Tuesday, September 19, 2017

FIRST OBSERVATION OF POLARIZED LIGHT FROM REGULUS

 Astronomers have successfully observed the phenomenon know as polarized light five decades after its originally prediction. In 1968, two astronomers from the Perkins Observatory, J. Patrick Harrington and George W. Collins II,  developed a hypothesis based on Chandrasekhar’s work to predict that the distorted shape of a rapidly rotating star would cause the emission of polarized light. For decades detection of polarized light has eluded scientists. The research about the detection of polarized light is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
 “We found Regulus is rotating so quickly it is close to flying apart, with a spin rate of 96.5% of the angular velocity for break-up. It is spinning at approximately 715,800 mph (320 km/sec),” said astronomer Daniel Cotton from the University of New South Wales, the lead author of the study.
 Regulus is a part of the constellation Leo as the brightest star in the constellation and one of the brightest stars in the entire sky. Dr. Cotton along with his colleagues from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States used the High Precision Polarimetric Instrument (HIPPI)  to detect the polarized light from Regulus.
 “HIPPI is the world’s most sensitive astronomical polarimeter. Its high precision has allowed us to detect polarized light from a rapidly spinning star for the first time,” Dr. Cotton said.“We have also been able to combine this new information about Regulus with sophisticated computer models to determine the star’s inclination and rotation rate.” “It has previously been extremely difficult to measure these properties of rapidly rotating stars,” he said.
“Yet the information is crucial for understanding the life cycles of most of the hottest and largest stars in the galaxies, which are the ones that produce the heaviest elements, such as iron and nickel, in interstellar space.”
Read more about this fascinating story at: http://www.sci-news.com/astronomy/polarized-light-regulus-05235.html

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