20 years keeping an eye on R Aquarii

phys.org | 6/8/2018 | Staff
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The R Aquarii nebula taken with the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) at the Observatory of Roque de los Muchachos (ORM) in La Palma. Colours indicate different ionization stages of the same chemical element, oxygen. Credit: R. Corradi - Daniel López.

An international team of researchers, including scientists from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, has published a detailed study of the evolution of the nebula surrounding the symbiotic star R Aquarii. The study involved observations from telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma, and Chile taken over the course of more than two decades.

Terms - Years - Nebula - R - Aquarii

In astronomical terms, at 600 light years away, the nebula around R Aquarii is relatively close. The symbiotic star is made up of a red giant and a white dwarf that have interacted over centuries to form the magnificent surrounding nebula from material ejected from the system.

This system, known as R Aquarii for its apparent location in the large zodiacal constellation of Aquarius, is an important example of the effects of the gravitational interactions that occur between nearby stars. In the later stages of their evolution, when stars like the sun grow to giant dimensions, lowering the surface gravity and allowing prodigious amounts of matter to escape, the gravitational pull of a nearby star can become the dominant cause of their evolution and destiny. As shown by R Aquarii, matter lost by one star can be sculpted into complex, albeit symmetric, nebulae, and in the process, highly collimated outflows, called jets, can form. Jets are a common phenomenon in the universe, and are found around binary stars and black holes, as well as in the centres of the largest and most powerful galaxies.

R - Aquarii - Stellar - Jet - Complex

R Aquarii is the closest-known stellar jet, allowing these complex...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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