Molecular cloud Cepheus B is a hot spot for star formation

October 6, 2011
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/K. Getman et al.; IRL NASA/JPL-Caltech/CfA/J. Wang et al.

(PhysOrg.com) -- This composite image, created using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope, shows the molecular cloud Cepheus B, located in our galaxy about 2,400 light years from the Earth. A molecular cloud is a region containing cool interstellar gas and dust left over from the formation of the galaxy and mostly contains molecular hydrogen. The Spitzer data, in red, green and blue shows the molecular cloud (in the bottom part of the image) plus young stars in and around Cepheus B, and the Chandra data in violet shows the young stars in the field.

The Chandra observations allowed the astronomers to pick out young stars within and near Cepheus B, identified by their strong X-ray emission. The Spitzer data showed whether the young stars have a so-called "protoplanetary" disk around them. Such disks only exist in very young systems where planets are still forming, so their presence is an indication of the age of a star system.

These data provide an excellent opportunity to test a model for how stars form. The new study suggests that star formation in Cepheus B is mainly triggered by radiation from one bright, massive star (HD 217086) outside the . According to the particular model of triggered star formation that was tested -- called the radiation- driven implosion (RDI) model -- radiation from this massive star drives a compression wave into the cloud triggering star formation in the interior, while evaporating the cloud's outer layers.

Different types of triggered star formation have been observed in other environments. For example, the formation of our solar system was thought to have been triggered by a , In the star-forming region W5, a "collect-and-collapse" mechanism is thought to apply, where shock fronts generated by massive stars sweep up material as they progress outwards. Eventually the accumulated gas becomes dense enough to collapse and form hundreds of stars. The RDI mechanism is also thought to be responsible for the formation of dozens of stars in W5. The main cause of star formation that does not involve triggering is where a cloud of gas cools, gravity gets the upper hand, and the cloud falls in on itself.

Explore further: Trigger-Happy Star Formation

Related Stories

Trigger-Happy Star Formation

August 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study from two of NASA's Great Observatories provides fresh insight into how some stars are born, along with a beautiful new image of a stellar nursery in our Galaxy. The research shows that radiation ...

Planets Living on the Edge

December 17, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Some stars have it tough when it comes to raising planets. A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows one unlucky lot of stars, born into a dangerous neighborhood. The stars themselves are safe, ...

Trumpler 14: Bright young stars mix it up in new image

August 31, 2005

Today the Chandra X-ray Observatory released an image from a research group led by Leisa Townsley of the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. The image of the star cluster Trumpler 14 shows about 1,600 stars ...

Celestial Season's Greetings from Hubble

December 19, 2006

Swirls of gas and dust reside in this ethereal-looking region of star formation imaged by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. This majestic view, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), reveals a region where low-mass, infant ...

Star formation laws

September 26, 2011

Take a cloud of molecular hydrogen add some turbulence and you get star formation – that’s the law. The efficiency of star formation (how big and how populous they get) is largely a function of the density of the ...

Recommended for you

Hubble catches a transformation in the Virgo constellation

December 9, 2016

The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is especially rich in galaxies, due in part to the presence of a massive and gravitationally-bound collection of over 1300 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster. One particular member of ...

Khatyrka meteorite found to have third quasicrystal

December 9, 2016

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.S. and Italy has found evidence of a naturally formed quasicrystal in a sample obtained from the Khatyrka meteorite. In their paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, ...

Scientists sweep stodgy stature from Saturn's C ring

December 9, 2016

As a cosmic dust magnet, Saturn's C ring gives away its youth. Once thought formed in an older, primordial era, the ring may be but a mere babe – less than 100 million years old, according to Cornell-led astronomers in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.