09/03/2021 at 2:03 PM CEST
Researchers at Boston University, in the United States, have discovered a point of unusual shape in the upper structure of a baby star. The characteristics of this star in formation, located 450 million light years from Earth, could shed light on the mysteries that still exist around the formation of the Solar System.
What was our Sun like in its first moments of existence? How did the Earth and the rest of the planets form under the heat of its influence? These and many other unknowns have not yet been fully resolved, although centuries of scientific knowledge have accumulated.
Astronomy has made progress towards the discovery of billions of stars and planetary systems located in the confines of the Milky Way and even in other galaxies, but many of the initial conditions of the Solar System they remain an enigma. Now, a new study recently published in the journal Nature could start a path that leads to unpublished answers.
Baby stars may be the key
To study young stars that share similar properties with our Sun is key to understanding the birth of our own planet and the Solar System, moving towards a deeper understanding of the cosmos. Precisely, the detection of a uniquely spot on a star baby specified by US astronomers reveals new information about how stars grow in their initial moments.
When a baby star is forming, it devours dust and gas particles that gather around it in so-called protoplanetary disks. Also, the process called accretion causes the aforementioned particles to collide with the surface of the star.
These shocks are generating hot spots and of extreme density on the outer structure of baby stars: they are the focal points of the accretion process. According to a press release, the new study has discovered one of those points in the baby star GM Aur, located in the Taurus-Auriga molecular cloud of the Milky Way.
Saying hotspot presents a form never seen before in this class of structures. The specialists discovered that the hot spot is not completely uniform and that it has an area inside it that is even hotter than the rest of the structure.
Related topic: They observe the birth of a planet for the first time.
The influence of the magnetic field
According to the scientists, the discovery confirms that the hot spots or focal points generated during the accretion process are “footprints” on the stellar surface, created by the magnetic field that acts as the axis of integration or communication between baby stars and the material of the protoplanetary discs.
In other words, the forces that interact in these complex processes determine how the structure of the indicated magnetic fields directs the particles of the protoplanetary disks, to subsequently collide with specific points on the surface of the growing stars. Although there were already theoretical models that explained this phenomenon, the discovery in the baby star GM Aur confirms and proves them in a real case.
According to astronomers, the behavior of the hot spot on this distant star and the confirmed dynamics around this process could have been similarly realized during the initial moments of our Sun’s existence.
Specialists argue that with the advancement of observational technologies it will be possible in the future to find new “footprints” that provide evidence on the the way the sun was when it was a star baby, and how its configuration influenced the creation of the planets and the entire Solar System.
Measuring the density structure of an accretion hot spot. Espaillat, CC, Robinson, CE, Romanova, MM et al. Nature (2021) .DOI: https: //doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03751-5
Cover photo: The image shows a young star called GM Aur eating gas and dust particles from a protoplanetary disk, which is represented by the green material that surrounds the bright star. Credit: MM Romanova.
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