“Dracula’s Chivito” is the best name for a newly found astronomical object this year

Astronomers have discovered a very young and unusual-looking star and named it Dracula’s Chivito, after a popular Uruguayan sandwich. The name is a nod to the most similar item we’ve seen before, the equally memorable Gomez’ Hamburger.

Stars can last for billions of years, but are most interesting in the relatively short periods when they are born and die, partly because there appears to be more diversity in those stages than in middle age. A particularly prized example is IRAS 18059-3211, discovered in 1985 from photographs by Arturo Gómez. It’s called Gomez’s Hamburger, or GoHam, because it looks like meat in a bun.

GoHam is interesting because we see it in the period when the surrounding disk has not yet condensed into planets, and has also moved unusually further. At 800 light-years away, it’s hardly close (although some estimates are higher), but certainly more convenient for exploration than most of the galaxy. Intriguingly, it is not in a region where other stars are forming, unlike the vast majority of newborn stellar stars, which tend to be tightly clumped.

It took 39 years from the discovery of GoHam to find a counterpart, but now we have an exceptionally good match. In the intervening time, the authors of a preprint article announcing this note that there has been recognition that these edge-on drives can help us answer questions raised by those we can see from other angles.

“The shadows cast by the midplane concentration of dust and gas in highly inclined disks allow direct observations of scattered light from the central star, revealing the vertical distribution of dust grains and providing information about their size, composition and settling mechanisms,” they note. .

The team wasn’t looking for GoHam’s siblings when they made their discovery, but instead looked for galaxies with possible black holes feeding on infalling material. In doing so, they came across an object that they say is a disk; “Has the characteristic bipolar appearance of edge-on disks with the central star completely hidden.” Previous observations had been made at radio wavelengths and had not revealed how interesting it was.

Follow-up research on GoHam revealed an estimated mass 2.5 times that of the Sun. The mass of the disk is believed to be 0.03 solar masses, which sounds small until you realize that this is 20 times larger than every planet, asteroid and comet in the solar system combined. There are some signs that a planet is already forming.

A Hubble image of Gomez's Hmaburger, starting with the meat bun with the name 'class of side' on stars

A Hubble image of Gomez’s Hamburger starting with the meat bun with the name ‘class of side’ on stars

Image credits: NASA/processed by Jud Schmidt CC by 2.0

Astronomers like to give similar objects thematically similar names – so Mothra for the star that resembles a star called Godzilla – so the new discovery called for something related to Gomez’s Hamburger. The discoverers saw what look like fangs extending from the north side and thought a reference to Dracula was appropriate. Co-author Dr. Ana Mosquera is originally Uruguayan and the team took her suggestion to name it after her country’s national dish, a sandwich filled with steak, cheese, ham and assorted vegetables.

“Dense clumps collapse under the influence of gravity until fusion begins,” lead author Dr Ciprian Berghea from the US Naval Observatory told IFLScience. “The newborn star is in the so-called ‘pre-main sequence’ and is still surrounded by a dense disk of gas and dust and by an envelope, which is left of the cloud clump. If the envelope is very dim, you can only see the brighter ‘edges’ of the envelope, the ‘fangs’. You could probably see more of the envelope with better observations.” To that end, the team is trying to get Hubble or JWST to spend time on DraChi.

The announcement includes references to other objects described as similar to the pair, but all are much smaller, due to their intrinsic size or greater distance, and therefore more difficult to study. Dracula’s Chivito or DraChi appears 50 percent larger than GoHam, despite probably being a similar distance away. The central star is thought to be more than a third hotter than the Sun, while the mass of its disk is also thought to be slightly lower than that of GoHam.

The paper has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters and a preprint can be found at ArXiv.org.

[H/T ScienceAlert]

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