For the first time ever, a picture of an asteroid being torn apart by a dead star has been captured clearly showing the formation of a debris ring, which is glowing brightly. These rings are made up of dust particles and debris generated as the star’s gravity end up ripping asteroids that stray too close to them.
Christopher Manser of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics Group is the lead author of the study and his team examined the remains of planetary systems that surround white dwarf stars. In this study we refer to SDSS1228+1040.
As elaborated by Christopher Manser, “The diameter of the gap inside of the debris ring is 700,000 kilometres, which is almost 50 percent the size of the Sun and the same space could fit both Saturn and its rings, which are only around 270,000 km across. Also, the white dwarf is seven times smaller than Saturn but weighs 2500 times more”.
There is gas released by collisions in these debris inside the ring, which shines by ultraviolet rays emitted from the star. This makes the star release a dark red glow noticed by the researchers as it forms a ringed image.
The rings formed in this case are pretty similar to the rings around Saturn but the measure of white dwarf and its debris is several times bigger in size.
Though these debris rings have earlier been spotted around a few other white dwarfs, the first picture of SDSS1228+1040 gives a never before understanding of the structure of these systems.
Mr Manser stated that they were aware of these debris disks around white dwarfs for over two decades, however this is the first time that a an image could be shot of the disks.
Researchers made use of Doppler tomography to click this image and this technique is similar to Computed Tomography (CT) that is used quite often in hospitals. These two processes obtain scans from a lot of various angles combined later in a computer and then converted to a picture.
During a CT scan the machine usually goes around the patient but to get an image of this disk that is rotating very slowly on its own, scientists recorded data over a span of twelve years.
The research, Doppler-imaging of the planetary debris disc at the white dwarf SDSS J122859.93+104032.9, is published by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.