Researchers have solved a star birth mystery, explaining a phenomenon that had previously been observed but not understood until astronomers cracked the case.
The star birth mystery involves a super-dense gas cloud near the Milky Way’s core — a cloud that was, unlike similar celestial bodies, not spewing out stars at an expected rate.
Space.com explains that the star birth mystery was noticed when the cloud flew in the face of similar entities that created stars at a far higher rate, summing up the new discovery as opening up a far greater understanding of how stars are formed after the process was partially unlocked:
“The gas cloud, known as G0.253+0.016, is simply swirling too fast, researchers said. And it lacks the requisite pockets of even denser material, which eventually collapse under their own gravity to form stars … The results suggest that star formation is more complex than astronomers had thought and may help them better understand the process, researchers said.”
Jens Kauffmann of Caltech is the star birth mystery study’s lead author, and Kauffmann explains that the gas cloud’s behavior was pegged as “very weird” by scientists who worked to discover the why behind the phenomenon:
“It’s a very dense cloud and it doesn’t form any massive stars, which is very weird.”
But the star birth mystery is just the beginning, ScienceDaily explains — while astronomers now understand a bit more about star formation, the discovery also poses some new questions:
“The findings also further muddle another mystery of the galactic center: the presence of young star clusters. The Arches Cluster, for example, contains about 150 bright, massive, young stars, which only live for a few million years. Because that is too short an amount of time for the stars to have formed elsewhere and migrated to the galactic center, they must have formed at their current location.”
“Astronomers thought this occurred in dense clouds like G0.253+0.016. If not there, then where do the clusters come from?”
Results of the star birth mystery study were presented earlier this month in California at the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach.