Astronomers map a dense star formation in a nebula outside our Milky Way

This composite image shows the star-forming region 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula. The background image is made in infrared and is itself a composite image.

Photo: ESO, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Wong et al., ESO/M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud Survey.

Astronomers have revealed new details about the star-forming region of 30 Dorados, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, using ALMA telescopes. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) today released high-resolution images showing the nebula in a new light. Thin gas clouds provide insight into how massive stars form in this region.

“These fragments may be the remnants of larger clouds that have been broken up by the enormous energies of young, massive stars. This process is also called feedback, or feedback,” says Tong Wong, who led the research, which was published with his team in The Astrophysical Journal and presented the images today at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. (AAS).

Astronomers used to believe that gravity could not control the thin, turbulent gas. It was believed that the gas could not be aggregated and could not form new stars. But the new data shows that there are dense gas curtains in which gravity plays a role. “Our results suggest that even if there are very strong reactions, gravity can still exert a significant influence and star formation can still continue,” said Wong, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. The Tarantula Nebula is located in the middle of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. It is one of the brightest and most active star forming regions. The nebula is only 170,000 light years away. In the center of the nebula are some of the most massive stars known. Some are 150 times the mass of our Sun. The region is an ideal place to study how gas clouds collapse under the influence of gravity and form new stars.

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said Guido de Marchi, a scientist at the University of Groningen. ESA, and co-author of the scientific paper in which the study appeared. “Thanks to 30 Doradus, we can study how stars formed 10 billion years ago, when most stars were born.” Previous studies of the Tarantula Nebula have mostly focused on the center, although researchers have known for some time that massive star formation also occurs elsewhere. To better understand the star formation process, the research team made high-resolution observations of a large region of the nebula. They used ALMA and measured the light emission from carbon monoxide gas. This allowed them to map large, cool clouds of gas in the nebula that collapsed and where new stars formed. They can also see how the region has changed when so much energy is released from these young stars.

“We expected that the parts of the cloud closest to young massive stars would show the clearest gravitational signals that were suppressed by the feedback,” says Wong. “But we think gravity is still important there, at least for the parts of the cloud that are dense enough.” In the image released by ESO today, we see the new ALMA data overlaid over the previous infrared image of the same region. Bright stars and faint pink clouds of hot gas are visible. The infrared image was captured by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope (VISTA).

The composite image shows a clear cobweb-like shape of the gas clouds that give the tarantula its name. The new ALMA data contains bright yellow red lines. It is a very dense, cold gas that may one day collapse and form new stars. The new study may provide detailed clues about the gravitational behavior of star-forming regions in the Tarantula Nebula, but the work is far from over. “There is still a lot of information to be gleaned from this wonderful data set. We are revealing the data so that other scientists can do research too.

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source: ESO

Winton Frazier

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