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Aussie finds space symmetry

April 13, 2007 06:48am

Article from: AAP

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AN unusually symmetrical, bright red new star has been discovered by an Australian astronomer and his research team.

Christened Red Square, the bipolar nebula is the most symmetrical ever photographed. It was captured using Adaptive Optics, a system capable of taking images without atmospheric distortion or blurring.

University of Sydney school of physics senior lecturer Peter Tuthill and his American colleague, James Lloyd, of Cornell University, made the discovery while conducting a four-year project in the US researching the birth of stars.

"We were trying to study stellar birth, looking for systems we thought were young and in the process of forming," Dr Tuthill said.

"It (Red Square) shows many of the features associated with young stars, but it turns out it's a dying star, one potentially about to blow up."

Dr Tuthill said a discovery like Red Square did not come around very often in astronomy.

"The thing that really takes your breath away is the astonishing degree of symmetry within the intricate linear forms," he said.

"If you fold things across the principal diagonal axis, you get an almost perfect reflection symmetry.

"This makes the Red Square nebula the most symmetrical object of comparable complexity ever imaged."

Red Square consists of twin opposed conical cavities with a sequence of linear bars running through the heart of the system.

Dr Tuthill said it was those bars that would have astronomers studying the system for years to come.

He said the images implied a three-dimensional structure to Red Square, where the bars actually become elliptical rings encircling the polar axis.

He said polar rings intrigued astronomers when they were unexpectedly revealed in the explosion of SN1987A, the only supernova visible to the naked eye since the telescope was invented.

"If you can really get a mental grasp of the three-dimensional geometry implied by the Red Square images, then it is fascinating to take a second look at one of the most famous astronomical images of them all, SN1987A," he said.

"It (Red Square) gives us a model for studying the creation of polar rings.

"It's a pretty thing too, it's a nice one to have found."

The findings will be published in the US journal Science today.


Red Square
STUNNINGLY symmetrical ... this is the Red Square nebula, discovered by an Australian astronomer and his research team. It is said to be the ``the most symmetrical object of comparable complexity" ever photographed in space. Credit: Peter Tuthill, Palomar and Keck Observatories
<a href=""> <img src="" alt="" width="300" height="250" border="0"> </a>

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