It's a huge explosion: two symmetrical and billowing gas bubbles that extend to form what we call the Ant Nebula. Now the pulse of the lasers has been detected rippling through his shattered heart.
The nebula of the ant is already strange. Its form is not common.
That's why the Herschel Space Observatory of the European Space Agency reviewed it in 2013. Although the infrared space telescope has been removed a long time ago, astronomers are still reviewing its mountains of data and images.
They finally turned around to look at the heart of the Ant nebula, about 8,000 light-years away.
This particular cloud is called Menzel 3 It is formed by dense gas, so what is happening with the dying star below is very difficult to observe.
Then the astronomers detected the lasers.
"Thanks to the sensitivity and the wide wavelength range of the Herschel observatory, we detected a very rare type of emission called a hydrogen recombination line laser emission, which provided a way to reveal the structure and physical conditions of the nebula, "said astrophysicist at the University of Leiden Isabel Aleman.
These lasers reveals a lot about what goes on inside.
"When we observe Menzel 3, we see an incredibly complex structure made of ionized gas, but we can not see the object at its center"
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Astronomers believe that the dying star is a yellow dwarf, similar to ours. As it reaches the end of its life, it expels the outer layers of gas as the core shrinks. What remains, a white dull, heats up even more, ionizes the surrounding gas clouds and forms a nebula.
But the shape of the Ant nebula is strange. It has only been seen in other cases.
It seems to have something to do with the density of Menzel 3's central gas cloud, calculated to be about 10,000 times thicker than usual.
Something prevents the passage of gas
"The only way to keep the gas close to the star is if it is orbiting around it in a disk", says Albert Zijlstra, astrophysicist from the University of Manchester and co-author of the study. .
"In this case, we have observed a dense disk in the center that looks approximately to the edge.
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The idea is that the gas is expelled by the dying, the star is being trapped by a nearby neighbor, a second star orbiting the first, the gas then falls to its surface, and reacts, like an accretion disk.
This influences the shape and composition of the gas clouds that escape.
"Herschel offered the perfect observation capability to detect this extraordinary laser in the Ant nebula. The findings will help to restrict the conditions under which This phenomenon occurs, and they will help us to refine our models of stellar evolution. "