Study says young stars 'shoot water bullets'

Friday, June 17, 2011

Perseus constellation map.
Image: AugPi.

According to Dutch astronomers at Leiden University, a distant star is "shooting" water bullets into space. Astronomers say the amount of water released from the young sun-like Protostar is 100 million times what the Amazon Rainforest produces every second.

"If we picture these jets as giant hoses and the water droplets as bullets, the amount shooting out equals a hundred million times the water flowing through the Amazon River every second. We are talking about velocities reaching 200,000 kilometers (124,274 mi) per hour, which is about 80 times faster than bullets flying out of a machine gun," said lead scientist and author of the study, Lars Kristensen.

The discovery was made by the Herschel Space Observatory, of the European Space Agency. The astronomers studied the lights of particles they saw while looking through the clouds of a young star in the constellation Perseus, about 750 light years from earth. Both oxygen and hydrogen atoms were detected and are believed to be created inside the star. When the drops of water are pushed out by the star's gases, they are released as a superheated steam, before they are cooled by the surrounding space, just enough to condense them into water.

"We are only now beginning to understand that sunlike stars probably all undergo a very energetic phase when they are young," added Kristensen. "It's at this point in their lives when they spew out a lot of high-velocity material—part of which we now know is water."