BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Scientists studying the night sky have spotted, reportedly for the first time, the incredible high rotating speed of Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. According to researchers, this is so strong, that the space body might actually possibly be close to “flying apart”.
An international group of researchers coming from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia are behind this new study.
Regulus, Shining Bright but Spinning Too Fast
Regulus is a bluish-tinted first magnitude star located in the constellation Leo, some 79 light years away from our planet. This is one of the brightest stars in the night sky and part of a class that includes only 22 other such space bodies. Most recently, the star was obscured in a rare lunar occultation late on Sunday night.
The study team took a closer look at Regulus by pointing the HIPPI or High Precision Polarimetric Instrument towards it. This is the most sensitive astronomical polarimeter in the world.
Thanks to the HIPPI, the scientists noted that this bright star is emitting polarized light. It is a phenomenon in which waves of light are rotated in a particular direction.
Then, the researchers took this information and combined it with computer models developed at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
Based on this, the team determined Regulus’s approximate rotation speed as being around 320km per second. This would be the equivalent of traveling from Canberra to Sydney (153 miles) in less than a second.
“We found Regulus is rotating so quickly it is close to flying apart, with a spin rate of 96.5 percent of the angular velocity for break-up,” stated Dr. Daniel Cotton of the School of Physics at UNSW.
This recent discovery concerning Regulus also goes to confirm an older theory. Scientists first theorized that rapidly stars might be capable of emitting polarized light almost five decades ago.
According to the study team, the information gathered on Regulus could be useful in better understanding the life cycles of some of the largest and hottest stars in the galaxies. These are well known for producing iron, nickel, and other of the heaviest elements in interstellar space.
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