Baby stars nested in unexpected places
March 31, 2021
In their studies of stellar “nests”, or regions where stars are normally born, astronomers found out that the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, is too harsh a place to form stars.
Just recently a team of researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) found something different: stellar eggs with baby stars inside can actually hatch in the center of our Milky Way!
In order for stars to be born, there needs to be clouds of cosmic dust and gas - and a very strong pull from gravity to make them collapse.
In the center of our Milky Way there are a number of elements that can interfere in the gravity that “crumples” such dust and gas: from strong magnetic fields that can avoid the gas from collapsing to turbulence that can prevent clouds from contracting. This is why astronomers believed that stars could not be easily born in this region.
However, when studying the region with ALMA, a team of astronomers led by Xing Lu, from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, noticed more than 800 dense cores of gas and dust - stellar eggs at the center of our galaxy.
The finding shows that baby stars are stronger than previously thought: they are formed even in harsh environments such as the center of our Milky Way. Researchers are now looking at fine-grained data to better understand the processes that make such “star nursery” possible.
The image shows gas flowing out from stellar eggs in the center of our galaxy. The points in blue are gas moving in our direction and points in red are gas flows moving away from us.
ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Lu et al
ALMA is an observatory that combines 66 tall dishes in the Atacama Desert, Northern Chile. These giant dishes “see” very short waves of light, in the order of a millimeter (the size of a grain of sand!) and smaller. These waves come from very cold clouds in space and very far away galaxies. They give us hints of the chemical and physical conditions of star nurseries - regions of very dense gas and dust where stars are born.
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