went unnoticed for hundreds of years until, over the past few decades, two of them were spotted in infrared and radio observations, which could penetrate the thick dust in the Orion Nebula.

The observations showed that the two stars were traveling at high speeds in opposite directions from each other. The stars' origin, however, was a mystery. Astronomers traced both stars back 540 years to the same location and suggested they were part of a now-defunct multiple-star system. But the duo's combined energy, which is propelling them outward, didn't add up. The researchers reasoned there must be at least one other culprit that robbed energy from the stellar toss-up.

Now NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers find the final piece of the puzzle by nabbing a third runaway star. The astronomers followed the path of the newly found star back to the same location where the two previously known stars were located 540 years ago. The trio reside in a small region of young stars called the Kleinmann-Low Nebula, near the center of the vast Orion Nebula complex, located 1,300 light-years away.

"The new Hubble observations provide very strong evidence that the three stars were ejected from a multiple-star system," said lead researcher Kevin Luhman of Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania. "Astronomers had previously found a few other examples of fast-moving stars that trace back to multiple-star systems, and therefore were likely ejected. But these three stars are the youngest examples of such ejected stars. They're probably only a few hundred thousand years old. In fact, based on , the stars are still young enough to have disks of material leftover from their formation."

All three stars are moving extremely fast on their way out of the Kleinmann-Low Nebula, up to almost 30 times the speed of most of the nebula's stellar inhabitants. Based on computer simulations, astronomers predicted that these gravitational tugs-of-war should occur in young clusters, where newborn stars are crowded together. "But we haven't observed many examples, especially in very young clusters," Luhman said. "The Orion Nebula could be surrounded by additional fledging stars that were ejected from it in the past and are now streaming away into space."

The image by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a grouping of young stars, called the Trapezium Cluster (center). The box just above the Trapezium Cluster outlines the location of the three stars. A close-up of the stars is top right. The birthplace of the multi-star system is marked "initial position." Two of the stars -- labeled BN, and "I," for source I -- were discovered decades ago. Source I is embedded in thick dust and cannot be seen. The third star, "x," for source x, was recently discovered to have moved noticeably between 1998 and 2015, as shown in the inset image at bottom right. Credit: NASA, ESA, K. Luhman (Penn State University), and M. Robberto (STScI)

The team's results will appear in the March 20, 2017 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Luhman stumbled across the third speedy star, called "source x," while he was hunting for free-floating planets in the Orion Nebula as a member of an international team led by Massimo Robberto of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The team used the near-infrared vision of Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to conduct the survey. During the analysis, Luhman was comparing the new infrared images taken in 2015 with infrared observations taken in 1998 by the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). He noticed that source x had changed its position considerably, relative to nearby stars over the 17 years between Hubble images, indicating the star was moving fast, about 130,000 miles per hour.

The astronomer then looked at the star's previous locations, projecting its path back in time. He realized that in the 1470s source x had been near the same initial location in the Kleinmann-Low Nebula as two other runaway stars, Becklin-Neugebauer (BN) and "source I."

BN was discovered in infrared images in 1967, but its rapid motion wasn't detected until 1995, when radio observations measured the star's speed at 60,000 miles per hour. Source I is traveling roughly 22,000 miles per hour. The star had only been detected in ; because it is so heavily enshrouded in dust, its visible and infrared light is largely blocked.

The three stars were most likely kicked out of their home when they engaged in a game of gravitational billiards, Luhman said. What often happens when a multiple system falls apart is that two of the member stars move close enough to each other that they merge or form a very tight binary. In either case, the event releases enough gravitational energy to propel all of the stars in the system outward. The energetic episode also produces a massive outflow of material, which is seen in the NICMOS images as fingers of matter streaming away from the location of the embedded source I star.

