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New born stars and the State-of-the-art.

If large cameras and telescope capable of probing the low surface brightness objects in the sky is one end of the state-of-the-art in astronomy, the following work would be the state-of-the-art at the other end of the spectrum. While surveys focusing on looking at all of the objects in the sky, choosing speed and number of astronomical objects found over spatial resolution, there are telescopes used specifically to study objects at the highest spatial resolution.

The paper (found here) talks about a narrow, edge-on disk resolved around the star HD 106906 using the SPHERE instrument on the VLT telescope. Note that I used to word resolved and not detected. For an astronomer, those two words are vastly different. The same way dark matter is discovered but not yet observed, astronomers knew that the aforementioned star had a dusty disk around it. How you ask? Well, for starters, if you have dust in front of a light source, the light source looks dimmer. Secondly, whatever light that the dusty disk is absorbing, it re-emits at a higher wavelength (IR). This work on the other hand didn't infer the presence of the dusty disk but was in fact able to resolve it. Using advanced adaptive optics to correct for atmospheric effects, the astronomers were able to work at diffraction-limited seeing, which helped resolved the star and the dusty disk around it. The paper also talks about a planet they rediscovered around the star and they talk about what the chances are that the planet is in fact orbiting in the same plane as the disk.

It's the other end of astronomical research where people study gas clouds that are collapsing into stars, proto-stars and young stars embedded in nebulae and what not. The sheer breadth of astronomical research never ceases to amaze me and the more i read about it, the more I believe that there's a place for anyone and everyone in astronomy.

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