Green Gems Rain in Space as New Star Forms

Space telescopes, or sometimes referred to as space observatories are responsible for a host of discoveries that have allowed astronomers to see a variety of phenomenon that they previously could not imagine. Space telescopes discover new stars and planetary systems constantly, but occasionally they discover truly rare astronomical events. The NASA Spitzer Space Telescope, first launched in 2003, can be credited with capturing one of these rare events recently, while monitoring the birth of a new star. In the constellation of Orion, Spitzer witnessed the birth of the distant star, HOPS-68. Though this event is noteworthy in its own right, the real point of interest for astronomers was the small green gemstones that are falling, like rain, around the new star. The imagery of a new star is quite interesting; there are dark , swirling clouds, debris and freezing temperatures of minus 130 C (280 F), but the green gem stones turn the event into, what appears to be a cosmic piece of performance art. Astronomers note that the falling green crystals resemble glitter against a dark, dusty backdrop. Scientist know that the green gemstones are crystals of the silicate mineral forsterite. The mineral forsterite is present on Earth and can be found on the green sand beaches of Hawaii and in the gem peridot. It is also known that forsterite were commonly observed in comets during Stardust and Deep Impact’s flyby missions and can be found in the discs around young stores. Until Spitzer’s discovery, forsterite crystals had never been observed in the presence of a new star.

The presence of forsterite in a new star is unusual to scientists, because forsterite crystals need to form in hot temperatures (around 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit or 700 degrees Celsius) and the temperatures in the newly formed star are very low. This contradiction, along with the nature of the falling crystals has led to a search for possible reasons for the presence of forsterite in the case of both new stars and comets. Scientists have theorized that the crystals were first created on the hot surface of the star and then confronted by jets of gas that are also present on the star’s surface. These gas jet streams then propel the crystals to the cold and cloudy outer environment of the star. The theory continues to state that when the crystals reach the clouds of the newly forming star, they then fall because there is not heat. This theory accompanies recent theories about the creation and presence of forsterite crystals in comets. They believe the crystals could have been formed in collapsing gas clouds around the sun in its early form. It is believed that the crystals then gathered around the edge of our solar system, until finally freezing together. These frozen forsterite crystals then gathered more mater, eventually forming the heart of the comets that have been observed today. With every discovery by space telescopes such as Sptizer, new hints are discovered about the complex workings of space, stars and planetary systems.




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