Circular polarisation in the Cat’s Paw Nebula and the origin of chirality


These fascinating results have already been widely disseminated, in the NAOJ press release, in the article “Star- and Planet-Forming Regions May Hold Key to Life’s Chirality” over at Astrobiology Magazine and in this article at Science Daily: “Universality of Circular Polarization in Star And Planet-Forming Regions: Implications for the Origin of Homochirality of Life”.

Our results show not only the magnetic field orientation of around young stellar objects, but also the structure of circumstellar matter such as outflow regions and their parent molecular cloud along the line of sight. The detection of the large and extended CP in this source and the Orion nebula may imply the CP origin of the biological homochirality on Earth.

The paper is “Near-infrared circular polarisation images of NGC 6334-V” by Kwon et al. 2013, published in ApJ Letters, and I have quoted above from the abstract. Readers may be interested to know that the UK collaborators on the paper, James Hough and Phil Lucas from the University of Hertfordshire, have been working for many years on using polarisation to characterise extrasolar planets with the PLANETPOL instrument, which has been tested on the planet-hosting stars 55 Cnc and τ Boo. The instrument has the potential to directly measure sini, the orbital inclination, and so lift the degeneracy with mass which bedevils the radial velocity method.


Image: red represents the Herschel 70 micron IR image, green represents the IRAC 8 micron image and blue represents the NEWFIRM 1 micron J band. The region is about 70 light years wide. Credit: S. Willis (CfA+ISU); ESA/Herschel; NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Spitzer; CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF. A high rate of star formation is ongoing in the region.


3 Responses to “Circular polarisation in the Cat’s Paw Nebula and the origin of chirality”

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  3. […] Image and credit: ESO show the wide field structure of the submillimeter sky, revealing the glow of dust in regions of ongoing star formation and how the regions are linked with inflowing material, glowing at a few tens and up to around a hundred degrees Kelvin. While similar observations have been made as early as 1975 (for the reflection nebula NGC 2023), only now is the wide-field detector capability reaching this level of imaging. The optical view of the obscuring dust and stars of various degrees of reddening is overlain. The usual optical view of the dust, not showing it glowing but only obscuring starlight, is on display in this view of the Corona Australis region (below). Credit to an alternative site today. I would also like to clarify my previous post pointing out that the Hipparcos parallax for R CrA itself is not reliably measured. The accepted distance of the whole cloud complex is 130 pc. The very much more distant globular cluster NGC 6723 is prominent at the top of this image. For another view of the Cat’s Paw Nebula, see here. […]

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