Tag Archives: star formation

Baby stars at center of galaxy

New observations of the region surrounding Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), the super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, has confirmed earlier research by finding what appears to be eleven newly formed baby stars.

Prior observations of the region surrounding Sgr A* by Zadeh and his team had revealed multiple massive infant stars but the finding was not conclusive. These objects, known as proplyds, are common features in more placid star-forming regions, like the Orion Nebula. The new measurements provide more conclusive evidence for young star formation activity. Though the galactic center is a challenging environment for star formation, it is possible for particularly dense cores of hydrogen gas to cross the necessary threshold and forge new stars.

The new ALMA observations, however, revealed something even more remarkable, signs that 11 low-mass protostars are forming within one parsec – a scant three light-years – of the galaxy’s central black hole. Zadeh and his team used ALMA to confirm that the masses and momentum transfer rates – the ability of the protostar jets to plow through surrounding interstellar material – are consistent with young protostars found throughout the disk of our galaxy. “This discovery provides evidence that star formation is taking place within clouds surprisingly close to Sagittarius A*,” said Al Wootten with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, and co-author on the paper.

They have several theories on how new stars could coalesce in such a violent and turbulent region, but none appears that convincing. Essentially, this is a mystery that does not yet have an answer. It does tell us however that star formation can occur almost anywhere.


Jupiter exoplanet around baby star

The uncertainty of science: Astronomers have discovered a Jupiter-class exoplanet orbiting a very young star, something their models of planetary formation told them shouldn’t happen.

“For decades, conventional wisdom held that large Jupiter-mass planets take a minimum of 10 million years to form,” said Christopher Johns-Krull, the lead author of a new study about the planet, CI Tau b, that will be published in The Astrophysical Journal. “That’s been called into question over the past decade, and many new ideas have been offered, but the bottom line is that we need to identify a number of newly formed planets around young stars if we hope to fully understand planet formation.”

CI Tau b is at least eight times larger than Jupiter and orbits a 2 million-year-old star about 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

In other words, a planet that, according to the present models for planetary formation, supposedly needs 10 million years to form is orbiting a star only 2 million years old. In other words, the models are wrong. We simply don’t know enough yet about planetary formation to create any reliable models.


Telescope teamwork produces spectacular galaxy image


Combining images from a host of space and ground-based telescopes, astronomers have created a spectacular image of the galaxy M106.

This galactic fireworks display is taking place in NGC 4258 (also known as M106), a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. This galaxy is famous, however, for something that our Galaxy doesn’t have – two extra spiral arms that glow in X-ray, optical, and radio light. These features, or anomalous arms, are not aligned with the plane of the galaxy, but instead intersect with it.

The anomalous arms are seen in this new composite image of NGC 4258, where X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are blue, radio data from the NSF’s Karl Jansky Very Large Array are purple, optical data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are yellow and blue, and infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope are red.

A new study of these anomalous arms made with Spitzer shows that shock waves, similar to sonic booms from supersonic planes, are heating large amounts of gas – equivalent to about 10 million Suns. What is generating these shock waves? Radio data shows that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4258 is producing powerful jets of high-energy particles. Researchers thinkthat these jets strike the disk of the galaxy and generate shock waves. These shock waves, in turn, heat some of the gas – composed mainly of hydrogen molecules – to thousands of degrees.

The astronomers also used the Herschel Space Observatory to confirm the data from Spitzer.