Stellar winds from red giant star produce cosmic floral pattern

A stream of charged particles emanating from red giant star R Aquilae is not spherical, but irregular, leading astronomers to infer the existence of a large body nearby.

A stream of charged particles emanating from red giant star R Aquilae. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Decin et al.

It may resemble a delicate flower, but this new ALMA image shows something far less serene: stellar winds raging up to a million times stronger than those from our own Sun.

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They are blasting from red giant star R Aquilae, one of several red giants whose winds have been shown to blow out not spherically as expected, but in irregular shapes. One theory is that the patterns indicate the influence of another star or giant planet nearby.

This image was captured as part of the ATOMIUM project in collaboration with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile.

Astronomers are mapping the stellar winds of about a dozen red giant stars to learn more about these processes.

For more on the science of stars, read our articles on the weirdest stars in the Universe, how stars form or a beginner’s guide to stars.

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Observatory Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

Release date 21 September 2020

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Credit ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Decin et al.