Cosmic Spiral Around Red Giant Star R Sculptoris Could Elucidate Stellar Evolution
Published October 12, 2012
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Tags: astronomy, astrophysics, blogs, European Southern Observatory, popular, red giant, science, SciTechDaily, stellar evolution, technology
Observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have revealed an unexpected spiral structure in the material around the old star R Sculptoris. This feature has never been seen before and is probably caused by a hidden companion star orbiting the star. This slice through the new ALMA data reveals the shell around the star, which shows up as the outer circular ring, as well as a very clear spiral structure in the inner material. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
R Sculptoris, an elderly star, located 1,500 light-years from Earth, has been observed in the final stages of stellar life, slowly shedding the outer layers of its atmosphere. There are intensely high temperatures at the star’s core, which create a powerful stellar wind that drive these layers out. They usually accumulate into planetary nebulae over a few million years. It is believed that most small and medium-sized stars will undergo a similar process at the end of their life.
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