Protostar in spiral arms

Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun

An international team of astronomers, which includes three researchers affiliated with the Nicolaus Copernicus University (Torun, Poland), has succeeded in mapping the protostellar disk with the highest precision known today. The discovery provides evidence predicted by the theory of episodic accretion.

The work was recognized by the journal Nature Astronomy, where an article has just been published “A Keplerian disk with a four-arm spiral birthing an episodically accreting high-mass protostar”. Among the authors – an international group of astronomers specializing in observations of maser emissions – were three researchers affiliated with the Institute of Astronomy at the NCU Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics: dr. habil. Anna Bartkiewicz, NCU Prof., mgr Michal Durjasz, and dr. Mateusz Olech, who defended his doctorate at the Faculty and is now part of the team of the Space Radio Diagnostics Centre at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn).

Joint effort

In his scientific work, dr habil. Anna Bartkiewicz, NCU Prof. is concerned with the study of star-forming objects showing the ring structure of the methanol maser. With the help of the European VLBI Network, she precisely determines the natural motions of the maser clouds at the level of a few kilometres per second. She is currently leading the Opus grant of the National Science Centre “Space masers as a tool for identifying accretion explosions of massive protostars”. Michal Durjasz, a PhD student at the Nicolaus Copernicus University Doctoral School of Exact and Natural Sciences, has also made a major contribution to the research, working on areas of massive stars with abrupt changes in methanol maser emission. Both researchers belong to the IDUB Centre of Excellence “Astronomy and Astrophysics” Mateusz Olech, on the other hand, is interested in star-forming regions and periodic changes of methanol masers around massive protostars.

The article, and especially the research that preceded it, is the result of a successful collaboration between experts from around the world.

Observational data acquired from 24 radio telescopes from around the world contributed to our discovery, which was then carefully correlated by teams at three centres on three different continents, explains dr Ross Burns of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, first author of the paper. – Around 150 people were involved, and we would like to express our gratitude to them for their efforts, hoping for further collaboration in the future.

Mysteries of the stars

The researchers focused on observations of massive stars, i.e. those with masses greater than eight masses of the Sun. They play a key role in the production of the elements necessary to build life in the Universe and also influence the formation and evolution of galaxies. The most massive stars die and become enigmatic black holes.

Despite their importance in the Universe, the process of massive star formation has been shrouded in mystery for many decades.

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