MUSE Detects Unusual Star Object with Lit Protoplanetary Disk

A team of astronomers using the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) located in Chile, have captured images of a protoplanetary disk called 177-341 W, which is located in the Orion Nebula Cluster. This young star is encircled by a disk composed of gas and dust, essentially the basic components needed to form planets.

In scenarios where other massive and bright stars are in close proximity, their light can heat the young star’s disk, leading to material loss. ESO astronomer Mari-Liis Aru and her team explain that these protoplanetary disks, made up of gas and dust, are the result of the star formation process and are essentially the cradles of planetary systems. The team further explains that the ability of these disks to form planets and their evolutionary pathways are expected to differ based on the surrounding environment. In the presence of massive stars, these disks can undergo rapid changes.

Using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the astronomers observed 177-341 W and 11 other similar proplyds in the Orion Nebula Cluster, which is approximately 400 parsecs away from the Sun. The researchers noted that the stars eroding the disk of 177-341 W are positioned out of the frame in the upper-right corner. Their radiation clashes with the material surrounding the young star and results in a bright, bow-like structure. The tail extending from the star is essentially material being dragged away from 177-341 W due to the stars outside the field of view.

The researchers also pointed out that the colors visible in the image represent different elements like hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen. However, they represent only a small fraction of all the data gathered by MUSE, which is capable of capturing thousands of different color or wavelength images simultaneously. This ability allows researchers to study the physical properties of protoplanetary disks in high detail, including the amount of mass they lose. The findings of the study were published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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