WR-104- A potential deadly star

Star Wolf-Rayet (WR) is a highly unstable star that is nearing the end of his life, possibly culminating in a powerful gamma-ray burst (GRB) to assassinate planets. GRBs are collimated beams of high-energy gamma rays projecting from the poles of a Wolf-Rayet star as it collapses. It was not to wonder if we were worried when we found that a Wolf-Rayet star dying was pointing straight at us! Some time ago, in the AAS in Long Beach, a scientist working at the Keck telescope has taken great interest in WR 104 and shared new findings that show that our solar system could not be bathed in deadly gamma rays after all…

Dust streaming from the Wolf-Rayet 104 binary star system creates a pinwheel nebula. Credit: U.C. Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, W.M. Keck Observatory


Credit: U.C. Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, W.M. Keck Observatory

The Wolf-Rayet stars are massive evolved stars that are suicidal and violent death. They are very hot (up 50.000K) and lose weight very quickly, generating powerful stellar winds (at speeds of 2,000 km / s). The image of the WR 104 was captured using the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, last March, and images of the star system spiraling pinwheel seemed to show that we were “staring down the barrel of a rifle.” So what is causing this spiral structure around WR 104? The star has an O-type star, binary, socio so as WR 104 loses its mass, stellar winds come spiraling outward. As we are seeing the complete spiral from Earth, was therefore reasonable to assume that the binary system was pointing us. As WR 104 probably had its pole at 90 ° of the working plane ecliptic, any future GRB could be directed straight at us. “The WR 104 is a fascinating subject that took a lot of press last spring,” said Dr. Grant Hill during today’s meeting of the AAS (January 7). “Because the object is in our galaxy, it could be devastating [Earth].” “There are more than a hundred known galactic Wolf-Rayet stars which make them incredibly rare,” said Peter Tuthill, an astronomer at the University of Sydney in Australia. “Any of these could potentially be a GRB. WR 104 is the only one to appear just face on [or in the plane of the sky]. It’s a complicated system and either of us might have made an oversimplification,” said Tuthill, who said that probabilities still remain distant that the collapsing core of the supernova would inevitably generate a consequence in GRB.


Credit: U.C. Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, W.M. Keck Observatory

Hill, therefore, decided to confirm previous observations with Keck spectroscopy data to see if there might be the possibility of a GRB directed toward Earth. Their work confirms that the system is a binary pair, turning on itself in a period of 8 months. Hill also confirmed the presence of a shock front between the stellar winds of WR 104 and partner type O. And there is very good news for the Earth. Apparently, the original images of Keck may not have been as accurate as it looked. The line emission spectroscopic binary pair undoubtedly suggests that the system is actually tilted 30 ° or 40 ° (possibly no less than 45 °) and let us out.

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