Feeds

Star formation? All a bit of a wind up

Magnetically speaking, you understand

Security for virtualized datacentres

UK astronomers have discovered that the material flowing out of newborn stars contains a coiled, spring-shaped magnetic field.

The discovery, reported in the 1 November edition of Nature helps to explain why new stars are able to form as they condense from spinning clouds of interstellar gas.

"Astronomers know that stars form when interstellar gas and dust collapse under the influence of gravity, but these objects are rotating," explains Dr Antonio Chrysostomou, currently on leave from the University of Hertfordshire to work as associate director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii.

"The problem is that as a rotating body gets smaller it will spin up so fast that these clouds should fly apart before they have a chance to form stars - and yet we know that stars do form. Somehow, that angular momentum, or spin, needs to be removed before a star forms."

Many new stars, as they are forming, expel material from their poles at extremely high speeds. Astronomers have long supposed that these jets carried away angular momentum from forming stars, preventing them from spinning faster and faster as they condensed.

The theory is that as the gas collapses to form the spinning protostar, the interstellar gas twists the magnetic field that permeates the universe, winding it up like a corkscrew. Gas that is spinning too fast spins out along the field lines creating the polar jets observed on so many new stars.

But until now there was no real evidence to support this explanation for the process, the Hertfordshire team says. Using the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) in New South Wales, Australia, Dr Chrysostomou and his team measured the circular polarisation of near-infrared radiation from a young star's jet. They were then able to reconstruct the structure of the magnetic field in the outflow.

Dr Phil Lucas, lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, commented: "When we combine our observations with sophisticated computer modelling techniques, we were able to show that the shape of magnetic field that could reproduce our observations could only be helical." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.