Home > Astronomy, General Astronomy, Nebulae, Stars > Sun Block For The Big Dog: Detection Of Titanium Oxide And Titanium Dioxide Around The Giant Star VY Canis Majoris

Sun Block For The Big Dog: Detection Of Titanium Oxide And Titanium Dioxide Around The Giant Star VY Canis Majoris


Credits: Molecule symbols: CDMS/T. Kamiński, Background image: NASA/ESA and R. Humphreys (University of Minnesota)

Credits: Molecule symbols: CDMS/T. Kamiński, Background image: NASA/ESA and R. Humphreys (University of Minnesota)

An international team of astronomers, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and from the University of Cologne, discovered two titanium oxides, TiO and TiO2, at radio wavelengths using telescope arrays in the USA and in France. The detection was made in the environment of VY Canis Majoris, a giant star close to the end of its life.

The discovery was made in the course of a study of a spectacular star, VY Canis Majoris or VY CMa for short, which is a variable star located in the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog). “VY CMa is not an ordinary star, it is one of the largest stars known, and it is close the end of its life,” says Tomasz Kamiński from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR). In fact, with a size of about one to two thousand times that of the Sun, it could extend out to the orbit of Saturn if it were placed in the center of our Solar System.

The star ejects large quantities of material which forms a dusty nebula. The complexity of this nebula has been puzzling astronomers for decades. It has been formed as a result of stellar wind, but it is not understood well why it is so far from having a spherical shape. Neither is known what physical process blows the wind, i.e. what lifts the material up from the stellar surface and makes it expand. “The fate of VY CMa is to explode as a supernova, but it is not known exactly when it will happen”, adds Karl Menten, head of the “Millimeter and Submillimeter Astronomy” Department at MPIfR.

Full Story: http://www3.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/public/pr/pr-tio-mar2013-en.html

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