Some of the first data from a new orbiting infrared telescope are revealing that the Milky Way - and by analogy galaxies in general - is making new stars at a much more prolific pace than astronomers imagined.
Caption: The nebula RCW49, shown in infrared light in this image from the Spitzer Space Telescope, is a nursery for newborn stars. Using NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have found in RCW49 more than 300 newborn or protostars, all with circumstellar disks of dust and gas. The discovery reveals that galaxies make new stars at a much more prolific rate than previously imagined. The stelar disks of dust and gas not only feed material onto the growing new stars, but can be the raw material for new planetary systems.
Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin-Madison
The findings from NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope were announced today (May 27) at a NASA headquarters press briefing by Edward Churchwell, a University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomer and the leader of a team conducting the most detailed survey to date of our galaxy in infrared light.
Focusing the telescope on a compact cluster of stars at the heart of a distant nebula known as RCW49, Churchwell and his colleagues discovered more than 300 newly forming stars. Each of the stars, known to astronomers as protostars, has a swirling disk of circumstellar dust and creates ideal conditions for the formation of new solar systems.
Terry Devitt | EurekAlert!
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