A jet flows at incredible speeds from a strange star


A jet of unprecedented material has been observed coming out of the gas disk of the strange star MWC 349A at “incredibly high speeds”. It is believed to be caused by huge magnetic forces that surround the star.

The discovery, made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and presented at a press conference at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), could help researchers understand the nature and evolution of massive stars and how hydrogen masks form in space.

MWC 349A is located about 3,900 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Cygnus, and its unique characteristics make it a point of interest for scientific research at optical, infrared and radio wavelengths.

This massive star, with a mass about 30 times that of the Sun, it is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky and one of the few known objects with hydrogen masers. These masers amplify microwave radio emissions, making it easier to study processes that are normally too small to see. This unique feature has allowed scientists to map the disk of MWC 349A in full detail for the first time.

“A maser is like a natural laser,” explains it’s a statement Sirina Prasad, a research assistant at the Harvard-Smithsonian (CfA) Center for Astrophysics and lead author of the paper. This is an area of ‚Äč‚Äčouter space that emits a very bright type of light. We can see this light and trace it back to its source, which brings us one step closer to finding out what’s really going on.”

Harnessing the resolving power of ALMA Band 6, developed by the US National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), the team was able to use the masers to discover previously unseen structures in the immediate vicinity of the star.

Qizhou Zhang, senior astrophysicist at the CfA and principal investigator on the project, explains that they used masers generated by hydrogen to probe the physical and dynamical structures of the gas surrounding MWC 349A. and revealed a flattened disk of gas with a diameter of 50 au, about the size of the Solar System“confirming the near-horizontal disk structure of the star. We also found a fast-moving jet component hidden within the winds flowing away from the star,” he adds.

The observed jet It ejects material away from the star at a breakneck speed of 500 kilometers per second. According to the researchers, a jet moving at this speed is likely to be launched by a magnetic force. In the case of MWC 349A, that force could be a magnetohydrodynamic Wind, a type of wind whose movement is dictated by the interaction between the magnetic field of the star and the gases present in the disk that surrounds it.

“Based on our previous knowledge of MWC 349A, the star was surrounded by a rotating disk and photoevaporative wind. Strong evidence for the existence of an additional collimated jet had not yet been observed in this system,” Prasad says. “Although not yet If we know for sure where it came from or how it is produced, it could be that a magnetohydrodynamic wind is producing the jet, in which case the magnetic field is responsible for throwing rotating material out of the system.”

He notes that “this could help us better understand the disk-wind dynamics of MWC 349A, and the interaction between circumstellar disks, winds, and jets in other stellar systems.”