Recent images taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESO’s Very Large Telescope showed never-seen-before wave-like arches in a dusty disc settled around a death star. The nature of these arches is a mystery for scientists as the phenomenon is like nothing ever seen before.

Data was collected by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile on the surroundings of the AU Microscopii star while looking for any signs of clumpy or warped features that might give away planets forming around the young star.

Using images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have discovered fast-moving wave-like features in the dusty disc around the nearby star AU Microscopii. The top row shows a Hubble image of the AU Mic disc from 2010, the middle row Hubble from 2011 and the bottom row is an image taken with the SPHERE instrument, mounted on the Very Large Telescope, from 2014. The black central circles show where the brilliant light of the central star has been blocked off to reveal the much fainter disc, and the position of the star is indicated schematically. The scale bar at the top of the picture indicates the diameter of the orbit of the planet Neptune in the Solar System (60 AU). Note that the brightness of the outer parts of the disc has been artificially brightened to reveal the faint structure. Image: ESO, NASA & ESA

“Our observations have shown something unexpected […] the images from the Very Large Telescope instrument SPHERE show a set of unexplained features in the disk, which have an arch like or wavelike structure unlike anything that has ever been observed before” said Anthony Boccaletti lead author on the paper as reported by CS Monitor.

When scientists compared the new information with previous images of the star taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2010 and 2011 they were able to see the same features but in different places and concluded that the ripples move at incredible speed.

“We reprocessed images from the Hubble data and ended up with enough information to track the movement of these strange features over a four-year period […] By doing this, we found that the arches are racing away from the star at speeds of up to about 40 000 kilometres/hour!” explains team member Christian Thalmann as reported by Phys.

The high speed push scientist to believe that some features are escaping from the star’s gravitational attraction, and it eliminates the possibility that these rare features are caused by large asteroid-like objects or changes in the star’s gravity.

A theory

“One explanation for the strange structure links them to the star’s flares […] AU Mic is a star with high flaring activity — it often lets off huge and sudden bursts of energy from on or near its surface.” co-author Glenn Schneider, of Steward Observatory in Arizona, said in the statement reported by CS Monitor.

The theory explains maybe one of the flares could have triggered something on one of the possibly present planets like a stripping of material which propagated through the disk.

Source: CS Monitor