Astronomers fund a surprising spiral structure by using ALMA observatory (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array). They have discovered a totally unexpected spiral in the material around the old star R Sculptoris.   Watch the video

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This is the first time that such a structure, along with an outer spherical shell, has been found around a red giant star. It is also the first time that astronomers could get full three-dimensional information about such a spiral. The strange shape was probably created by a hidden companion star orbiting the red giant. This work is one of the first ALMA, the most powerful millimetre/submillimetre telescope in the world, early science results to be published and it appears in the journal Nature this week.

We’ve seen shells around this kind of star before, but this is the first time we’ve ever seen a spiral of material coming out from a star, together with a surrounding shell,” says the lead author on the paper presenting the results, Matthias Maercker (ESO and Argelander Institute for Astronomy, University of Bonn, Germany).

When we observed the star with ALMA, not even half its antennas were in place. It’s really exciting to imagine what the full ALMA array will be able to do once it’s completed in 2013,” adds Wouter Vlemmings (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), a co-author of the study.

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