Astronomers caught the first glimpse of a snowy star. V883 Orionis is surrounded by a field of frozen water that puzzles researchers and raises new questions about planet formation.
NASA continues to be interested in how the Universe had been created and how planets are formed. Even though we live on a planet, scientists still need to look into the deep space for clues. Objects with different ages and composition show space is a much more diverse environment than initially thought.
The snowy star includes an ancient ring of space dust, debris, and water particles. The star in itself is relatively young, which makes its temperature high. While the core is hot, the extremities interfere with the cold space and the water freezes inside the ring at the exact distance where the freezing point is reached.
Therefore, the image offers a bright hot star surrounded by a flat ring that progressively turns white, as the temperature drops towards its extremities.
Scientists believe that all stars have the same display of ice. In general, the portion of the ring with frozen water is very close to the star. However, in this particular case, V883 Orionis started to heat again at some point. The process pushed the ice layer further away from the star, displaying an outer stream of ice in the vicinity of the star.
The image was taken by ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. The scientists were looking for disk fragmentations that might give them information on how planets are created. In fact, they discovered none of that. The observations showed the incredible, unusual ring of 40 astronomical units.
Researchers believe that the phenomenon is not as rare as the findings may suggest. Even though V883 Orionis is the first star to be photographed having such a frozen ring, the reactions that lay at the origins of its formation are quite common, and plenty of other space objects could display the same properties.
It seems that the ice surrounding young stars is one of the most important components that help during the process of planet formation. Astronomers say that even Earth had such a ring of frozen water, at some point during its early history.
The new ALMA observations offer more information as to the exact moment when the ice layer gets distributed inside the surrounding ring. It seems that the display is quite common in space, and each star has its personal ice layer in its vicinity. The layers are closer or further away, depending on the age of the star and on its dynamics.
Image Source: Wikipedia