Comprehensive coverage

The Webb Space Telescope discovered a 'cat's tail' made of dust in the Beta Pictoris system

Beta Pictoris is a solar system in the making and relatively close so that the gas disks can be seen. It turns out that Webb was able to discover a structure that was not noticed in photographs with less sensitive instruments, thus he discovered a disk of gas tilted from our main disk and because of our vantage point it looks like a cat's tail

This image from Webb's MIRI (mid-infrared) camera shows the star system Beta Pictoris. A flat disk of dust fragments, formed by collisions between planetesimals (orange), dominates the landscape and is called the "main disk plane". In the lower left corner, Webb showed the true extent of the secondary disk (cyan (turquoise), which is inclined 5 degrees relative to the primary disk. Webb also discovered a previously unseen feature called the "cat's tail." A coronagraph (a black circle and two small disks) was used to block The light of the central star. Scale bar shows that the disks of Beta Peak (pictoris) span hundreds of astronomical units (AU), where one AU is the average distance from Earth to the Sun. (In our solar system, Neptune orbits the Sun at a distance of 30 AU) in this image , light at a wavelength of 15.5 microns is shown in cyan (turquoise) and 23 microns in orange (F1550C and F2300C filters, respectively). Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCI, C. STARK and K. LAWSON (NASA GSFC), J. KAMMERER (ESO), and M. PERRIN (STSCI).
This image from Webb's MIRI (mid-infrared) camera shows the star system Beta Pictoris. A flat disc of dust fragments, created by collisions between planetesimals (orange), dominates the landscape and is called the "main disc plane". In the lower left corner, Webb showed the true extent of the secondary disk (cyan (turquoise), which is inclined 5 degrees relative to the primary disk. Webb also discovered a previously unseen feature called the "cat's tail." A coronagraph (a black circle and two small disks) was used to block The light of the central star. Scale bar shows that the disks of Beta Peak (pictoris) span hundreds of astronomical units (AU), where one AU is the average distance from Earth to the Sun. (In our solar system, Neptune orbits the Sun at a distance of 30 AU) in this image , light at a wavelength of 15.5 microns is shown in cyan (turquoise) and 23 microns in orange (filters F1550C and F2300C, respectively). Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCI, C. STARK and K. LAWSON (NASA GSFC), J. KAMMERER (ESO), and M. PERRIN (STSCI).

Beta Pictoris, a young planetary system only 63 light-years away from us, continues to interest scientists even after decades of intensive study. It has the first disk of dust photographed around another star - a disk of fragments created by collisions between asteroids, comets and planetesimals (planets in the first stages of formation). Observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope revealed a second disk of fragments in this system, tilted relative to the outer disk seen earlier. Now, a team of astronomers using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to image the Beta Pictoris (Beta Peak) system has discovered a new, never-before-seen structure.

The team, led by Isabel Rabolido of the Center for Astrobiology in Spain, used Webb's NIRCam (near-infrared camera) and MIRI (mid-infrared wavelength camera) to study the composition of the previously identified primary and secondary fragments discs of Beta The results exceeded their expectations, revealing a sharply tilted, cat-tail-shaped trail of dust stretching from the southwestern part of the secondary debris disk.

"Beta Pictoris is the disk that has it all: it has a bright, close star that we can study well, and a complex environment with a multi-component disk, exocomets and two imaged exoplanets," said Revolido, lead author of the paper. "Although there were previous observations from the ground in this wavelength range, they did not have the sensitivity and spatial resolution that we now have with 'Web', so they did not discover this feature."

Web-enhanced star portrait

Even with Web, looking at the beta peak in the right wavelength range – in this case, the mid-infrared – was critical to spotting the cat's tail, which only appeared in the MIRI data. Web data in the mid-infrared also revealed differences in temperature between the two Beta Peak discs, which are likely due to differences in composition.

"We didn't expect to find that there were two different types of material around Beta Peak, but MIRI clearly showed us that the material of the secondary disk and cattail is hotter than the main disk," said Christopher Stark, a research associate at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The dust that forms the disc and tail must be very dark, so we don't see it easily in visible wavelengths – but in the mid-infrared, it glows."

To explain the higher temperature, the team concluded that the dust may be "resistant organic matter" with high porosity, similar to the material found on the surface of comets and asteroids in our solar system. For example, initial analysis of material taken from the asteroid by NASA's Osiris-Rex mission found it to be very dark and carbon-rich, similar to what MIRI discovered at Beta Peak.

The mysterious origin of the cat's tail warrants future research

However, a big question still remains unanswered: What could explain the unique shape of the cat's tail, a unique feature not seen in disks around other stars?

Revolido and the team ran models for different scenarios in an attempt to mimic the cat's tail and reveal its origins. Although more research and testing is required, the team strongly hypothesizes that the cat's tail is the result of a dust formation event that occurred only a century ago.

"Something happens — like a collision — and a lot of dust is created," shared Marshall Perrin, a research associate at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "Initially, the dust moves in the same orbital direction as its origin, but then it also begins to spread. The light from the star pushes the smallest and lightest dust particles away from the star faster, while the larger particles don't move as much, creating a long arm of dust."

"The cat's tail feature is particularly unusual, and recreating the curvature with a dynamic model was difficult," Stark explained. "Our model requires dust that can be pushed out of the system very quickly, again suggesting that it is made of durable organic matter."

The team's preferred model explains the sharp angle of the tail from the disk as a simple optical illusion. The point from which we observe the disk combined with the rounded shape of the tail creates the observed angle of the tail, while in reality, the arc of material exits the disk at an inclination of only five degrees. Considering the brightness of the tail, the team estimates that the amount of dust inside the cat's tail is equivalent to a large asteroid in the main asteroid belt, and is spread over 15 billion km.

The last dust formation event within the Beta Peak debris disk could also explain a new asymmetric extension seen in the tilted inner disk, as shown in the MIRI data and visible only from the side opposite the tail. The recent formation of dust from the collision could also explain a feature previously observed by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array in 2014: a clump of carbon monoxide (CO) located near the cat's tail. Since the star's radiation should break down the CO in about a hundred years or so, the current gas concentration could still be leftover evidence of that event.

"Our research suggests that Beta Peak may be more active and chaotic than we previously thought," Stark said. "The Webb Space Telescope continues to surprise us, even as it looks at the most studied objects. We have a whole new window into these planetary systems.”

These findings were presented at a press conference at the 243rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in New Orleans, Louisiana.

For the source on the NASA website

More of the topic in Hayadan:

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.