The Leo Constellation bright star Regulus is considered as one of the biggest stars in the night sky. And now astronomers have discovered that it is spinning very fast and emitting light in a unique polarized way and is getting ready to fly apart and destroy itself.
This particular phenomenon was predicted by famous Indian Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar over 70 years ago. He predicted that rapidly rotating star would emit polarized light and for the first time a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia and University College London in the UK has successfully observed this unique phenomenon. They used a highly sensitive piece of equipment to detect the polarized light of the bright star Regulus.
This particular equipment gave unprecedented insights into the giant star, that is present in the constellation Leo, and also the scientists were able to determine the spinning rate as well as the orientation in space of Regulus’s spin axis. Researcher Daniel Cotton from UNSW said that they detected Regulus rotating very fast and this could lead to its flying apart and the spin rate is measured to be around 96.5 percent of the angular velocity for the break-up. He added that Regulus is spinning at approximately 320 kilometers per second which is equivalent to reaching Canberra from Sydney within a second.
Way back in 1946, Chandrasekhar predicted about the emission of polarised light from the edges of stars and hence this led to the development of sensitive instruments known as stellar polarimeters, used for the detection of this unique phenomena. After that, in 1968, many other researchers and scientists took forward the work of Chandrasekhar and predicted that the distorted, squashed shape of a fast rotating star would result in the emission of polarised light but this phenomenon has captivated the scientists all these years as they were not able to discover such type of phenomena in real world.
But now researchers have successfully detected the phenomenon through Regulus. Cotton informed that the High Precision Polarimetric Instrument that they used is considered as world’s most sensitive astronomical polarimeter and because of its high precision, scientists were able to observe polarised light for the first time from a rapidly spinning star. The study was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.