The new observations promise to help scientists understand the early stages of a sequence of events through which a giant cloud of gas and dust collapses into dense cores that, in turn, form new stars.
New observations show 'pristine' example of second
stage of star formation shown in this graphic.
(Images not to scale.) CREDIT: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF
The scientists studied a giant cloud about 770 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus. They used the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory and the National Science Foundation's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to make detailed observations of a clump, containing nearly 100 times the mass of the Sun, within that cloud.
Stars are formed, astronomers think, when such a cloud of gas and dust collapses gravitationally, first into clumps, then into dense cores, each of which can then begin to further collapse and form a young star. The details of how this happens are not well understood. One difficulty is that most regions where this process is underway already have formed stars nearby. Those stars affect subsequent nearby star formation through their stellar winds and shock waves when they explode as supernovae.
"We have found the first clear case of a clump of potentially star-forming gas that is on the verge of forming dense cores, and is unaffected by any nearby stars," said James Di Francesco, of the University of Victoria, Canada.
"Finding such a 'pristine' clump of gas that may be starting to form dense cores is a key to gaining a fuller understanding of the early stages of star formation," said Sarah Sadavoy, a graduate student also of the University of Victoria. "This is a rare find," she added.
The far-infrared images from the Herschel Space Observatory were obtained as part of the Herschel Gould Belt Survey key program. They revealed previously-unseen substructures within the clump that may be precursors to cores with the potential to form individual stars. The astronomers used the GBT to study the motions and temperatures of molecules, primarily ammonia, within these substructures. These GBT observations indicated that one of the substructures is likely to be gravitationally bound and thus farther along the path to condensing into a core than the others.
"This may be the first observation ever of a core precursor," DiFrancesco said.
The entire clump, the scientists say, could be expected to form about ten new stars.
"This region appears to be an excellent candidate for future core formation, and thus is an ideal area for additional studies that can help us understand how this process works without the triggering effect of winds from other stars and shocks from supernova explosions," Sadavoy said.
The scientists will publish their results in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.
Dave Finley | EurekAlert!
UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion
16.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire
NASA keeps watch over space explosions
16.11.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences