Interstellar "Wind" Sculpts Dusty Disks Around Stars
A new model of oddly shaped debris disks around stars incorporates the drag effect from interstellar gas on the disk's outermost small particles. Far from being empty, the space between stars is filled with patchy clouds of low-density gas. When a star encounters a relatively dense clump of this gas, the resulting flow produces a drag force on orbiting dust particles about one micrometer across, or about the size of particles in smoke. As the dust particles respond to the interstellar wind, a debris disk can morph into peculiar shapes determined by the details of its collision with the gas cloud. In a face-on encounter, such as that of the star HD 61005 in the constellation Puppis, shown here, the disk's edge bends gently away from the direction of motion. Fine dust trails behind, forming a cylindrical wake.
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NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center