Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More star births than astronomers have calculated

02.10.2008
More newborn stars are apparently emerging around the universe than previously assumed. Researchers at Bonn University have now published a paper in the prominent science journal “Nature” explaining this discrepancy. Their study has identified a systematic error in the method of estimation.

The “birth rate” for stars is certainly not easy to determine. Distances in the universe are far too great for astronomers to be able to count all the newly formed celestial bodies with the aid of a telescope. So it is fortunate that the emerging stars give themselves away by a characteristic signal known as “H-alpha” emissions. The larger the number of stars being formed in a particular region of the firmament, the more H-alpha rays are emitted from that region.

“H-alpha emissions only occur in the vicinity of very heavy stars,” explains Jan Pflamm-Altenburg of the Argelander Institute of Astronomy at Bonn University. It has long been accepted that heavy and light stars are always born in a certain ratio to each other. One “H-alpha baby” is thought to be accompanied by 230 lighter stars with a mass too low for them to emit H-alpha rays.

However, new observations make this theory untenable. On the edges of “disc galaxies” (like the Milky Way) the H-alpha radiation ceases abruptly. For a long time astronomers concluded from this finding that no stars are being born in this region. “The explanation offered is simply that too little gaseous matter exists for it to collapse into balls and form stars,” says Jan Pflamm-Altenburg. “These theories largely inform our understanding of how galaxies developed from the Big Bang to the present.”

Satellite mission baffles astronomers

A satellite mission has recently revealed that stars are in fact being formed beyond the H-alpha perimeter. These stars are, without exception, so light that no H-alpha radiation is emitted. Consequently, the numerical ratio of 230 light stars to one heavy star does not apply to the edges of galaxies. “This observation presented the astronomy community with quite a conundrum,” says Professor Dr. Pavel Kroupa of the Argelander Institute.

Kroupa and Pflamm-Altenburg have come up with a solution which, they say, is basically very simple. They note that star births are not evenly distributed across galaxies but are focused on the star clusters – well known examples being the Seven Sisters and the Orion Nebula. And only large, high-mass clusters produce heavy stars, i.e. the newborn stars that can create the H-alpha emission. “But these heavy star clusters primarily occur in the core regions of disc galaxies,” says Jan Pflamm-Altenburg. “Towards the edges they become increasingly rare. The outer regions tend to contain smaller clusters in which the formation of lighter stars is more frequent.”

The conclusion is that a numerical ratio of 230 to 1 is only valid for the centres of galaxies. On the edges of galaxies each “H-alpha baby” might be accompanied by a thousand or more light stars. Those astronomers who always use the same factor when calculating total star formations from their H-alpha readings therefore underestimate the number of newborn stars.

The theoretical work of the two Bonn-based astrophysicists supports affirms that the mass of new stars depends linearly on the mass of the gas in their vicinity. Their conclusions open up completely new perspectives for research into the development of galaxies.

Contact:
Jan Pflamm-Altenburg
Argelander-Institut für Astronomie, University of Bonn
Telephone: 0228/73-5656
E-mail: jpflamm@astro.uni-bonn.de
Professor Dr. Pavel Kroupa
Argelander-Institut für Astronomie, University of Bonn
Telephone: 0177/9566127
E-mail: pavel@astro.uni-bonn.de

Prof. Dr. Pavel Kroupa | alfa
Further information:
http://www.astro.uni-bonn.de

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?
23.06.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>