NASA discovered an age mystery in a bipolar nebula that has features that make it appear both very old and extremely young.
The massive star was found by the Spitzer Space Telescope and further observed with the help of the Herschel Space Observatory. It was named IRAS 19312+1950 and it is situated deep in the Milky Way.
“Astronomers recognized this object as noteworthy around the year 2000 and have been trying ever since to decide how far along its development is,” said Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist working at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
After its discovery, the star was believed to be a red supergiant, being in its late stages of life. However, a recent study shows that the IRAS 19312+1950 might be a protostar, a space object that is just undergoing formation.
The star is situated at 12,000 light-years away from our planet. Several teams of scientists studied the object and discovered that the star was rich in oxygen and has a size ten times larger than our Sun.
When it comes to the specific age of the star, the astronomers have different opinions.
The Age Mistery
For example, a part of them believes that the star already reached its maturity and started to enter a period of decline. After a star uses all their internal hydrogen deposits, it has to burn other fuels that don’t last as much. This leads to deterioration.
The hypothesis is supported by two clues discovered recently by researchers, as they found intense radio sources coming from IRAS 19312+1950. One of the radio sources is an indicator of old age. A second one shows a pattern specific to decaying stars.
On the contrary, the immense cloud filled with chemicals surrounding the star does not fit the theory. The cloud of gas is common for star nurseries. However, IRAS 19312+1950 does not show any signs of new stars.
After further research, the scientists discovered that the star was much brighter than it seemed to be. While being ten times larger than the Sun, it also emits 20,000 times more energy than our star.
Moreover, the cloud surrounding the star contains frozen water and carbon dioxide ice. This can make the star appear fainter than it actually is.
The material also seems to collapse, just like it happens when a star feeds off the gas and chemicals. However, the cloud also appears to be expanding, having a mass of up to 700 suns. The observation does not fit the image of a dying star.
Another detail is that the poles of the star emit powerful winds. Based on their strength and focus the star must be very young.
The researchers cannot explain why IRAS 19312+1950 has both features of an old and of a very young star. The age mystery will linger on until the astronomers uncover new evidence on the space object.
Image Source: Wikipedia