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Astronomers detect unusual laser from the ant nebula

Scientists analyzing data from ESA's Herschel space observatory have found a non-causal laser emission within the Ant Nebula. Such intense laser emissions are rare for a nebula and indicate the presence of a double star system hidden in your heart.

A nebula is a giant cloud of dust and gas in space and some of these nebulae are formed by the explosion of a dying star. When stars like our sun die, they eventually become white, dense, dwarf stars. In the process, they throw their outer layers of dust and gas into space. Gravity slowly gathers these dust and gas clusters and forms massive clouds that are barely visible to the naked eye from Earth. But these nebulae can be seen using powerful telescopes.

From the Groun-based telescopes, the Ant nebula officially known as Mz3, resembles the head and body of an ant. It was discovered in 1922 and is between 3,000 and 6,000 light years from Earth. Ant Nebula images taken by the NASA telescope have already shown that the nebula has a pair of lobes of fire and the gas ejection of the dying star in the Ant nebula is violent. The gas in the center of Mz3 is producing intriguing symmetric patterns unlike the chaotic patterns expected from an ordinary explosion.

Recent observations by Herschel have shown that the nucleus of Ant Nebula is even more dramatic than what its colorful appearance implies in the Hubble images. The nebula is emitting an intense laser that is only detected under certain conditions. One possibility is that Ant Nebula is hiding a second darker star that orbits relatively close to the bright one.

"We detected a very rare type of emission called hydrogen recombination laser emission, which only occurs in a narrow range of physical conditions," said Dr. Isabel Aleman, lead author of the study. "Such an emission has only been identified in a handful of objects before and it is a happy coincidence that we detect the type of emission."

The comparison of observations with models suggests that the gas emitted by the laser from the nucleus is about ten thousand times more dense than the gas seen in the typical planetary nebulae and in the lobes of the Ant nebula itself.

"The only way to keep that dense gas close to the star is if it is orbiting around it in a nebulous disk, we have actually observed a dense disk in the center that looks approximately to the edge. amplify the laser signal, "said co-author Prof. Albert Zijlstra of the Center for Astrophysics at Jodrell Bank in the Faculty of Physics. & Astronomy.

"The disk suggests that there is a binary companion, because it is difficult to get the ejected gas into orbit unless a companion star deviates it in the right direction, and the laser gives us a unique way of probing the disk around it. the dying star, inside the planetary nebula. "


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