Astronomers find a strangely shaped spot on a star 500 million light years from Earth

Scientists have discovered a strangely shaped spot on the surface of the young star GM Aur, half a billion light-years from Earth. This helped them better understand how the solar system formed.

A new study published in the journal Nature Espaillat sheds light on what forces were at work when the sun was just dawning. They first discovered a uniquely shaped spot on a young star. Studying this anomaly has given scientists more information about how young stars grow.

Katherine Espilat, lead author of the Boston University paper, explains that when a baby star forms, it absorbs the dust and gas particles that swirl around it in the protoplanetary disk. Particles hit the surface of the star during accretion.

Protoplanetary disks are found inside magnetized molecular clouds. They are found throughout the universe and are known to astronomers as a breeding ground for the formation of new stars. Previously, scientists assumed that protoplanetary disks and stars are connected by a magnetic field, and particles move along it to the star. When they hit the surface of a growing star, very hot and dense spots are formed during accretion.

Observations of a young star about 450 million light-years from Earth confirm for the first time the accuracy of accretion models developed by astronomers to predict the formation of hot spots. Until now, computer models have only been based on algorithms. They calculate how the structure of magnetic fields directs particles from protoplanetary disks to hit specific points on the surface of growing stars. The observed data now support these calculations.

In the study, astronomers studied the young star GM Aur, which is located in the Taurus-Auriga molecular cloud of the Milky Way. They snapped pictures of the wavelengths of light emitted from the surface of GM Aur, collecting datasets of X-ray, ultraviolet (UV), infrared and visual light every day for a month.

GM Aur completes a full revolution in about one week. During this time, the brightness levels will increase and decrease. However, comparing the data, scientists saw a shift in the data by the day. All light wavelengths did not peak at the same time. UV light was brightest about a day before all other wavelengths peaked. At first they thought they might have collected inaccurate data. But they double-checked the data and realized that this was not a mistake. An unusual hot spot is not completely uniform. There is an area inside it that is even hotter than the rest.

A new study has shown that hotspots are traces on the surface of a star created by a magnetic field. Once upon a time there were the same formations on the Sun. Unlike sunspots, which are colder than the rest of its surface, hotspots are found in regions where a young star absorbs particles from the surrounding protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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Alexandr Ivanov

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