Feeds

Indestructible Death Stars blow up planets with glowing KILL RAY

No convenient exhaust port this time, Luke

The next step in data security

Pics Move over, Lord Vader. A group of astroboffins using Chile's high-desert Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have peered into the Orion Nebula's planetary nursery and discovered that massively powerful stars can be so intense that they blow away any chance of planets forming around new stars being born in their neighborhoods.

"Using ALMA," research lead Rita Mann told Astronomy Magazine, "we looked at dozens of embryonic stars with planet-forming potential and, for the first time, found clear indications where protoplanetary disks simply vanished under the intense glow of a neighboring massive star.”

Mann and her team of Canadian and US scientists published their findings in a paper in the Astrophysical Journal titled "ALMA Observations of the Orion Proplyds" — proplyds being protoplanetary disks, rotating masses of dust and gas surrounding nascent stars that could accrete into planets.

No planet-forming accretion will occur in some of the proplyds Mann and her team studied, however — their dust and gas is being heated, broken up, and swept away by the highly energetic photon attack of nearby hot blue-white O-type stars.

"O-type stars, which are really monsters compared to our Sun, emit tremendous amounts of ultraviolet radiation and this can play havoc during the development of young planetary systems," Mann said.

One of the proplyds studied by the research team is the well-known and mind-bendingly large 114-426, which is about 1,000 astronomical units in diameter – if you missed that day in Cosmology 101, 1AU is the distance between the Sun and the Earth. The orbit of excommunicated ex-planet Pluto, by comparison, averages around 39.5AU from the Sun.

Unfortunately, proplyd 114-426 was not one of the 30 embryonic planetary systems in the Orion Nebula that were stunningly imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in 2009, but the HST did catch a snap of it a decade earlier.

Hubble Space Telescope image of propels in the Orion Nebula

HST's glamour shot of proplyds in the Orion Nebula, with a few called out for close-ups (click to enlarge)

In the HST image, you'll notice that a few of the proplyds aren't simple disks, but instead have irregular shapes with dust and gasses streaming away from their centers. That's the work of O-type stars a tenth of a light year away or closer (600 billion miles, give or take), whose energies are forcing matter away from the star-forming center of the proplyds.

Poor proplyd 109-327's disk is being blown away by the Orion Nebula's big blue baddass Theta 1 Orionis C

That matter won't have time to congeal into planets, and will instead join the morass of gas and dust that forms the Orion Nebula itself, perhaps to accrete into another proplyd and try again.

Ironically, massive stars such as the O-types ruining the planetary ambitions of nearby proplyds are also one of the sources for their dust and gas in the first place. These big boys lead short but highly energetic lives, and don't merely burn out quietly, but often explode as supernovae. When that happens, they litter their neighborhoods with dust and heavy elements, which in turn eventually combine into new stars.

C'mon now, let's all join in a reverent chorus of Sir Elton Hercules John's "The Circle of Life". ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.