the hubble space telescope He spotted a bat signal in the cosmos, 1,300 light-years from home. And the bat? It is flapping its wings.
In new observations released Thursday (June 25), Hubble has captured the young star HBC 672, nicknamed Bat Shadow. The distant star, found in the Serpens Nebula, got its nickname because it has a wing-shaped shadow characteristic, which turns out to be so large that it extends about 200 times the diameter of our entire solar system. The star has a planet-forming disk around it that casts this wing-shaped shadow across the star-forming cloudy region.
But while the bat-like feature may seem subtle (and may even take a few minutes to detect), with these new images it is more apparent as you can see the “wings” of the structure “flapping”. That’s right, to the surprise of the team watching the star, Bat Shadow “flaps”. In a new study, researchers led by Klaus Pontoppidan, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, observed the star using Hubble and noted that this shadow was waving.
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Pontoppidan and the other scientists think that this “flapping”, which can be seen in the video above, could be caused by a planet pulling Bat Shadow and its surrounding disk and deforming the disk. The researchers did not expect to see the dark flutter feature. But, as they watched Bat Shadow for 13 months, it seemed that the shadow had moved.
“You have a star that is surrounded by a disk, and the disk is not like Saturn’s rings, it is not flat. It is swollen,” Pontoppidan he said in a statement. “And that means that the light from the star, if it goes up, can continue up, it is not blocked by anything. But if it tries to go along the plane of the disk, it doesn’t go out, and it casts a shadow.”
Scientists concluded that a planet that pulls on the star’s disk and deforms it will likely take at least 180 days to orbit the star and be as far from its star as Earth is in the sun. The researchers also suggested that the star’s disk is likely widened, which means it tilts like the end of a trumpet, according to the same statement. The team also believes that another planet, or less likely a small star, may be embedded in Bat Shadow’s disk.
The research is described in an article published June 10 on the arXiv prepress server. The study has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.
Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and in Facebook.