Science & Technology

Hubble Watches a Cosmic Bat Shadow “Flapping”

This picture reveals solely the characteristic which was nicknamed the Bat Shadow. It’s the shadow of a protoplanetary disc orbiting the star within the heart of the picture. Credit score: NASA, ESA, Ok. Pontoppidan

The younger star HBC 672 is understood by its nickname of Bat Shadow due to its wing-like shadow characteristic. The NASA/ESA Hubble Area Telescope has now noticed a curious “flapping” movement within the shadow of the star’s disc for the primary time. The star resides in a stellar nursery known as the Serpens Nebula, about 1300 light-years away.

This picture reveals the Serpens Nebula as seen by the HAWK-I instrument put in on the Very Giant Telescope of the European Southern Observatory. The filters utilized by HAWK-I to create this picture cowl wavelengths just like the filters utilized by Hubble. Credit score: ESO

The Hubble Area Telescope captured a putting remark of the fledgling star’s unseen, planet-forming disc in 2018. This disc casts a large shadow throughout a extra distant cloud in a star-forming area — like a fly wandering into the beam of a flashlight shining on a wall.

Now, astronomers have serendipitously noticed the Bat Shadow’s “flapping.” This may occasionally have been attributable to a planet pulling on the disc and warping it. “You will have a star that’s surrounded by a disc, and the disc shouldn’t be like Saturn’s rings — it’s not flat. It’s overrated. And in order that signifies that the sunshine from the star, if it goes straight up, can proceed straight up — it’s not blocked by something. But when it tries to go alongside the airplane of the disc, it doesn’t get out, and it casts a shadow,” defined lead writer Klaus Pontoppidan, an astronomer on the Area Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, USA, whose crew have printed these outcomes.

This “flapping” discovering was additionally a shock. Pontoppidan and his crew noticed the shadow in a number of filters over a interval of 13 months. Once they mixed the previous and new pictures, the shadow appeared to have moved.

The shadow is so massive — about 200 occasions the diameter of our Photo voltaic System — that mild doesn’t journey instantaneously throughout it. In reality, it takes about 45 days for the sunshine to journey from the star out to the very best outlined fringe of the shadow.

Pontoppidan and his crew calculate that a planet warping the disc would orbit its star in no fewer than 180 days. They estimate that it will be about the identical distance from its star as Earth is from the Solar. Pontoppidan’s crew additionally counsel the disc should be flared, with an angle that will increase with distance — like a trumpet. This form of its two peaks and two dips would clarify the “flapping” of the shadow. The crew additionally speculates that a planet is embedded within the disc, inclined to the disc’s airplane. If it’s not a planet, a much less seemingly rationalization is a lower-mass stellar companion orbiting HBC 672 outdoors the airplane of the disc. Pontoppidan and his crew doubt that is the case, primarily based on the thickness of the disc. There may be additionally no present proof for a binary companion.

Serpens Nebula Wide-Field View

The disc is a circling construction of gasoline, mud, and rock, and is just too small and too distant to be seen, even by Hubble. Nevertheless, primarily based on the projected shadow, scientists do know that its height-to-radius ratio is 1:5.

For extra on this research, see Hubble Spots Cosmic Flapping “Bat Shadow” in Outer Space.

Reference: “Variability of the Nice Disk Shadow in Serpens” by Klaus M. Pontoppidan, Joel D. Inexperienced, Tyler A. Pauly, Colette Salyk and Joseph DePasquale, 25 June 2020, Astrophysical Journal.
DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab91ae

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