Future telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, will be able to observe a large swath of the Orion Nebula. By comparing images of the nebula taken by the Webb telescope with those made by Hubble years earlier, astronomers hope to identify more runaway from other multiple-star systems that broke apart.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

Explore further: New Hubble mosaic of the Orion Nebula

More information: "New Evidence for the Dynamical Decay of a Multiple System in the Orion Kleinmann-Low Nebula," K. L. Luhman et al., 2017 Mar. 20, Astrophysical Journal Letters iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/2041-8213/aa5ff6 , arxiv.org/abs/1703.05159

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HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (8) Mar 17, 2017
Worth considering ...

http://www.holosc...-system/

"Birkeland currents align themselves with the ambient magnetic field direction ... And in laboratory z-pinch experiments, the plasma tends to form a number of 'beads' along the axis (see HH34 above), which 'scatter like buckshot' once the discharge subsides."
Captain Stumpy
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 18, 2017
Worth considering ...
1- PSEUDOSCIENCE LINK

2- here is something worth considering more, because it's peer reviewed and it also has evidnece, somthing you can't even provide with your pseudoscience crank link
https://arxiv.org...03.05159

3- why should anyone take you serious when you can't provide science or legitimate source material and your other tactics are to simply regurgitate a random gish-gallop lie-fest, then repeat ad nauseum all over the net?
gkam
2.3 / 5 (9) Mar 18, 2017
"why should anyone take you serious"(ly), if you do not know how to use adverbs and apostrophes or to debate without offense?

Chris_Reeve
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 18, 2017
For me, the most offensive part is that he crowds out all attempts to help people to think for themselves. I am a web developer, and I'm pretty sure I could create in a weekend a bot that would produced the exact same output. It's mindless, repetitive and arrogant.
Chris_Reeve
1 / 5 (5) Mar 18, 2017
Also, I've at times seen the ratings jump in increments of 2.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Mar 18, 2017
It's mindless, repetitive and arrogant.

Captain Stoopid in a nutshell, that's why he's been blocked for 2 years now.
Chris_Reeve
2.8 / 5 (9) Mar 18, 2017
I'm not bothered if people disagree with me.

What bothers me is when others try to interfere with the communication of an alternative interpretation of the data. The public already has numerous outlets where they can go to receive the official doctrine of Big Science.

The idea that all sites must, in lockstep, mirror that officially-sanctioned worldview constrains the public's ability to understand their options for a personal worldview.

There really should be a ring of hell reserved for this. It's a form of intellectual slavery in that it fosters a dystopian master-servant cultural pattern.

People have a right to choose their own personal worldview.

Big Science can say whatever it wants.

That's not offensive to me.

The offensive part is when that monoculture is imposed upon everybody else -- as though homogenization of belief is some noble objective we should as a culture seek.

There is no thought put towards innovation in ANY of it.
SiaoX
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 18, 2017
I'm pretty sure, you still didn't visit any mainstream physics forum. The PhysOrg is still relatively liberal site (if we subtract Stumpy and few of his socks). Anyway, his time is nearing to end.
Chris_Reeve
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 18, 2017
Re: "The PhysOrg is still relatively liberal site (if we subtract Stumpy and few of his socks)."

I would argue that one single person can easily shift the culture to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Re: "Anyway, his time is nearing to end."

I hope you know something I don't.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2017
Re: "Anyway, his time is nearing to end."


I hope you know something I don't

He is very old, as Max Planck said;
"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
We're enlightening the next generation while the ignorant, outdated, mindless, repetitive, and arrogant, individuals such as jonesdumb and Cap'n Stoopid will soon be dead and in the ground along with their failed guesses.
Captain Stumpy
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 19, 2017
@zeph the pseudoscience aether idiot troll
(if we subtract Stumpy and few of his socks).
i don't have any... you're the one with more socks than sense
hell, i've personally tracked over 100 of your socks... LOL
Anyway, his time is nearing to end.
no it's not
Cap'n Stoopid will soon be dead and in the ground
so all the idiot trolling conspiracy nutters and pseudoscience f*cks are going to start a killing spree?

nice of you to advertise it - but you don't have the cojones to even try to face anyone with your BS crap... so what makes ya think you are capable of anything worse?

