Science and Exploration

An Enigmatic Astronomical Explosion Seen By Hubble

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 20, 2022
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An Enigmatic Astronomical Explosion Seen By Hubble
Enigmatic Object

A bright young star is surrounded by a shroud of thick gas and dust in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 inspected a young stellar object, over 9000 light years away in the constellation Taurus, to help astronomers understand the earliest stages in the lives of massive stars. This object — which is known to astronomers as IRAS 05506+2414 — is thought to be an example of an explosive event caused by the disruption of a massive young star system. If so, it would only be the second such example known.

Usually the swirling discs of material surrounding a young star are funnelled into twin outflows of gas and dust from the star. In the case of IRAS 05506+2414, however, a fan-like spray of material travelling at velocities of up to 350 kilometres per second is spreading outwards from the centre of this image.

Astronomers turned to Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to measure the distance to IRAS 05506+2414. While it is possible to measure the velocity of material speeding outwards from the star, astronomers cannot tell how far from Earth the star actually is from a single observation.

However, by measuring the distance that the outflow travels between successive images, they will be able to infer the distance to IRAS 05506+2414. This will allow astronomers to determine how bright the star is and how much energy it is emitting, and hence to estimate its mass — all vital information that will help to understand the origin of this bright young star’s unusual outflow.

Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Sahai; CC BY 4.0 larger image

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