Astronomers, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile have created a multi-spectral radio image of a dying star in its very initial stages of becoming a beautiful planetary nebula.
[Using ALMA,] the team obtained a very detailed view of the space around W43A. “The most notable structures are its small bipolar jets,” says Tafoya, the lead author of the research paper published by the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The team found that the velocity of the jets is as high as 175 km per second, which is much higher than previous estimations. Based on this speed and the size of the jets, the team calculated the age of the jets to be less than a human life-span.
“Considering the youth of the jets compared to the overall lifetime of a star, it is safe to say we are witnessing the ‘exact moment’ that the jets have just started to push through the surrounding gas,” explains Tafoya. “The jets carve through the surrounding material in as little as 60 years. A person could watch their progress throughout their lifetime.”
Over time those jets, thought to be caused by the interaction of the central star with a smaller secondary star that orbits it, will interact increasingly with the surrounding gas. The result will be a quite spectacular planetary nebula.
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