All stars form in giant molecular clouds of hydrogen. But some stars are extraordinarily massive; the most massive one we know of is about 200 times more massive than the Sun. How do these stars gain so much mass?
Part of the answer is that they form in multiple star systems.
How long does planet formation take? Maybe not as long as we thought, according to new research. Observations with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) show that planet formation around young stars may begin much earlier than scientists thought.
Star formation is well understood when it happens in the populous centers of galaxies. From our vantage point on Earth, within the Milky Way, we see it happening all around us. But when newborn stars are birthed in the empty outskirts of galactic space, it requires a new kind of explanation. At the 243rd meeting of the American Astronomical Association yesterday, astronomers announced that they have observed, for the first time, the unique molecular clouds that give rise to star formation near the remote edges of galaxies.
Astronomers have detected pond-like ripples across the gaseous disk of an ancient galaxy. What caused the ripples, and what do they tell us about the distant galaxy’s formation and evolution? And whatever happened, how has it affected the galaxy and its main job: forming stars?
The ESO’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is perched high in the Chilean Andes. ALMA is made of 66 high-precision antennae that all work together to observe light just between radio and infrared. Its specialty is cold objects, and in recent years, it has taken some stunning and scientifically illuminating images of protoplanetary disks and the planets forming in them.
Quasars, short for quasi-stellar objects, are one of the most powerful and luminous classes of objects in our Universe. A subclass of active galactic nuclei (AGNs), quasars are extremely bright galactic cores that temporarily outshine all the stars in their disks. This is due to the supermassive black holes in the galactic cores that consume material from their accretion disks, a donut-shaped ring of gas and dust that orbit them. This matter is accelerated to close to the speed of light and slowly consumed, releasing energy across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
Based on past observations, it is well known to astronomers that quasars are obscured by the accretion disk that surrounds them. As powerful radiation is released from the SMBH, it causes the dust and gas to glow brightly in visible light, X-rays, gamma-rays, and other wavelengths. However, according to a new study led by researchers from the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy (CEA) at Durham University, quasars can also be obscured by the gas and dust of their entire host galaxies. Their findings could help astronomers better understand the link between SMBHs and galactic evolution.
Roughly 5 billion years ago Earth was in the process of forming. Gas and dust gathered with the young Sun’s protoplanetary disk, likely nudged a bit by the resonant gravitational pull of Jupiter and other large worlds. One can imagine that as Earth formed it swept its orbit clear of debris, leaving a gap in the disk visible from light years away. While we know this tale is reasonably accurate, the idea that planets such as Earth always clear gaps in a protoplanetary disk likely isn’t.
The origins of Earth’s water is a complicated mystery that scientists have been untangling for decades. Life is impossible without water, so the origin of Earth’s life-giving water is a foundational question. As the power of our telescopes grows, researchers have made meaningful headway on the question.
Previous research uncovered links between Earth’s water and the Solar System’s comets and icy planetesimals. But newer research follows the chain back even further in time to when the Sun itself had yet to form.
MWC 349A is a star about 3,900 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It’s huge, about 38 times as massive as the Sun. It’s actually a binary star and may even be a triple star. It’s an oddball and one of the brightest sources of radio emission in the sky.
One of the star’s unusual features is its natural maser. MWC 349A’s natural maser played a central role in a new discovery: the young star emits a blistering jet of material travelling at 500 km/sec (310 m/sec.) That discovery could help astronomers understand massive stars and their complexity.