Washington, Jan 12 : Astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope to detect a "moth" shaped disk of dust and gas, and a never before seen system of four tightly grouped stars in the corner of our galaxy.
According to a report in national Geographic News, the first finding - the "moth", illuminated by a young star in the constellation Puppis, was found as part of a systematic search for planet-forming disks that might shed light on how planetary systems, including our own, formed.
About 112 light-years from the sun, the Moth was detected because of the intense infrared light it emits.
"One of the things that drew us to this star system is how bright it is in the infrared," said Dean Hines of the Space Science Institute in Corrales, New Mexico. "That intense radiation indicates the presence of an unusually large amount of dust," he added.
According to Hines, the fact that the dust is crashing into the interstellar medium really lit this disk up and allowed the astronomers to observe it.
Such disks are believed to be made of the material from which planets form and are common around young stars.
"But this one is oddly bent, as though flying into a headwind, and that's exactly what it's doing", said Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona.
In this case, the star and its disk are plowing through an interstellar gas cloud.
"That produces a local wind that is blowing the dust backward, producing this meniscus-like [or crescent] shape," said Schneider.
The second finding was of a unique quadruple star system near the constellation Aquarius, that packs four stars into a region smaller than the orbit of Jupiter, with the stars grouped into two closely spaced pairs, 20 and 80 million kilometers apart, respectively.
"It's really quite amazing that four stars all orbit each other at this distance," said University of Hawaii researcher Evgenya Shkolnik.
But, according to Shkolnik, it's not possible for all four stars to have formed that closely together. Rather, they must have formed at greater distances and then spiraled together as interstellar gas slowed their orbits.
"There is no reason to believe that the system is actually young, but the stars must have moved close together within the first 100,000 years or so of their lives," said Shkolnik.
Though the system is unique among stars because it appears to emit four spectra superimposed on each other, it probably isn't one of a kind.