because trump will support you?
LMFAO

bring it on

PS - to you eu idiots - just becuase you can build a website and bots doesn't mean you will ever be mainstream science because MS requires evidence, repeatability and validation

and that is something none of you have ever been able to do
not one of you

Captain Stumpy
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 19, 2017
@idiot illiterate reeves/hannes
What bothers me is when others try to interfere with the communication of an alternative interpretation of the data
considering you just admitted that you can't present a legitimate scientific explanation nor something other than your beliefs.....

here is the problem with that - and it aint hard, either
in order to present the alternative interpretation you will need, just like all other "interpretations", evidence, repeatability and validation

you know - the scientific method

it doesn't work to just "say" that something is true
it never has in science

a scientific truth requires at the very least an evidence based peer reviewed study and subsequent validation

if you were even half literate you would know that one
SiaoX
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2017
What I can see is mentally ill guy - isn't it quite apparent?
SiaoX
1 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2017
Mass shooters are product of ignorant society, who overlook their asocial bullying behavior, which has origin in poorly covered hate of people. They indeed believe himself, they "have a historical mission" - for example the persecuting of "crackpots".
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (4) Mar 19, 2017
What I can see is mentally ill guy - isn't it https://www.faceb...y.Sirak?

It is readily apparent Cap'n Stoopid is mentally ill, it's posted all over his wall.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 19, 2017
ROTFLMFAO
It is readily apparent Cap'n Stoopid is mentally ill, it's posted all over his wall.
@nazi sympathizing idiot pseudoscience crew and zephir too
1- it is shared

2- the simple fact that you can't come up with any relevant peer reviewed science to promote your own delusional crap eu or aether beliefs so it leaves you to attacking random facebook pages as "proof" of anything is demonstrative of the problem with your whole cult belief system

i say again:
in order to present the alternative interpretation you will need, just like all other "interpretations", evidence, repeatability and validation

you know - the scientific method

it doesn't work to just "say" that something is true

it never has in science - it still doesn't

a scientific truth requires at the very least an evidence based peer reviewed study and subsequent validation

if you were even half literate you would know that one
HannesAlfven
1 / 5 (4) Mar 19, 2017
It's curious that phys.org doesn't take any action.
DeliriousNeuron
1 / 5 (4) Mar 20, 2017
WOW!! I've been away for several months and come back to see Captain Stupid is still here!
Still frantically trying to defend his increasingly dying views! LOL!
Captain Stupid, you should give up already and move on to something new. Over the last 3 years of me coming here, I've noticed you are losing ground and support. Especially over the last 6 months or so.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (4) Mar 20, 2017
Over the last 3 years of me coming here, I've noticed you are losing ground and support
@delerious trolling pseudoscience idiot
WTF does that even mean?
losing ground?

LOL

i advocate for the scientific method and evidence - that's it
there is no way to "lose ground and support"

unlike your pseudoscience crap - science doesn't vote on the popularity of people when it has evidence

i don't care if science is "unpopular", nor do i care if you pseudoscience idiots breed like rabbits

it changes absolutely nothing

pseudoscience is circular or delusional logic wrapped in an ignorant interpretation of reality while ignoring factual evidence
IOW - it's religion with tech-sounding words
****
science has evidence, validation, repeatability
you have your beliefs

science wins

back to hiding out from reality for you then, eh?
DeliriousNeuron
1 / 5 (3) Mar 20, 2017
If it changes nothing, why are you here? Afraid of something?
DeliriousNeuron
Mar 20, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Mar 21, 2017
If it changes nothing, why are you here? Afraid of something?
@delerious trolling pseudoscience idiot
so... you're illiterate then?
what does your breeding like rabits not changing anything have to do with my being anywhere?
LOL
... here is a link for you: http://www.readingbear.org/

I always find the irony in your posts.
considering you've just proven yourself to be illiterate, that is actually quite funny
and it's not irony when you don't understand what was written - it's illiteracy, or ignorance, or stupidity
take your pick

now, back to your "science": i notice you have produced exactly zero evidence supporting eu that can be validated

no studies at all from a reputable source

why is that?

because the eu aint science

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