A newly released image of 30 Dorados, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, reveals thin, spider-web-like filaments of gas, revealing a dramatic battle between gravity and stellar energy that could give astronomers an idea of how massive star-forming stars form. The region and why they continue to give birth inside this molecular cloud.
The high-resolution image of the Tarantula Nebula, located 170,000 light-years from Earth, is made up of data collected by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The Tarantula Nebula is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, one of the brightest star-forming regions in our galaxy’s backyard. It is also one of the most active stars in terms of the birth of new stars, some of which are more than 150 times the mass of the Sun. At the heart of the Large Magellanic Cloud is a stellar nursery that has given rise to 800,000 stars, half a million of which are hot, young and massive stars.
This makes the nebula a prime target for researchers who want to study star formation, and it has another unique property that makes it an exciting opportunity for research study.
“What makes 30 Dorados unique is that it is close enough for us to study in detail how stars are formed, yet its properties are similar to those found in very distant galaxies when the universe was young,” said European Space Agency (ESA) scientist Guido de Marchi, a scientist. at the European Space Agency and co-author of a paper describing the work, in the statement. “Thanks to 30 Dorados, we can study how stars formed 10 billion years ago, when most stars were born.”
The battle for the birth of more mega stars
The ‘push and pull’ that the researchers observed is created by the energy provided by their vast number of stars and gravity, the former rupturing gas clouds into filament-like pieces slowing down star formation, while the latter attempting to hold the gas clouds together to form them. stars.
“These fragments may be the remnants of clouds that were larger, torn apart by the massive energy released by young stars and mass, a process called feedback,” Tony Wong, a professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said in a European Observatory press release. Southern (ESO) (Opens in a new tab).
The results also showed that despite intense stellar reactions, gravity continues to form the nebula – located 170,000 light-years from Earth and in the vicinity of the Milky Way – and drive the continued formation of massive stars.
This contrasts with the previous consensus about these star-forming regions that suggested that thin filaments of gas as seen in the Tarantula Nebula must be severely disrupted by this feedback to allow gravity to pull them together and form new stars.
“Our results indicate that even in the presence of very strong feedback, gravity can exert a strong influence and cause star formation to continue,” Wong continued.
Monitor tarantula network agglomeration by agglomeration
Given its properties, it is not surprising that the Tarantula Nebula is well studied. What makes this new research different is that while previous studies have mostly focused on its center – the site of denser gas and therefore faster star formation – astronomers know that stars are also forming in other regions of the nebula that this team collected most densely. Accurate observations of a large area of the Tarantula Nebula rather than focusing on its core. With this comprehensive approach in mind, they then dived it into blocks that revealed an amazing pattern.
“We used to think of interstellar gas clouds as bulging or round structures, but it’s increasingly clear that they resemble strings or a wick,” Wong said in a National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) press release. (Opens in a new tab). “When we divided the cloud into blocks to measure differences in density, we noticed that the densest blocks are not placed randomly but are highly organized on these filaments.”
Focusing on the light emitted by carbon monoxide allowed the researchers to map the large cold gas clouds in the Tarantula Nebula that collapse to form baby stars. They also observed how these gas clouds change when these young stars release a huge amount of energy.
“We were expecting to find that the parts of the cloud closest to young, massive stars would show the clearest signs of gravity overwhelmed by the feedback,” Wong said. (Opens in a new tab) “We instead found that gravity is still important in these feedback-prone regions—at least for parts of the cloud that are sufficiently dense.”
Overlay of data collected by ALMA and an infrared image of the Tarantula Nebula showing bright stars and hot, glowing gas from the Very Large Telescope and the Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VIS) (Opens in a new tab)TA) creates a composite image showing the extent of the gas clouds and their distinct web-like shape.
While the team’s results give an indication of how gravity affects star-forming regions, the research is still in progress. “There is still a lot to do with this impressive set of data, and we are releasing it publicly to encourage other researchers to conduct new investigations,” Wong concluded.
Future studies will also focus on differences between the Milky Way and the Tarantula Nebula including rates of star formation – while our galaxy forms stars steadily, the Tarantula Nebula does so in “boom and bust” cycles.
The search for the Tarantula Nebula was presented at the 240th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Pasadena, California, on June 15. The results were also presented in a research paper in The Astrophysical Journal.
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