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Astronomers have discovered an unusual type of star hiding in the heart of the Milky Way

Astronomers have discovered an unusual type of star hiding in the heart of the Milky Way

Astronomers have identified a new type of star known as an “old smoker” at the heart of the Milky Way. (Philip Lucas/University of Hertfordshire)

The researchers revealed the presence of A new type of starnickname “old smoker”located in the heart milky way. This discovery, the result of comprehensive observation of the night sky for a decade, expands knowledge about the universe Celestial phenomena And the Distribution of items in the universe.

“Old smokers” are Ancient giant stars Which, after lying dormant for decades, suddenly exploded, becoming almost invisible before emitting large amounts of material. These events are not only visually stunning, but also play a crucial role in… Enrichment of the interstellar medium With different items.

Detailed observations of these celestial bodies, which alternate long periods of inactivity with sporadic explosions emitting clouds of smoke and dust, were published on January 25, 2024 in four studies in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

These celestial bodies are elderly giants that undergo periods of inactivity, followed by explosions that emit large amounts of material. (Philip Lucas/University of Hertfordshire)

Use search Visible and infrared survey telescopeStrategically located in Cerro Paranal ObservatoryIn the Chilean AndesTo capture the infrared rays of these stars, invisible to the human eye, allowing the discovery of these previously hidden stellar objects.

The precise location of the telescope in high mountains and the adoption of observing techniques in the infrared spectrum were the key to this discovery. “These stars are like ghosts in a telescope until they decide to reveal themselves, expelling material into space.” Astronomers explain in collected statements CNN.

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The research based on these discoveries included monitoring nearly a billion stars, which indicates the scale and ambition of the project. This arduous task has allowed astronomers to collect important data on the nature and behavior of aging stars, which has greatly contributed to our evolution. Understanding the universe. “Studying these ‘ancient smokers’ not only sheds light on their spectroscopic nature, but also provides us with vital clues about the processes of star formation and evolution.” Notable researchers.

To conduct this research, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope, located at the Cerro Paranal Observatory in the Chilean Andes, was used. The choice of this telescope is due to its ability to capture infrared rays, which are not visible to the human eye but are necessary for observing these stars that were previously hidden by dense clouds of gas and dust. (Philip Lucas/University of Hertfordshire)

In a pioneering effort to discover Newborn starsscientists using Very Large Telescope (VLT) Subordinate European Southern Observatory Meet 32 ​​childhood stars Increase its brightness up to 300 times. These young stars, also known as Primitivesis elusive because of its darkness behind thick clouds of dust and gas in the Milky Way, which has hampered its detection using visible light.

However, the use of infrared light has allowed astronomers to break through these barriers, revealing objects that would otherwise remain hidden or too faint to observe.

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a team Philip Lucasprofessor of astrophysics at University of Hertfordshire And the lead author of one of the related studies, along with… Dr. Chen Guo, Fondecyt is a postdoctoral fellow In the Valparaiso University The lead author of two studies observed hundreds of millions of stars, focusing on those that experienced noticeable changes in brightness.

The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) was key in identifying 32 budding stars, known as prototypes, that are up to 300 times brighter. (Philip Lucas/University of Hertfordshire)

As Lucas explained, “While two-thirds of the stars were easy to classify, the rest presented greater challenges,” prompting the team to use more specialized tools like VLT to study stars individually.

As Joe puts it, “Our main goal was to find things Newborn stars Which are rarely seen, while major eruptions can last from months to years, or even decades. These explosions occur in a slowly rotating disk of matter that forms a new layer Solar SystemThis helps the star in the center grow, although planet formation is hindered by the instability of the disks.

Among the observed stars, 222 stars experienced significant changes in their brightness, indicating phenomena such as flares that increase their brightness up to 40 times, and in some cases up to 300 times. A large proportion of these flares remain active, giving astronomers a unique opportunity to closely follow how these stars evolve over time. According to the team, these observations will help better understand why discs become unstable and how this process affects formation New solar energy systems.

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