HomeScience & TechFU Orionis Star System's Violent Eruptions Explained After Decades of Speculation

FU Orionis Star System’s Violent Eruptions Explained After Decades of Speculation

In the serene expanse of the Milky Way, most stars go about their business quietly, but one star refuses to conform to the norm. Enter FU Orionis, a binary system that has been erupting dramatically since 1936, puzzling astronomers with its erratic behavior. Now, after 88 years of speculation, a breakthrough has been made.

Astronomers, led by Antonio Hales of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, have finally uncovered the secret behind FU Orionis’ relentless outbursts. Using observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), they have directly imaged a stream of material being devoured by the star – a crucial piece of the puzzle that has eluded scientists for decades.

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“This discovery provides the first direct observational evidence of the material fueling the eruptions,” says Hales, shedding light on the star’s enigmatic behavior.

The material in question is a filament of carbon monoxide, winding its way into the central star of the FU Orionis system. While this thread alone is insufficient to sustain the star’s eruptions, astronomers suspect it to be the remnants of a larger gas clump consumed by the star over time.

According to Hales, past interactions with a larger gas stream might have destabilized the system, triggering the spectacular brightness increase observed in FU Orionis.

Located approximately 1,360 light-years away in the constellation of Orion, FU Orionis comprises two young stars, each still in the process of growth. Fed by a disk of dust and gas, these stars steadily accumulate mass – a process thought to underpin the eruptive behavior observed in FU Orionis and similar stars known as FUor stars.

By employing ALMA to image the carbon monoxide streamer and numerical modeling to analyze its properties, Hales and his team have provided compelling evidence for accelerated mass transfer from the surrounding disk. This influx of material, possibly originating from interstellar space, fuels the star’s fiery tantrums, illuminating the cosmos with its radiant display.

While the origins of the additional material remain unclear, astronomers speculate it may stem from the remnants of the protostellar envelope surrounding the binary system.

The revelation of FU Orionis’ feeding frenzy not only unravels the mystery of its eruptions but also offers insights into the growth and evolution of young stars. As astronomers continue to probe the cosmos, the discovery of FU Orionis’ cosmic appetite marks a significant milestone in our quest to understand the intricate dance of celestial bodies in the universe.

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