The ancient Universe is weird and secretive. Scientists have made laudable progress in uncovering more and more information on how the Universe began and what conditions were like all those billions of years ago. Powerful infrared telescopes, especially the ground-breaking James Webb Space Telescope, have let astronomers study the ancient light from the early Universe and remove some of the secrecy.
One of the mysteries astronomers want to untangle concerns star formation. Has it changed much since the Universe’s early days?
When you look at a region of the sky where stars are born, you see a cloud of gas and dust and a bunch of stars. It’s really a beautiful sight. In most places, the stars all end up being about the same mass. That mass is probably the most important factor you want to know about it. It directs how long the star will live and what its future will be like. But, what determines its mass and the mass of its siblings in a stellar nursery? Is there some governing force that tells them how massive they’ll be? It turns out that the stars do it for themselves.