A star gets CT-scanned

Remember the climactic scene in “Twister” when Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton are tied to that pipe as a massive tornado passes over them, and they get a first-hand look at its inner structure? This is even cooler because it’s based in reality.

Call it our nature. There’s something about humans that makes us want to take things apart; we want to see inside to understand how the outside works. Researchers at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile have just done that with a dying star, and found something rather strange – a spiral structure inside the star.

R Sculptoris is a Red Giant star, named after the constellation it inhabits, Sculptor. It’s what our own sun will eventually turn into before it dies, about five billion years from now.

The researchers sliced apart imaging of R Sculptoris using a similar method to a CT scanner, then put the slices back together creating a 3-D model of the star’s guts.

Scientists aren’t sure what the spiral structure could be, but some hypothesize that it could the pull from a companion body – perhaps another star – orbiting R Sculptoris, though none have been found yet.

Get a radiologists-eye-view of R Sculptoris in the video released by ALMA.


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