Feeds

Japan's AKARI 'scopes out stellar evolution

Infrared sky survey

High performance access to file storage

The Japanese infrared space telescope AKARI has sent back a raft of stunning new images of stellar evolution, from the earliest stages of star formation to the final death throes of stars in our own galaxy.

The observatory was launched in February this year and is about halfway through building its first infrared sky map.

The image shown is of the reflection nebula IC 1396, otherwise known as the Elephant Trunk Nebula, a star formation region within the Milky Way, about 3,000 light years from our solar system.

Glenn White, professor of Astronomy at the Open University and The CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, said: "This image is extremely impressive - the infrared radiation has penetrated through the obscuring dust clouds between the Earth and the nebula allowing us to measure the whole star formation history in the region. Observing star forming regions over large areas lets us study the physics of stars that are born and examine how earlier generations of stars can feedback to and trigger the next burst of star birth."

Very massive stars - around 10 times the size of our sun - are being born in the region. Young stars have cleared the central part of the nebula of its dust, sweeping it out to the periphery. A single, very massive star in the middle has also ionised much of the gas in the nebula.

A new generation of stars is forming in the compressed gas and dust, the researchers say.

As well as taking these images of a stellar nursery, the observatory's Far Infrared Surveyor has captured a red giant in the final stages of its evolution.

Located around 500 light years from Earth, the red giant U Hydrae is surrounded by a cloud of dust, making observation in the visible spectrum very tricky.

In infrared, this cloud can be more easily studied. The data from AKARI shows that the dust forms a shell around the star at a distance of a third of a light year, implying that the matter was ejected by the star approximately 10,000 years ago.

"Observations at infrared wavelengths provide a unique view of the final stages of the evolution of stars – in particular as they eject shells of dusty material which go on to seed future generations of star formation in the galaxy," said Michael Rowan-Robinson, professor of Astronomy at Imperial College, London.

"This ejected material spreads throughout the star forming clouds and may eventually be assimilated into a new generation of stars, enriching them with heavy elements. Observations like this help us understand what galaxies look like when seen from large distances.

The information will help astronomers understand the relation between mass and light in our own galaxy. This in turn is useful for studying and characterising more distant galaxies, which helps scientists learn more about how the universe evolved.

More pictures available here. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.