A giant outburst at millimeter wavelengths in the Orion nebula

Geoffrey C. Bower, Richard L. Plambeck, Alberto Bolatto, Nate McCrady, James R. Graham, Imke De Pater, Michael C. Liu, Frederick K. Baganoff

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Berkely-Illinois-Maryland Association (BIMA) array observations of the Orion nebula discovered a giant flare from a young star previously undetected at millimeter wavelengths. The star briefly became the brightest compact object in the nebula at 86 GHz. Its flux density increased by more than a factor of 5 on a timescale of hours, to a peak of 160 mJy. This is one of the most luminous stellar radio flares ever observed. Remarkably, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory was in the midst of a deep integration of the Orion nebula at the time of the BIMA discovery; the source's X-ray flux increased by a factor of 10 approximately 2 days before the radio detection. Follow-up radio observations with the VLA and BIMA showed that the source decayed on a time-scale of days, then flared again several times over the next 70 days, although never as brightly as during the discovery. Circular polarization was detected at 15, 22, and 43 GHz, indicating that the emission mechanism was cyclotron. VLB A observations 9 days after the initial flare yield a brightness temperature Tb > 5 × 107 K at 15 GHz. Infrared spectroscopy indicates that the source is a K5 V star with faint Br γ emission, suggesting that it is a weak-line T Tauri object. Zeeman splitting measurements in the infrared spectrum find B ∼ 2.6 ± 1.0 kG. The flare is an extreme example of magnetic activity associated with a young stellar object. These data suggest that short observations obtained with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array will uncover hundreds of flaring young stellar objects in the Orion region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1140-1150
Number of pages11
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 I
StatePublished - Dec 1 2003


  • Open clusters and associations: individual (Orion Nebula Cluster)
  • Radio continuum: stars
  • Stars: flare
  • Stars: formation
  • Stars: magnetic fields


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