Thursday, November 30, 2023

Stellar Disc Discovered in Neighboring Galaxy | European Southern Observatory

Stellar Disc Discovered in Neighboring Galaxy | European Southern Observatory

ESOCast 268 Light: Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) astronomers have for the first time found a disc around a young star outside our own galaxy. This video summarizes the discovery. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is an ALMA partner. 

“When I first saw evidence for a rotating structure in the ALMA data I could not believe that we had detected the first extragalactic accretion disc, it was a special moment,” says Anna McLeod, an associate professor at Durham University in the UK and lead author of the study published today in Nature. “We know discs are vital to forming stars and planets in our galaxy, and here, for the first time, we’re seeing direct evidence for this in another galaxy.” 

As matter is pulled towards a growing star, it cannot fall directly onto it; instead, it flattens into a spinning disc around the star. Closer to the center, the disc rotates faster, and this difference in speed shows astronomers an accretion disc is present.

The detailed frequency measurements from ALMA allowed the authors to distinguish the characteristic spin of a disc, confirming the detection of the first disc around an extragalactic young star.

Massive stars, like the one observed here, form much more quickly and live far shorter lives than low-mass stars like our Sun. In our galaxy, these massive stars are notoriously challenging to observe and are often obscured from view by the dusty material they formed from at the time a disc is shaping around them. However, in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a galaxy 160,000 light-years away, the material new stars are being born in is fundamentally different from that of the Milky Way Galaxy. Thanks to the lower dust content, HH 1177 is no longer cloaked in its natal cocoon, offering astronomers an unobstructed, if far away, view of stellar and planetary formation.

Video Credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Directed by: Angelos Tsaousis and Martin Wallner

Editing: Angelos Tsaousis

Written by: Pamela Freeman and Tom Howarth

Footage and Photos: ESO / L. Calçada, M. Kornmesser, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), A McLeod et al. 

Scientific Consultants: Paola Amico, Mariya Lyubenova

Release Date: Nov. 29, 2023

Duration: 1 minute, 29 seconds

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