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Astronomers Find an Accretion Disc in Another Galaxy

Discovery of rotating disc surrounding star in another galaxy described as a ‘special moment’.

It could help astronomers understand more about how stars are born.

Accretion disc spotted in another galaxy
Credit: ESO/M Kornmesser

Astronomers have, for the first time, discovered a disc of gas and dust around a young star in another galaxy. An international team of experts led by England's Durham University reported the detection of the star and its rotating disc structure outside the Milky Way, around 163,000 light years from Earth.

Located in the neighbouring galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, the event was observed in a region known as N180 - where many other new stars are actively forming.

The structure is known as the accretion disc - which is formed by material such as gas, dust, and other debris gradually being drawn towards the growing star due to gravitational forces.

The event, reported in the journal Nature, was detected using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (Alma) in Chile. Lead author Dr Anna McLeod, from the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy at Durham University, said: “When I first saw evidence for a rotating structure in the Alma data, I could not believe that we had detected the first extragalactic accretion disc; it was a special moment."

“We know discs are vital to forming stars and planets in our galaxy, and here, for the first time, we’re seeing direct evidence for this in another galaxy.”

“Being able to study how stars form at such incredible distances and in a different galaxy is very exciting.”


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