Astronomers have observed the future of the sun using the example of the red giant

Astronomers have observed the future of the sun using the example of the red giant
Astronomers have observed the future of the sun using the example of the red giant
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For the first time, scientists were able to discern the details of the surface of a distant solar-type star - a red giant in the last stages of its evolution.

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Located 254 light years from us, Hydra's W was previously almost a twin of the Sun, with approximately the same mass and luminosity. However, it is much older than our star and has already evolved to the stage of a red giant, swollen and - if we continue the analogy with the Sun - it has swallowed space up to the orbits of the Earth and Mars. On the well-known Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, it is in the region of the Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB), where the Sun will one day be, among large, bright and cold stars that continue to rapidly lose mass.

Astronomer Wouter Vlemmings of Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology and colleagues used ALMA radio telescopes to directly observe Hydra's W. Their article is published in the journal Nature Astronomy. “The importance of the work for us is not only to learn what red giants look like, but also to understand how they change over time and how they fill the galaxy with the elements necessary for life,” says Professor Wlemmings. “Thanks to the high resolution of the ALMA antennas, we were able to make unique detailed observations.”

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Most detailed image of the red giant: W Hydra is located 320 light years away and several million years older than the Sun. The dotted circle is for comparison and shows the dimensions of the earth's orbit (1 AU) / © Alma, W. Vlemmings

Indeed, so far, only the largest stars such as Betelgeuse or Antares have been able to capture surface detail images. W Hydra was the first in its class to be examined in such detail, noticing some unexpected details for scientists; thus, a compact and bright spot was found on it. The spot may indicate either an unusually bright flare in the stellar chromosphere, coincidentally coinciding with the observation time, or the action of shock waves that heat this region to extremely high temperatures.

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