Double shades extend through space from a star in a giant cloud of gas and dust 1,400 light-years away, like vast wings of a huge cosmic bat.
The winged shade, filmed with Hubble in 2018 and nicknamed “Bat Shadow”, was caused by a disk of dust and gas around a young star. The fluctuation of wings is likely from a small planet.
“The shadow is moving. It flies like a bird’s wings,” said astronomer Klaus Pontopedan of the Space Telescope Science Institute.
(NASA, ESA, and STScI)
The HBC star is just 672 million or two million years old. Because it is so small, it is still lying in the middle of a dust and gas disc, which feeds the star as it grows. Researchers believe that these disks continue to clump together, forming asteroids and planets like the Solar System, but this process is far from complete for HBC 672.
The star and its disk are located in a larger cloud of gas and dust called a reflex nebula.
The star’s light shines freely from the top and bottom of the disk, but the disk blocks the light around the medium, casting a long shadow – at least 17,000 astronomical units, or 0.24 light years away, in each direction.
Hubble studied the area twice – first on July 22, 2017, then again 404 days later, on August 30, 2018. When Pontopedan and his team compared these observations, they noticed that the shadow changed his condition.
This could be due to a low mass and luminosity star spinning out of the disc level. But the team believes this is unlikely.
Although the disc is small and too far to be seen directly, light analysis indicates that the interior of the disc is still present – which would not be the case if the HBC 672 had a dual companion.
The other option is a double disk curvature, provided by a young planet over at least 180 days – within a few astronomical units of the star – and this is heavily tilted from the disk level.
With only two sets of observations, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact cause, but if a discolored disc is caused by the orbit of a planet, the “wings” must be struck at regular intervals.
“We suggest that more observation of disk shadows from a stable platform such as the Hubble or the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope provides a unique opportunity to constrain the hydrodynamics of the constituent regions of the planet in real time,” the researchers wrote.
The study was published in the Journal of Astrophysics (Astrophysical Journal).
Source: Science Alert