MAY 09, 2017 06:15 AM PDT

ALMA Captures Images of a Stunning Protostar Collision

Some 1,500 light years away in the Orion Molecular Cloud 1 (OMC-1), an explosion resembling the colorfulness and shape of a firework on Independence Day has been spied on by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.

As noted in The Astrophysical Journal, two protostars collided with one another after getting too close around 500 years ago. Protostars are young stars that haven’t had the time to collect as much mass as a full star; as a result, it’s one of the earliest phases in stellar evolution.

The catastrophe sent gases flying in every direction at around 150 kilometers per second, which makes up the streamer-like colorful explosion you see in the ALMA composite image below:

Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. Bally; B. Saxton, (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

In previous observations with other equipment, astronomers note how the streamer-like arms stretch to be almost one full light year across. Astronomers were also able to identify carbon monoxide (CO) as the main gas making up the streamers.

“What we see in this once calm stellar nursery is a cosmic version of a 4th of July fireworks display, with giant streamers rocketing off in all directions,” said University of Colorado’s John Bally.

At the time, the two protostars couldn’t have been much more than 10,000 years old, which is a blink of eye when considering how long stellar objects usually last. 

Explosions just like this one may be more common than originally thought, but since they only occur for short periods of time, we don’t have that many opportunities to find them unless our telescopes are pointed right at them.

Related: Are neutron star collisions responsible for creating heavy elements?

It’s also interesting to think that most stellar explosions are attributed to the death of a star at an old age, but explosions can happen at any age, given the right circumstances:

“People most often associate stellar explosions with ancient stars, like a nova eruption on the surface of a decaying star or the even more spectacular supernova death of an extremely massive star,” Bally continued. “ALMA has given us new insights into explosions on the other end of the stellar life cycle, star birth.”

Source: National Radio Astronomy Observatory

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 05, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 05, 2018
Meet IMAP, NASA's Upcoming Mission to Study the Heliosphere
A protective bubble comprised of solar wind plasma surrounds the entire solar system. Known as the heliosphere, this bubble exists because the solar wind&r...
JUL 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 02, 2018
Uranus' Unusual Characteristics Explained By New Study
Uranus, with its near-sideways 98-degree tilt and incredibly low atmospheric temperatures, is one of the most obscure planets to exist in our planetary nei...
JUL 03, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 03, 2018
Planet-Wide Dust Storm Continues to Impact Mars
After a planet-wide dust storm enveloped Mars, NASA’s solar-powered Opportunity rover was forced to enter sleep mode to conserve energy until the sto...
JUL 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 23, 2018
Earth is Pretty Small Compared to Everything Else in Space
To you and I, the Earth might seem like a large place. But in astronomical terms, our planet is actually quite small. Comparatively, the gas giant planets...
AUG 01, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 01, 2018
Exoplanet Habitability May Depend on the UV Light Emitted by the Host Star
Does the type of light being emitted by a host star impact the probability of life popping up on any of its orbiting exoplanets? Citing a study led by rese...
SEP 05, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 05, 2018
Saturn's Atmospheric Hexagon May Tower Higher Than Initially Thought
Although NASA’s Cassini mission ended almost one full year ago, researchers continue to analyze the stream of data the spacecraft beamed back to us b...
Loading Comments...