Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Track Collision Of Powerful Stellar Winds

Date:
April 14, 2005
Source:
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
Summary:
Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope have tracked the motion of a violent region where the powerful winds of two giant stars slam into each other. The collision region moves as the stars, part of a binary pair, orbit each other, and the precise measurement of its motion was the key to unlocking vital new information about the stars and their winds.

Motion of Wind Collision Region: Graphic superimposes VLBA images of wind collision region on diagram of orbit of Wolf-Rayet (WR) star and its giant (O) companion. (CREDIT: Dougherty et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope have tracked the motion of a violent region where the powerful winds of two giant stars slam into each other. The collision region moves as the stars, part of a binary pair, orbit each other, and the precise measurement of its motion was the key to unlocking vital new information about the stars and their winds.

Related Articles


Both stars are much more massive than the Sun -- one about 20 times the mass of the Sun and the other about 50 times the Sun's mass. The 20-solar-mass star is a type called a Wolf-Rayet star, characterized by a very strong wind of particles propelled outward from its surface. The more massive star also has a strong outward wind, but one less intense than that of the Wolf-Rayet star. The two stars, part of a system named WR 140, circle each other in an elliptical orbit roughly the size of our Solar System.

"The spectacular feature of this system is the region where the stars' winds collide, producing bright radio emission. We have been able to track this collision region as it moves with the orbits of the stars," said Sean Dougherty, an astronomer at the Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics in Canada. Dougherty and his colleagues presented their findings in the April 10 edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

The supersharp radio "vision" of the continent-wide VLBA allowed the scientists to measure the motion of the wind collision region and then to determine the details of the stars' orbits and an accurate distance to the system.

"Our new calculations of the orbital details and the distance are vitally important to understanding the nature of these Wolf-Rayet stars and of the wind-collision region," Dougherty said.

The stars in WR 140 complete an orbital cycle in 7.9 years. The astronomers tracked the system for a year and a half, noting dramatic changes in the wind collision region.

"People have worked out theoretical models for these collision regions, but the models don't seem to fit what our observations have shown," said Mark Claussen, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Socorro, New Mexico. "The new data on this system should provide the theorists with much better information for refining their models of how Wolf-Rayet stars evolve and how wind-collision regions work," Claussen added.

The scientists watched the changes in the stellar system as the star's orbits carried them in paths that bring them nearly as close to each other as Mars is to the Sun and as far as Neptune is from the Sun. Their detailed analysis gave them new information on the Wolf-Rayet star's strong wind. At some points in the orbit, the wind collision region strongly emitted radio waves, and at other points, the scientists could not detect the collison region.

Wolf-Rayet stars are giant stars nearing the time when they will explode as supernovae.

"No other telescope in the world can see the details revealed by the VLBA," Claussen said. "This unmatched ability allowed us to determine the masses and other properties of the stars, and will help us answer some basic questions about the nature of Wolf-Rayet stars and how they develop." he added.

The astronomers plan to continue observing WR 140 to follow the system's changes as the two massive stars continue to circle each other.

Dougherty and Claussen worked with Anthony Beasley of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array office, Ashley Zauderer of the University of Maryland and Nick Bolingbroke of the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Radio Astronomy Observatory. "Scientists Track Collision Of Powerful Stellar Winds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050413095400.htm>.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory. (2005, April 14). Scientists Track Collision Of Powerful Stellar Winds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050413095400.htm
National Radio Astronomy Observatory. "Scientists Track Collision Of Powerful Stellar Winds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050413095400.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins