SPACE – Astronomers have witnessed for the first time a young star similar to the Sun emitting high-energy gamma rays. These observations provide the first evidence that a type of low-mass star (T Tauri) surrounded by a planet-forming disk of gas and dust can emit gamma rays.
In short, this type of radiation is the most energetic form of light. Ultimately, these discoveries may have important implications for our understanding of stellar and planetary systems during their formative years.
“These observational data are very important for understanding the origin of a source that was previously unknown for more than a decade, which is undoubtedly a step forward in astronomy,” said Agostina Filocomo, leader of the discovery team and astronomer at the National University of La Plata. Live Science, Tuesday 29 August 2023
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According to him, it is also important to understand the processes occurring in the early stages of star formation. If the star T Tauri produces gamma radiation, this will affect the state of the gas in the protoplanetary disk, and hence the evolution of planet formation.
Astronomers captured their observations of this interesting star with the Fermi Satellite Telescope, which scans the universe in gamma rays. In other words, this telescope is capable of collecting data on high-energy radiation that is difficult to collect from the Earth’s surface. Fermi has been watching the sky since its launch in 2008, but about 30 percent of the gamma rays it sees cannot be traced back to their source. Because of this, Philokomo and his team set about trying to identify some of these mysterious sources.
Gamma rays may come from a rampaging young star
The research team found that many gamma rays come from regions of active star formation. This is difficult to explain and requires a deeper study, during which the team will explore the star formation region of NGC 2071.
Specifically, Philokomo and his colleagues were looking for the star T Tauri in NGC 2071, which is located in the northern part of the Orion B molecular cloud, which is about 1350 light-years from Earth. The T Tauri star is notable because it can often be found near star-forming regions, still encased in the gas and dust that formed it. Shrouded in this gaseous cradle, T Tauri exhibits fluctuating levels of brightness, making it a variable type star.
The team identified three separate, unidentified gamma-ray sources that appear to originate in the direction of NGC 2071, where at least 58 T Tauri stars are known to form. According to the researchers, there are no other objects that could be a source of gamma radiation in the region.
The team predicts that the T Tauri star may emit gamma rays from time to time during violent outbursts called megaflares. The event occurs when the magnetic energy stored in the atmosphere of a young star is released in the form of a powerful electromagnetic burst.
This concept is similar to the solar flares it launches. It’s just that the flames arose on a much larger scale. Megaflares can extend several times the radius of the star that launched them and are extremely powerful. That is, if the Sun blows up the eruption, life on Earth will be in jeopardy.
However, despite this destructive potential, some scientists argue that megaflares in the early stages of the solar system’s history could have been very beneficial. When the Sun was still submerged in a disk of gas and dust, the megaflares likely contributed to the birth of planets by pushing out gas and causing pebbles and other small rocky material to form.
Thus, the team’s findings may not only help explain the detection of previously unknown gamma rays, but may also influence our understanding of the solar system, especially during the period of our planet’s creation. “The discovery of this phenomenon will help to understand how not only the Sun was formed and developed, but also our home planet Earth,” Philokomo said.
The team’s research is published Aug. 23 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Source: live science