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    ALMA Telescope Catches a Stellar Intruder Red-Handed

    This finding demonstrates that close encounters with young stars surrounded by disks are real

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    A scientific team has managed to record a phenomenon rarely observed until now: the approach of an object to the star system Z Canis Majoris (Z CMa). Thanks to observations by the ALMA telescope, in Chile, in collaboration with the VLA, in the United States, the researchers were able to verify that this object outside the system approached and interacted with the environment of the binary protostar and caused the formation of long and chaotic plumes of dust and gas in the surrounding disk.

    This type of phenomenon had been observed with some frequency in computer simulations of star formation processes, but few direct observations had been made until now, reports an ALMA release.

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    The first supernova product of a WR star: the theory that these massive stars do not explode is dismantled “It is difficult to obtain proof of these approaching phenomena because they occur very quickly and are difficult to detect,” explains Ruobing Dong, an astronomer at the University of Victoria (Canada) and the study’s principal investigator: “What we did is equivalent to capturing the image of lightning at the exact moment it hits a tree.

    This finding, according to Dong, shows that close encounters with young stars surrounded by disks are real and not just guesses made in computer simulations.

    Nicolás Cuello, an astrophysicist at the University of Grenoble Alpes, in France, and co-author of the article, adds that, in the case of Z CMa, it was the morphology (or structure) of these plumes that helped scientists identify and locate accuracy to the intruder.

    “The stellar encounters cause morphological changes in the disks (spirals, warps, shadows, etc.) that give away these approaches. In this case, by carefully observing the disk of Z CMa, we detected the presence of several indications of approaches.”

    These clues not only helped the science team to identify the intruding object, but also allowed them to deduce the consequences that these interactions would have for the future of Z CMa and the new planets that are forming in the system, a process that remains a mystery.

    “Thanks to this new research, we now know that these approaches occur and that they generate an important impact on the gaseous circumstellar disks where planets form, around young stars”, says Neck. These approaches -he points out- can considerably disturb these disks that surround the affected stars, as shown by the extensive plumes observed around Z CMa.

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