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Podcaster: Richard Drumm

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Title: UNAWE Space Scoop – A Stellar Ballet

Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy

Link : http://365daysofastronomy.org/ ; https://spacescoop.org/en/scoops/2121/a-stellar-ballet/

Description: Space scoop, news for children. 

Astronomers in Japan studied data that ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, collected on a binary star system, XZ Tauri, for over three years, in 2015, 2016 and 2017. And with that volume of data, they’ve produced the first-ever “ALMA Animation” of the twin stars in a binary star system circling each other. 

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Transcript:

This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

Today’s story is…

A stellar ballet

Oct. 12, 2021

Astronomers in Japan studied data that ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, collected on a binary star system, XZ Tauri, for over three years, in 2015, 2016 and 2017. 

And with that volume of data, they’ve produced the first-ever “ALMA Animation” of the twin stars in a binary star system circling each other. 

To see the animation, do a Google search for:

First ALMA animation.

And scroll down the page a little to see the animated graphic.

This “astronomical ballet” can give us better clues on how binary star systems are born and on how planets form around them.

To Takanori Ichikawa, from Kagoshima University and principal author of the new research, animations using radio astronomy data are an exciting new way of doing science. 

“I hope that this method will help to clarify various astronomical phenomena in the future,” he says.

In their, uh, youth binary systems are surrounded by a large disk of molecular gas and dust  — known as the protoplanetary disk — and such a disk is exactly the place where planets form. 

Astronomers have found many planets around binary systems , but how these dust disks form and how planets emerge from these systems is still a bit of a mystery. 

Astronomers have two main ideas of how binary systems form:

One is the possibility that molecular clouds get sort of “shaken” by a violent turbulence and get broken up that way.

The other is that an already-formed, single, large gas disk breaks up on its own into smaller disks. 

In binary systems, the position of the dusty disks around each star can tell important stories. 

They are interpreted differently depending on how tilted they are or how they move around each other. 

In the large-disk-breakup case, astronomers suppose that the orbit of the two binary stars and the individual daughter disks should be on the same plane as the parent disk. 

The angular momentum of the original large disk would be conserved and would be literally expressed and visible in the daughter disks.

On the other hand, in the large-gas-cloud-fragmentation case, the orbital plane of the binary stars and the plane of the disks are expected to be different.

There would be many different rotational domains in the parent cloud and this randomness would be apparent in the resulting systems.

The XZ Tauri system is inclined, with the disks significantly misaligned with respect to each other, and the disk planes not in the same plane as the orbit of the stars.

So the astronomers believe it was formed by the breaking up of a giant molecular cloud, not a larger parent disk. 

Hey, Here’s A Cool Fact!

The Sun is a single star, but the Milky Way Galaxy is full of binary stars, which are two stars orbiting each other. 

One of the two stars in today’s story, XZ Tau B, moved 3.4 AU, or 3.4 times the Earth-to-Sun distance, relative to the other star during the 3 years of the observations.

The two stars are around 6 billion kilometers apart, so they’re about as far apart as Pluto is from our Sun. The two stars will take about 155 years to complete one orbit.

Both stars are small and have about a third of the mass of our Sun, and are a class of variable stars called T Tauri stars.

This system is 460 light years away in the constellation Taurus. This winter will be a fine time to see this constellation, just north of the very familiar constellation of Orion.

But there is a lot more to know! The observations will continue!

Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. 

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