Monday, 26 June 2017

Irish astronomer leads international team to make incredible star discovery

Image-of-BetelgeuseAn Irish astronomer has led an international team of astronomers to make an incredible discovery about the surface of a star.

Dr Eamon O’Gorman led to team to make the most detailed image of the surface of a star bar the sun that has ever been created at radio wavelengths.

The image was made using the world’s largest radio telescope called the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimetre Array shown below.

The image was taken of Betelgeuse, the famous Red Supergiant located in the constellation Orion.

The image resulted in the discovery that the temperature in its inner atmosphere is not the norm.

Dr. Eamon O’Gorman said: “ALMA now provides us with the capabilities to image surface features on nearby stars while also directly measuring the temperature of these features.

ALMA-Telescope-Array-time-lapse"We have known for decades that the visible surface of Betelgeuse is not uniform, but ALMA has now shown us in detail that the temperature in its inner atmosphere is also not uniform.

"It looks like these temperature fluctuations could be caused by magnetic fields, similar to what we see on the Sun, our nearest star."

Dr. Pierre Kervella, astronomer at the Paris Observatory said: “Located about 650 light years away, Betelgeuse is certainly not the closest star to our solar system, but its sheer size makes it an ideal target to image directly with ALMA.

“When we look at the night sky with our naked eyes, we see bright stars everywhere, but because they are so small, even the most powerful telescopes in the world struggle to image their surfaces.

"Our results show ALMA has the capability to image the surfaces of the largest stars in detail.”

In terms of size, Betelgeuse is approximately 1,400 times larger than our Sun, and more than one billion times larger in terms of volume.

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