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SMA Unveils How Small Cosmic Seeds Grow Into Big Stars

Science & Tech  (tags: Stars )

- 1049 days ago -
The full paper is available on line or by clicking on the link at the bottom of the article.

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Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 4, 2014, 4:12 pm

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Apache/2.2.15 (CentOS) Server at Port 80

I will look for another article on this topic.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 4, 2014, 4:14 pm

Cambridge, MA -

New images from the Smithsonian's Submillimeter Array (SMA) telescope provide the most detailed view yet of stellar nurseries within the Snake nebula. These images offer new insights into how cosmic seeds can grow into massive stars.

Stretching across almost 100 light-years of space, the Snake nebula is located about 11,700 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus. In images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope it appears as a sinuous, dark tendril against the starry background. It was targeted because it shows the potential to form many massive stars (stars heavier than 8 times our Sun).

"To learn how stars form, we have to catch them in their earliest phases, while they're still deeply embedded in clouds of gas and dust, and the SMA is an excellent telescope to do so," explained lead author Ke Wang of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), who started the research as a predoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

The team studied two specific spots within the Snake nebula, designated P1 and P6. Within those two regions they detected a total of 23 cosmic "seeds" - faintly glowing spots that will eventually birth one or a few stars. The seeds generally weigh between 5 and 25 times the mass of the Sun, and each spans only a few thousand astronomical units (the average Earth-Sun distance). The sensitive, high-resolution SMA images not only unveil the small seeds, but also differentiate them in age.

Previous theories proposed that high-mass stars form within very massive, isolated "cores" weighing at least 100 times the mass of the Sun. These new results show that that is not the case. The data also demonstrate that massive stars aren't born alone but in groups.

"High-mass stars form in villages," said co-author Qizhou Zhang of the CfA. "It's a family affair."

The team also was surprised to find that these two nebular patches had fragmented into individual star seeds so early in the star formation process.

They detected bipolar outflows and other signs of active, ongoing star formation. Eventually, the Snake nebula will dissolve and shine as a chain of several star clusters.

These results will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The paper is available online.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

For more information, contact:

David A. Aguilar
Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Christine Pulliam
Public Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 4, 2014, 4:17 pm

What we have learned in the past 50 years is more than all human knowledge acquired in thousands of years.
Now we can actually see into the vast space and even focus on tiny details to see the growth of stars and measure the speed of rotation of planets around stars. Wow!

Dot A (173)
Wednesday March 5, 2014, 10:06 am
We DO live in very interesting times.

Thanks Kit for retrieving the information. And your comment is awesome, too!!!

Roger G (154)
Wednesday March 5, 2014, 12:56 pm
noted, thanks

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday March 5, 2014, 2:38 pm
Noted. Thanks---I'm fascinated by the info we're constantly acquiring about the universe.

Jordan G (37)
Wednesday March 5, 2014, 2:46 pm
I'm happy to report (for myself) that these things are now "only fascinating" in my life as I am no longer surprised by anything the universe has to offer. Fascinated, but not surprised.

I'm sad to report, however, that the link is not presently working.

Nelson Baker (0)
Wednesday March 5, 2014, 4:57 pm
Thank you for the information.

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Wednesday March 5, 2014, 5:53 pm
Marvellous, intriguing and truly fascinating.

Pogle S (88)
Thursday March 6, 2014, 12:47 am
Very interesting. Well done Kit!

Kath P (9)
Thursday March 6, 2014, 6:26 am
I saw this on tv this morning. It was quite fantastic.
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