An almost 40-year-old theory finally has ‘smoking gun’ evidence for it.
During most of their lives, stars burn stably, changing imperceptibly.
But it isn’t merely death that induces spectacular, cataclysmic phenomena.
Stars exhibit extreme violence in their youth: when planetary systems are still forming.
Stars come into existence when nuclear fusion begins in a dense, collapsed molecular cloud.
The ensuing energetic radiation and stellar winds ionize and blow off surrounding material.
Volatile ices are boiled away, while gravitational imperfections grow into protoplanetary seeds.
But all the while, magnetic fields are present, interacting between the young star and the surrounding disk.
For many decades, young stellar jets have been observed in Herbig-Haro objects.
Material gets ejected outward from the star: bidirectionally, but along a single axis.
Despite appearances, the star alone cannot account for these jet-like features.
Instead, a rotating protoplanetary disk interacts with the star’s magnetic field.
The theory, proposed in 1982 by Blandford and Payne, appears validated by new multiwavelength observations.
On solar system scales, magnetic fields funnel material into or perpendicularly away from the protoplanetary disk.
Those fields then collimate the ejected material, launching the observed jets.
Observationally, the jets and disk are indeed perpendicular.
Long-term, multiwavelength studies should reveal evolutionary explanations for systems like HD 163296.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.