Milky Way is Ridden with Bow Waves from Runaway Stars

runaway stars

Milky Way is ridden with bow waves from runaway stars recently imaged in an astonishing series.

Milky Way is ridden with bow waves from runaway stars recently imaged in an astonishing series.

Much like a vessel moves through water creating the V-shaped ripples and cutting right through them afterwards, outcast stars follow the same pattern. The bow of a vessel pushes the water behind, creating the V-shaped ripples. Thus, the bow waves or bow shocks created by stars don’t fall too far from this analogy.

Some stars are crowded out from star population booming clusters. Others become outcasts as their pair stars explode. As they move through space at incredibly high speeds, runaway stars create bow waves. Travelling stars like these pump out stellar gases. In this travel, stellar winds will meet the stellar gases, creating the visually captivating phenomenon of bow shocks or bow waves.

The images captured at infrared wavelengths by the Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and by the Spitzer Telescope depict the bow waves and the stars behind them in an astonishing series. Many of the images will show the bow waves in front of the lone runaway stars, looking much like a protective shield.

The bow waves were the telltale sign that the runaway stars are there. Several investigations showed that the Milky Way is ridden with bow waves from runaway stars. Depending on the circumstances as well as the speed at which the runaway star is travelling, bow waves can be detected from Earth due to the heat emitted by the stellar gases.

Runaway stars are peculiar. Lonesome, they are a difficult study subject under conventional circumstances. That is why the WISE and Spitzer Telescope observations could help scientists dig deeper into the origins of these stars and their potential ending. In the astonishing image series, the Spitzer Telescope observations provide a more clear and detailed picture of the runaway stars and the bow waves they create. The WISE observations based on the infrared signature are slightly more clouded. However, that is due to cool and heated gas clouds being imaged as well.

Analyzing the bow waves of runaway stars provides crucial information on the mass and speed of the stars. The runaway stars discovered thanks to identifying the bow waves are between 8 and 30 solar masses.

The initial survey surfaced 200 bow waves for analysis. 80 of the candidates were followed in more detail by the scientific team. Each of them revealed the runaway stars at the center of the images. According to the scientific team, all runaway stars are hot massive stars, much bigger than our Sun.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia