Astronomers using the Very Long Baseline Arraya set of 10 radio telescopes spread across the U.S.have discovered what appears to be a young star blowing a bubble of gas around itself. The new findings, published today in the journal Nature, could force scientists to revise existing theories of star formation.
For two months, Paul Ho of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and his colleagues watched a spherical bubble expand around a presumed star. Calculations indicate that the star belched the bubble into space only 33 years ago. Yet the bubble is expanding so quicklyabout nine kilometers a secondthat it will soon disappear altogether.
The team's observations come as a surprise because stellar formation theories hold that although nascent stars should shed energy as they develop, they should do so by spewing forth jets of material from their polesnot by blowing spherical bubbles. Before rewriting the astronomy books, however, researchers will have to show that the object that produced the enigmatic bubble is in fact a young star. This seems likely considering that the object occupies a star-forming region, Philip Diamond of the University of Manchester told Nature Science Update. "But until we see what's in the middle we won't know."