There’s something bizarre and unlike anything we’ve ever comprehended or expected speeding around one of Earth’s neighboring stars. When researchers pointed the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile at the star titled “AU Mic”, they found something in its neighboring dust cloud that they have never ever seen before, huge waves of moving dust speeding away from the star’s center. You can see the waves in red in the picture below. Astronomers frequently study dust clouds (also called as discs) around stars since they deliver vital hints about how planets form. Clumps in the cloud typically disclose the position of planets. But when astronomers mounted a new tool on VLT called SPHERE and pointed it at AU Mic, they discovered something entirely diverse than simple clumps of dust.
"Our observations have, so far, shown something completely unexpected," said main author on the recent research paper Anthony Boccaletti. "The images from SPHERE show a set of unexplained features in the disc which have an arch-like, or wave-like, structure, unlike anything that has ever been observed before." Astronomer have detected five of these strange so far. They look just like ripples in a pond of water (as shown in the image below). When Boccaletti and his group linked the image to those captured in previous years, they learned something even more astonishing.
The ripples are actually moving, and moving quite fast. At least, according to this study, three of them are travelling at around 25,000 miles per hour (almost 40,000 km/h) - that’s fast enough for them to start escaping from the star’s massive gravitational pull.
Astronomers, so far, aren’t sure what’s triggering the new features to move at this amazingly high speed. AU Mic frequently expels enormous bursts of stellar energy from its exterior, so it’s possible a particularly large flare was powerful enough to drive the ripples of dust away from the star and out into the space.
One thing is obvious, we’ll need a lot more data before astronomers know for sure. The new study was issued in the journal Nature on October 7.