Dust cloud gives birth to massive baby star

Credit: ESO

Hand out the cigars! About 10,000 light years from Earth, a massive baby star has been born. Using the most powerful radio telescope in the world, ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) in Chile, astronomers witnessed the birth of an enormous star. This star resides within a dark cloud which is 500 times the mass of the Sun, the largest ever seen in our galaxy.

According to researchers, this observation gives scientists an idea of how matter is dragged into the center of the huge gaseous dark cloud by the newly-forming star's gravitational pull. "We wanted to see how monster stars form and grow, and we certainly achieved our aim," said Dr. Nicholas Peretto, from Cardiff University. "One of the sources we have found is an absolute giant - the largest protostellar core ever spotted in the Milky Way!"

The astronomers could barely contain their excitement. Although they had already believed this region of space to be a good candidate for being a massive star-forming cloud, they did not expect to find something as large as what they experienced. They are now estimating that the cloud will form at least one star 100 times more massive than the Sun and up to a million times brighter. Only about one in 10,000 of all the stars in the Milky Way ever reach that kind of mass. In other words, that's one ginormous celestial body.

Although different theories exist about how such stars form, the team of astronomers believe that that the cloud core begins to collapse inward, which causes material to be pulled in towards the center to form one or more massive stars. Not only are these stars rare, but their births are rapid and include a short childhood. Co-author of the study Professor Gary Fuller, from The University of Manchester said, "finding such a massive object so early in its evolution in our Galaxy is a spectacular result."

Dr Peretto added: "we managed to get these very detailed observations using only a fraction of ALMA’s ultimate potential. ALMA will definitely revolutionise our knowledge of star formation, solving some current problems, and certainly raising new ones."

Via University of Manchester

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