The star VY Canis Majoris is a red hypergiant, one of the largest known stars in the Milky Way. It is 30–40 times the mass of the Sun and 300 000 times more luminous. In its current state, the star would encompass the orbit of Jupiter, having expanded tremendously as it enters the final stages of its life.
New observations of the star using the SPHERE instrument on the VLT have clearly revealed how the brilliant light of VY Canis Majoris lights up the clouds of material surrounding it and have allowed the properties of the component dust grains to be determined better than ever before.
In this very close-up view from SPHERE the star itself is hidden behind an obscuring disc. The crosses are artefacts due to features in the instrument.
Apart from hydrogen, as many have heard from the Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson "Cosmos" series, every ingredient in the human body is made from elements forged by stars.
The calcium in our bones, the oxygen we breathe, the iron in our blood — all were forged in the element factories of stars. Even the carbon in our apple pie.
Stars are giant element furnaces. Their intense heat can cause atoms to collide, creating new elements — a process known as nuclear fusion. That process is what created chemical elements like carbon or iron, the building blocks that make up life as we know it.
It sounds pretty simple, but it is a very intricate process. And there are still many uncertainties.
Professors Sumner Starrfield and Frank Timmes, both from Arizona State University, and professor Christian Iliadis, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, hope to resolve some of those uncertainties.
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered an adolescent protostar that is undergoing a rapid-fire succession of growth spurts. Evidence for this fitful youth is seen in a pair of intermittent jets streaming away from the star’s poles.
Known as CARMA-7, the protostar is one of dozens of similar objects in the Serpens South star cluster, which is located approximately 1,400 light-years from Earth. This clutch of nascent stellar objects was first detected by and named for the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy (CARMA) telescope.
"This young protostar is undergoing periods of rapid growth separated by periods of relative calm,” said Adele Plunkett, previously a National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellow at Yale University and now a fellow at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. "This punctuated stellar formation provides important insights into the chaotic interplay within this tightly packed cluster of young stars.”
The mass-loss rate from Mira variables represents a key parameter in our understanding of their evolutionary tracks. We introduce a method for determining the mass-loss rate from the Mira component in D-type symbiotic binaries via the Raman scattering of atomic hydrogen in the wind from the giant. Using our method, we investigated Raman HeII 1025\AA\ --> 6545\AA\ conversion in the spectrum of the symbiotic Mira V1016 Cyg. We determined its efficiency to be 0.102 and 0.148, and the corresponding mass-loss rate 2.0 (+0.1/-0.2) x 1E-6 and 2.7 (+0.2/-0.1) x 1E-6 M(Sun)/year, using our spectra from 2006 April and 2007 July,respectively. Our values of the mass-loss rate that we derived from Raman scattering are comparable with those obtained independently by other methods. Applying the method to other Mira-white dwarf binary systems can provide a necessary constraint in the calculation of asymptotic giant branch evolution.