Orion Death Stars Spotted by American, Canadian Astronomers

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 09:18 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Orion death stars have been spotted by American and Canadian astronomers who, at the time of their discovery, were analyzing how O-type stars and protostars interact in the Orion Nebula.

The scientists reportedly discovered the Orion death stars while using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) — a "single telescope of revolutionary design" that is comprised of 66 high precision antennas situated in northern Chile at an altitude of 5000 meters, according to the AlmaObservatory.org. The project is a joint partnership between North America, Europe, East Asia and the Republic of Chile.

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In addition to the discovery of the death stars, which wreak havoc on developing planets, scientists concluded from their observations that the celestial bodies are destined to be stripped away in several million years, EarthSky.org reported. The Orion Nebula death stars are reportedly located some 600 billion miles away, or 0.1 light-years from Earth.

"O-type stars, which are really monsters compared to our sun, emit tremendous amounts of ultraviolet radiation and this can play havoc during the development of young planetary systems," Rita Mann, an astronomer with the National Research Council of Canada in Victoria and lead author on a paper on the Orion death stars, said in the Astrophysical Journal. "Using ALMA, we looked at dozens of embryonic stars with planet-forming potential and, for the first time, found clear indications where protoplanetary disks simply vanished under the intense glow of a neighboring massive star."

Many Sun-like stars are born in places similar to the Orion Nebula, in crowded environments.

It takes millions of years for gas to combine with grains of dust floating through space, which eventually give way to denser bodies of matter that over millions of more years form planets and stars.

While exploding stars, such as supernovas, are deadly for planets that are too close to the blast, the dust and heavy elements that result from the explosion in turn become essential to the formation of new planets.

"Massive stars are hot and hundreds of times more luminous than our Sun," added James Di Francesco, of the National Research Council of Canada, in the statement. "Their energetic photons can quickly deplete a nearby protoplanetary disk by heating up its gas, breaking it up, and sweeping it away."

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