AUG 19, 2021 10:14 AM PDT

Researchers Observe the Birth of New Solar Systems

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Astronomers are gaining new insights on how our solar system was born from observations of a nearby star-forming region in the constellation Ophiuchus. The research was published in Nature Astronomy

In the 1970’s, scientists reported finding short-lived radionuclides inside of meteorites. They said that these elements were either blown into the nascent solar system by a nearby exploding star or by strong stellar winds from a kind of massive star called a Wolf-Rayet star. Now, for the first time, scientists may have been able to observe this process in action. 

In the present study, scientists examined multiwavelength observations of the star-forming region in Ophiuchus, including new infrared data, to understand the interactions between star-forming gas clouds and radionuclides produced in a nearby cluster of young stars. 

Their observations included imaging data in wavelengths from millimeters to gamma rays, enabling them to visualize the flow of aluminum-26 from a nearby star cluster towards the star-forming region. 

To verify their observations, the researchers created a model of the nearby star cluster. They included details of the mass, age, and probability of exploding into a supernova of every massive star that could have existed in the region. Their model also incorporated the potential yields of aluminum-26 from stellar winds and supernovas. 

From their model, they found that while there is a 59% chance that the observed aluminum-26 came from supernovas, there is a 68% chance it comes from multiple sources and not just one supernova. 

"Many new star systems will be born with aluminum-26 abundances in line with our solar system, but the variation is huge -- several orders of magnitude," said first author of the study, John Forbes, "This matters for the early evolution of planetary systems, since aluminum-26 is the main early heating source. More aluminum-26 probably means drier planets."

"There is nothing special about Ophiuchus as a star formation region," said Joao Alves, co-author of the study. "It is just a typical configuration of gas and young massive stars, so our results should be representative of the enrichment of short-lived radioactive elements in star and planet formation across the Milky Way."


Sources: Nature AstronomyScience Daily

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
You May Also Like
Loading Comments...