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Simple Recipe for Star Formation Revealed _ Space

Simple Recipe for Star Formation Revealed _ Space

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Published by topimaster
Simple Recipe for Star Formation Revealed _ Space
Simple Recipe for Star Formation Revealed _ Space

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Published by: topimaster on Apr 10, 2014
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The Pipe Nebula (left) and RhoOphiuchi molecular clouds (right)are shown in this image of the Milky Way galaxy.Each inset map shows the extent to which the lightof background stars dims as it passes through theclouds. These maps form the basis of the three-
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Simple Recipe for Star Formation Revealed
By Charles Q. Choi, SPACE.com Contributor | April 10, 2014 04:01pm ET Stars may be born much easier than previously thought, astrophysicists say.The formation of stars determines where new planetary systems can arise as well athe structure and evolution of galaxies. Learning more about star formation coulhelp scientists understand the remaining mysteries about the birth of galaxies,including how the supermassive black holes at their hearts apparently originated soearly in the universe's history.A dearth of data on the way matter is distributed within star-forming clouds haslimited the accuracy of star formation models. Now scientists have developed away to determine these details by using so-called dust-extinction maps, orobservations of how dust scatters and absorbs light. [Top 10 Star Mysteries of AllTime]
Simple Recipe for Star Formation Revealed | Space.comhttp://www.space.com/25434-star-formation-recipe-revealed.html1 of 74/10/2014 7:42 PM
Credit: ESO/S. Guisard; Column-density maps: J.Kainulainen, MPIAView full size imagedimensional reconstruction of cloud structure fromwhich the astronomers derived a so-called 'recipefor star formation.'
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The birth of stars
Stars are born when pockets of gas and dust within interstellar molecular clouds exceed critical density and collapse under theiown gravity. Once the pressure and the temperature inside get high enough for nuclear fusion to ignite, it creates a star. The ratat which stars form depends mainly on the number and density of these clumps within stellar nurseries.Scientists have now used one feature of these clouds to better understand star formation. As the light of distant stars penetratesthrough a stellar nursery, the molecular cloud's dust dims the light. By measuring how this process dims thousands of differentstars, scientists can reconstruct the cloud's 3D structure, helping pinpoint how matter is distributed within the cloud.Using data from 16 nearby molecular clouds, each within about 850 light-years of Earth, "we could devise a very concreterecipe for how new stars are born in the interstellar gas clouds," study lead author Jouni Kainulainen, an astrophysicist at theMax Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, told Space.com. "And the ingredients of this recipe are simple tounderstand — only those regions in the clouds in which density is higher than about 5,000 molecules per cubic centimeterproduce stars, and about a tenth of the gas in these regions collapses into the new stars."
A clue for cosmic clouds
One key consequence of these findings "is that we have given astronomers a new tool to estimate the rates at which molecularclouds form stars, without even seeing the new stars in the clouds," Kainulainen said. "I quote my collaborator ThomasHenning — 'Show us your image of a cloud, and we can tell you how much it forms stars right now.'"Such a capability "gives us a great possibility to use new, powerful telescopes such as the Atacama LargeMillimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe gas clouds in the galaxy and better map its star-formation capacity,"Kainulainen said. ALMA consists of 66 high-precision microwave antennas spread over distances of up to 10 miles (16kilometers) in the Chilean desert, which can act like a single, high-resolution telescope. The array has just commencedoperations.Intriguingly, the researchers found it was simpler for stars to form in these clouds than once predicted by theory. But thefindings have yet to address the question of how galaxies and supermassive black holes formed in the early universe,Kainulainen said. "I think it is currently too early to speculate about the possible effects of our findings to the early universe,"he said."We have to remember that physical conditions during the early galaxy formation were quite different from those of thegalaxies today," Kainulainen said. "It would be an unreasonable leap in conclusions to assume that the process of star formatiowould proceed exactly in the same way as in the current, local universe. Our results are best applicable to spiral galaxies suchas the Milky Way in the local universe."Future studies should address the assumptions made in creating the team's 3D models for the molecular clouds, Kainulainen
Simple Recipe for Star Formation Revealed | Space.comhttp://www.space.com/25434-star-formation-recipe-revealed.html of 74/10/2014 7:42 PM
said. "It is a good topic for future discussions — how this 3D modeling could potentially be improved," he said. "I hope we wilhave comments and ideas from other scientists regarding this."Future research could determine what processes are most responsible for shaping molecular clouds."We know today very well that processes such as gravitational forces and magneto-hydrodynamic turbulence have a key role ishaping the clouds," Kainulainen said. "With the parameters we have derived, we can answer questions such as, 'In whichregions is the cloud structure most crucially affected by turbulence, and in which by gravity?' Such questions are of greatimportance in understanding the origin of interstellar gas clouds in galaxies and their evolution."
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