Hubble Discovers Dusty Material Surrounding A Young Star

NASA's Hubble space telescope captures supernova's light echo
Photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope has enabled NASA scientists to spot dusty material enveloping the young star HR 4796A. The debris disk could help researchers study the formative years of a planetary system.  ( Hubblesite )

Astronomers at NASA have used the Hubble Space Telescope to discover a complex and vast dust structure that envelops the young star HR 4796A.

The structure approximately measures 150 billion miles in width. Its presence around the star system could help scientists know how the yet-unobserved planetary system appeared in its early years of construction.

The ring, which has asymmetries in the outer area, also implies that there are a lot of factors, apart from the radiation pressure of HR 4796A, that are moving around the material.

A Complex And Vast Dust Structure

The fine dust structure's debris field was probably generated when developing newborn planets collided near the star, according to NASA. The proof of this lies in the dusty debris' bright ring located 7 billion miles from HR 4796A. The star's light, which is 23 times brighter than the sun, created pressure that ejected the dust farther away into space.

The dust structure's puffy outer area is a lot more elongated in one side than the other. It therefore looks distorted in one direction. The peculiar appearance could be attributed to the star's moving motion through the interstellar medium, just as a boat creates bow waves while steering across a lake. The shape could also be caused by the other star in the system located around 54 billion miles away.

"The dust distribution is a telltale sign of how dynamically interactive the inner system containing the ring is," said researcher Glenn Schneider. "We cannot treat exoplanetary debris systems as simply being in isolation."

Environmental impacts such as the forces of companion stars or interstellar medium interactions may have a long-term implication on the evolution of debris systems, Scheider explained.

The paper was published in the February edition of the Astronomical Journal.

Debris Disks

The first proof of a debris disk enveloping any star was discovered with the help of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite in 1983, though the existence of such disks was hypothesized much before. Photographs taken later showed that the southern star Beta Pictoris had an edge-on debris disk.

During the latter part of the 1990s, the second-generation instruments on the Hubble enabled many more disks to be imaged. The instruments on the telescope had the ability to block the central star's glare.

There are now images of about 40 debris disks to date, mostly taken by Hubble. Debris disks are now taken to be a common occurrence around stars.

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