Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers find fastest rotating star

Date:
December 5, 2011
Source:
European Southern Observatory - ESO
Summary:
The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope has picked up the fastest rotating star found so far. This massive bright young star lies in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 160,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers think that it may have had a violent past and has been ejected from a double star system by its exploding companion.

This view shows part of the stellar nursery called the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighbour of the Milky Way. At the centre lies the brilliant star VFTS 102 This view includes both visible-light and infrared images from the Wide Field Imager at the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at La Silla and the 4.1-metre infrared VISTA telescope at Paranal. VFTS 102 is the most rapidly rotating star ever found.
Credit: ESO/M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope has picked up the fastest rotating star found so far. This massive bright young star lies in our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, about 160,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers think that it may have had a violent past and has been ejected from a double star system by its exploding companion.

Related Articles


An international team of astronomers has been using ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, to make a survey of the heaviest and brightest stars in the Tarantula Nebula, in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Among the many brilliant stars in this stellar nursery the team has spotted one, called VFTS 102 [1], that is rotating at more than two million kilometres per hour -- more than three hundred times faster than the Sun [2] and very close to the point at which it would be torn apart due to centrifugal forces. VFTS 102 is the fastest rotating star known to date [3].

The astronomers also found that the star, which is around 25 times the mass of the Sun and about one hundred thousand times brighter, was moving through space at a significantly different speed from its neighbours [4].

"The remarkable rotation speed and the unusual motion compared to the surrounding stars led us to wonder if this star had had an unusual early life. We were suspicious." explains Philip Dufton (Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK), lead author of the paper presenting the results.

This difference in speed could imply that VFTS 102 is a runaway star -- a star that has been ejected from a double star system after its companion exploded as a supernova. This idea is supported by two further clues: a pulsar and an associated supernova remnant in its vicinity [5].

The team has developed a possible back story for this very unusual star. It could have started life as one component of a binary star system. If the two stars were close, gas from the companion could have streamed over and in the process the star would have spun faster and faster. This would explain one unusual fact -- why it is rotating so fast. After a short lifetime of about ten million years, the massive companion would have exploded as a supernova -- which could explain the characteristic gas cloud known as a supernova remnant found nearby. The explosion would also have led to the ejection of the star and could explain the third anomaly -- the difference between its speed and that of other stars in the region. As it collapsed, the massive companion would have turned into the pulsar that is observed today, and which completes the solution to the puzzle.

Although the astronomers cannot yet be sure that this is exactly what happened, Dufton concludes "This is a compelling story because it explains each of the unusual features that we've seen. This star is certainly showing us unexpected sides of the short, but dramatic lives of the heaviest stars."

Notes:

[1] The name VFTS102 refers to the VLT-FLAMES Tarantula Survey made using the Fibre Large Array Multi Element Spectrograph (FLAMES) on ESO's Very Large Telescope.

[2] An aircraft travelling at this speed would take about one minute to circle Earth at the equator.

[3] Some stars end their lives as compact objects such as pulsars (see note [5]), which may spin much more rapidly than VFTS 102, but they are also very much smaller and denser and do not shine by thermonuclear reactions like normal stars.

[4] VFTS 102 is moving at roughly 228 kilometres per second, which is slower than other similar stars in the region by about 40 kilometres per second.

[5] Pulsars are the result of supernovae. The core of the star collapses to a very small size creating a neutron star which spins very rapidly and emits powerful jets of radiation. These jets create a regular "pulse" as seen from Earth as the star rotates around its axis. The associated supernova remnant is a characteristic cloud of gas blown away by the shock wave resulting from the collapse of the star into a neutron star.

More information

This research was presented in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, "The VLT-FLAMES Tarantula Survey: The fastest rotating O-type star and shortest period LMC pulsar -- remnants of a supernova disrupted binary?," by Philip L. Dufton et al.

The team is composed of P.L. Dufton (Astrophysics Research Centre, Queen's University Belfast (ARC/QUB), UK), P.R. Dunstall (ARC/QUB, UK), C.J. Evans (UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh (ROE), UK), I. Brott (University of Vienna, Department of Astronomy, Austria), M. Cantiello (Argelander Institut fur Astronomie der Universitat Bonn, Germany, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of California, USA), A. de Koter (Astronomical Institute 'Anton Pannekoek', University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), S.E. de Mink (Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), M. Fraser (ARC/QUB, UK), V. Henault-Brunet (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance (SUPA), Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, ROE, UK), I.D. Howarth (Department of Physics & Astronomy, University College London, UK), N. Langer (Argelander Institut fur Astronomie der Universitat Bonn, Germany), D.J. Lennon (ESA, Space Telescope Science Institute, USA), N. Markova (Institute of Astronomy with NAO, Bulgaria), H. Sana (Astronomical Institute 'Anton Pannekoek', University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), W.D. Taylor (SUPA, Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, ROE, UK).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Southern Observatory - ESO. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. L. Dufton, P. R. Dunstall, C. J. Evans, I. Brott, M. Cantiello, A. De Koter, S. E. de Mink, M. Fraser, V. Hιnault-Brunet, I. D. Howarth, N. Langer, D. J. Lennon, N. Markova, H. Sana, W. D. Taylor. The VLT-FLAMES Tarantula Survey: The fastest rotating O-type star and shortest period LMC pulsar -- remnants of a supernova disrupted binary? The Astrophysical Journal, 2011; 743 (1): L22 DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/743/1/L22

Cite This Page:

European Southern Observatory - ESO. "Astronomers find fastest rotating star." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111205102424.htm>.
European Southern Observatory - ESO. (2011, December 5). Astronomers find fastest rotating star. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111205102424.htm
European Southern Observatory - ESO. "Astronomers find fastest rotating star." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111205102424.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA Prepares for Next Phase of Hubble Successor

NASA Prepares for Next Phase of Hubble Successor

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Scientists and engineers prepare for the next phase of the James Webb Space Telescope, the scientific successor to the Hubble. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
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

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:

More Coverage


Fastest-Rotating Massive Star Ever Recorded

Dec. 5, 2011 — An international team of scientists has found the fastest-rotating massive star ever recorded. The star spins around its axis at the speed of 600 kilometers per second at the equator, a rotational ... read more

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