Scientists Discover Sandwich-Shaped Star

Astronomy Gastronomy

Astronomers peering into the reaches of the cosmos have discovered a curious and strangely delectable looking object about 800 light years away: a star with the appearance of a sandwich, offering a fascinating glimpse at early star system formation.

Its discoverers have nicknamed it "Dracula's Chivito" after a sandwich that is Uruguay's national dish. As for the vampiric part of its nomenclature, that's due to the star's "fangs," but more on that later.

As detailed in a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed study, the sidereal sandwich is still young for a star, surrounded by a protoplanetary disk of gas and dust that from our edge-on perspective, just so happens to perfectly bisect it, lending it its snacky appearance.

This "serendipitous" find, the researchers note, is the closest analog to the equally rare and unique discovery of "Gomez's Hamburger" back in 1985 — another young, sandwich looking star.

Fresh Perspective

Dracula's Chivito weighs in at an estimated 2.5 solar masses, according to the researchers. Its effective temperature, meanwhile, is around 8,000 Kelvin — so it's both more massive and more hot than our Sun.

The protoplanetary disk that surrounds it is about 0.2 solar masses and is 1,650 astronomical units in size, with each unit equaling the distance between the Earth and the Sun. As such, it's by far "the largest edge-on protoplanetary disk discovered to date," the researchers wrote.

The structure is especially intriguing to astronomers because it could eventually give birth to planets. What's more, with our sandwich-looking view, we're seeing it at an angle that could reveal parts of the structure that have seldom been studied.

Unlike Gomez's Hamburger, this star appears to have "fangs" protruding from its north side, which the researchers believe are the faint remnants of its envelope that was present during its formation but is now dissipating. This is the strongest indication that Dracula's Chivito is still very young.

Another detail that sets this object apart is its solitude, sitting in a corner of space not associated with known star-forming regions — unusual, because stars tend to form in dense clusters.

Gomez's Hamburger is similarly lonely, and the astronomers suggest that there could be many more sandwich looking, edge-on disks waiting to be discovered in these relatively barren regions of space. And with any luck, may we continue to find more of these gastronomical delights among the stars.

More on space: NASA Detects Water on Surface of Asteroids