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Bow Shock. By ESA & Lotfi Ben Jaffel (Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris (CNRS-INSU)), Martin Kornmesser and Lars Lindberg Christensen (Space Telescope-European Coordination Facility)

Bow Shock

Bow shocks form the boundary between a magnetosphere and an ambient magnetized medium. This occurs when the magnetic field of an astrophysical object interacts with the nearby flowing ambient plasma. For example, when the solar wind, flowing with a relative speed of order 400 km/s, encounters the magnetic field of Earth, a bow shape boundary forms. For Earth and other magnetized planets, it is the boundary at which the speed of the stellar wind abruptly drops as a result of its approach to the magnetopause. For stars, this boundary is typically the edge of the astrosphere, where the stellar wind meets the interstellar medium.

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Protoplanetary Disks. By R. Hurt (NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC)

Protoplanetary Disk

A protoplanetary disk is a rotating circumstellar disk of dense gas and dust surrounding a young newly formed star, a T Tauri star. The protoplanetary disk may also be considered an accretion disk for the star itself, because gasses or other material may be falling from the inner edge of the disk onto the surface of the star. But this process should not be confused with the accretion process thought to build up the planets themselves.

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Binary Star. By NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Ariz.

Binary Star

A binary star is a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common barycenter. Systems of two, three, four, or even more stars are called multiple star systems. These systems, especially when more distant, often appear to the unaided eye as a single point of light, and are then revealed as double (or more) by other means. Research over the last two centuries suggests that half or more of visible stars are part of multiple star systems.

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Stellar Wind. By Steele Hill / NASA

Stellar Wind

A stellar wind is a flow of gas ejected from the upper atmosphere of a star. It is distinguished from the bipolar outflows characteristic of young stars by being less collimated, although stellar winds are not generally spherically symmetric. Different types of stars have different types of stellar winds. Post-main-sequence stars nearing the ends of their lives often eject large quantities of mass. These include red giants and supergiants, and asymptotic giant branch stars.

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Photoevapuration. By NASA GSFC


Photoevaporation denotes the process where energetic radiation ionises gas and causes it to disperse away from the ionising source. This typically refers to an astrophysical context where ultraviolet radiation from hot stars acts on clouds of material such as molecular clouds, protoplanetary disks, or planetary atmospheres. One of the most obvious manifestations of astrophysical photoevaporation is seen in the eroding structures of molecular clouds as luminous stars are born within.

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