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Recent observation and theory holds that the spirals of a space tornado may be the first step in the formation of a new star. A space tornado, observed with NASA’s Spitzer infrared telescope, is actually a shock wave created by a jet of material slamming on a cloud of interstellar gas and dust at more than 161 km/s. The material heats the gas and causes it to glow in the infrared spectrum. Physicists say the jet may have been generated by magnetic fields.
Physicist Giovanni Fazio has spotted tornadoes in space. With the help of his infrared camera on board NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers discovered what looked like a tornado in space. “When stars form, they form from the collapse of a cloud of gas and dust. And in the process of the gas and dust falling in, it doesn’t fall directly in — it sort of spirals in slowly,” Fazio says. Understanding the star formation may need to an increased understanding of how our universe formed.
Astronomers say they can only speculate about the source of the spiraling jet, but one explanation could be that magnetic fields throughout the region might have shaped the tornado-like object. Astronomers believe that cosmic jets form when a massive object, such as a neutron star or black hole, draws in matter, forming an accretion disk. Friction within the disk heats it to very high temperatures, and the excess energy is vented by ejecting subatomic particles from the poles of the disk at speeds approaching the speed of light. Scientists believe the jets start out fairly broad and then narrow into a funnel because of the strong magnetic field lines, which rotate and accelerate the jet of particles.
The space tornado is not a well known phenomenon, but seems to have the capability to lead to a better understanding of star, galaxy, and universe formation. Let’s hope so.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast about galaxies. Listen here, Episode 97: Galaxies.
Source: Science Daily