Recently, with the aid of the Southern European Large Telescope, astronomers have made a somewhat baffling discovery. After a 4-year observation of a dust cluster, scientists have uncovered some ripples in space dust. High-speed chases around a young star may be observed in new pictures taken by SELT.
Astronomers were researching the possibility of planetoids in and among the star dust when they discovered that the particles’ movement was much faster and organized than anticipated. Upon a closer look, they found out that the so-called space dust particles where in fact arches in the form of waves, running around the disk of dust.
The young star that scientists observed was a red dwarf, caller AU Microscopii. With half the mass of our Sun and at the distance of 32 light-years, this red dwarf was in the center of attention for sometime because it is a wonderful possibility to see how a new star is formed.
Upon processing the images taken in these 4 years, astronomers concluded that these structures could be remnants of the star’s flares. The arches are traveling very fast across space (approximately 40,000 km/h.
Further studies show that these arches of stellar dust travel at such high-speed in an attempt to exit the red dwarf’s gravitational pull. Among other theories rejected by the scientific community is that the mysterious ripples could be remnants of an early collision between the star and passing asteroids or sudden shifts in the stars gravitational shear.
In another scenario which is somewhat far-fetched and still opened for debate, Glenn Schneider of Steward Observatory theorizes that the ripples could have been the result of a flare hitting the surface of one of the allegedly planets that reside in the vicinity of the red dwarf.
As Schneider states, the force of the impact could have stripped chunks of planetary rocks and threw them into the disk. The object could have been propagated through the dust cloud by means of the solar flares.
Still, the racing ripples still remain a mystery to the scientific community, but attempts of discovering how it ticks are already en route. Using the Acatama Large Millimeter/submillimiter telescope array in conjunction with the Southern European Large Telescope, scientists can look at this strange phenomenon from different point of views.
Marshall Perrin from the Space Science Institute of Maryland says that using these tools we can greatly enhance the quality of images taken, but if there are any planets trapped in the dust disc, we are unable to see them yet.
Image source: www.cdnph.upi.com/