Herschel sees budding stars and a giant, strange ring

Jun 13, 2014 by Whitney Clavin
Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Whitman College

The Herschel Space Observatory has uncovered a weird ring of dusty material while obtaining one of the sharpest scans to date of a huge cloud of gas and dust, called NGC 7538. The observations have revealed numerous clumps of material, a baker's dozen of which may evolve into the most powerful kinds of stars in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions.

"We have looked at NGC 7538 with Herschel and identified 13 massive, where colossal stars could form in the future," said paper lead author Cassandra Fallscheer, a visiting assistant professor of astronomy at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and lead author of the paper published in The Astrophysical Journal. "In addition, we have found a gigantic ring structure and the weird thing is, we're not at all sure what created it."

NGC 7538 is relatively nearby, at a distance of about 8,800 light-years and located in the constellation Cepheus. The cloud, which has a mass on the order of 400,000 suns, is undergoing an intense bout of . Astronomers study stellar nurseries such as NGC 7538 to better learn how stars come into being. Finding the mysterious ring, in this case, came as an unexpected bonus.

The cool, dusty ring has an oval shape, with its long axis spanning about 35 light-years and its short axis about 25 light-years. Fallscheer and her colleagues estimate that the ring possesses the mass of 500 suns. Additional data from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, located at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, further helped characterize the odd ovoid. Astronomers often see ring and bubble-like structures in cosmic dust clouds. The strong winds cast out by the most massive stars, called O-type stars, can generate these expanding puffs, as can their explosive deaths as supernovas. But no energetic source or remnant of a deceased O-type star, such as a neutron star, is apparent within the center of this ring. It is possible that a big star blew the bubble and, because stars are all in motion, subsequently left the scene, escaping detection.

The observations were taken as part of the Herschel OB Young Stellar objects (HOBYS) Key Programme. The "OB" refers to the two most massive kinds of stars, O-type and B-type. These bright blue, superhot, short-lived end up exploding as supernovas, leaving behind either incredibly dense or even denser black holes.

Stars of this caliber form from gassy, dusty clumps with initial masses dozens of times greater than the sun's; the 13 clumps spotted in NGC 7358, some of which lie along the edge of the mystery ring, all are more than 40 times more massive than the sun. The clumps gravitationally collapse in on themselves, growing denser and hotter in their cores until nuclear fusion ignites and a star is born. For now, early in the star-formation process, the clumps remain quite cold, just a few tens of degrees above absolute zero. At these temperatures, the clumps emit the bulk of their radiation in the low-energy, submillimeter and infrared light that Herschel was specifically designed to detect.

As astronomers continue probing these budding O-type giants in NGC 7358, the follow-up observations with other telescopes should also help in solving the puzzle of the humongous, dusty ring. "Further research to determine the mechanism responsible for creating the ring structure is necessary," said Fallscheer.

Explore further: Image: Star factory NGC 7538

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no fate
1 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2014
"It is possible that a big star blew the bubble and, because stars are all in motion, subsequently left the scene, escaping detection."

No...it is not. If a star was responsible for this structure, which we can observe, we would also be able to observe the path it cleared on it's way out after creating the ring.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2014
Perhaps it is evidence of ... THIS

"It is possible to make pieces of superconductor with a large built-in persistent current, either by creating the superconducting state (cooling the material) while charge is flowing through it, or by changing the magnetic field around the superconductor after creating the superconducting state."
Uncle Ira
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2014
"It is possible that a big star blew the bubble and, because stars are all in motion, subsequently left the scene, escaping detection."

No...it is not. If a star was responsible for this structure, which we can observe, we would also be able to observe the path it cleared on it's way out after creating the ring.


@ no-Skippy, why you guys always jump right out of the starting gate with telling how the scienctist-Skippys are wrong? Maybe every now and another time you guys should wait until some of science-smart-Skippys come around to help explain it to you because they have studied this stuff for a long time and maybe they know what it is. If you wait for a little time maybe the xyz-Skippy or the anti-Skippy or the Captain-Skippy or the Rockwolf-Skippy will come with a better idea about what the scientist-Skippette in the article is talking about.

I have to do that most of the time and there is no shame in not really understanding some of this really complicated stuffs.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2014
"It is possible that a big star blew the bubble and, because stars are all in motion, subsequently left the scene, escaping detection."

Maybe a black hole (left by a star gone supernova) hiding in plain sight? Could train the telescope on the center and check for lensing of background stars.

No...it is not. If a star was responsible for this structure, which we can observe, we would also be able to observe the path it cleared on it's way out after creating the ring.

If it's a ring then there are plenty of paths to take that would not intersect the ring (space is 3D)
no fate
1 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2014
No...it is not. If a star was responsible for this structure, which we can observe, we would also be able to observe the path it cleared on it's way out after creating the ring.

If it's a ring then there are plenty of paths to take that would not intersect the ring (space is 3D)


The process by which the star created the ring would have to cease in order for it's path out of the cloud to not be detected. The ring would be older than the exit path. (your thinking is 2D)
no fate
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2014
Ira Skippy: If one of the smart peoples who writes the papers of science proposes something that even their own science wouldn't support, they sound pretty silly. Proposing that a massive star formed, " blew the bubble and, because stars are all in motion, subsequently left the scene, escaping detection" without the process by which it blew the bubble creating a clear exit pathway is rediculous. If the structure was created this way and remained intact, so would any exit pathway left after the star departed, otherwise the process which masked the exit pathway would also have dissipated the ring.

I actually thought the Physorg staffer covering the article might have thrown that in there, it is that stupid.



antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2014
The process by which the star created the ring would have to cease in order for it's path out of the cloud to not be detected.

Not really. If the cloud is not equally extended in all direction then a star could move right through it (at most any angle) blow out a ring and move on. You'd see no exit pathway at all.
Uncle Ira
5 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2014
Ira Skippy: If one of the smart peoples who writes the papers of science proposes something that even their own science wouldn't support, they sound pretty silly. Proposing that a massive star formed, " blew the bubble and, because stars are all in motion, subsequently left the scene, escaping detection" without the process by which it blew the bubble creating a clear exit pathway is rediculous. If the structure was created this way and remained intact, so would any exit pathway left after the star departed, otherwise the process which masked the exit pathway would also have dissipated the ring.

I actually thought the Physorg staffer covering the article might have thrown that in there, it is that stupid.


Well no-Skippy I think you should run right down to the NASA office and apply for the job that checks on the scientist-Skippys to make sure they get everything right. They might pay you more than you are making now doing whatever it is you do.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2014
Anyone know where to get the original image? The images I find (even from the ESA website) are too low rez to go look for lensing. I can't believe that the above is the best there is out there.
yyz
5 / 5 (4) Jun 13, 2014
"Anyone know where to get the original image?"

The image originally appeared in this paper: http://arxiv-web3...ro-ph.GA

"I can't believe that the above is the best there is out there."

Keep in mind that the resolution of the PACS and SPIRE instruments used to take this image are on the order of 20-30 arcsec. Not so good compared to Hubble (but excellent as far as astronomical MIR imaging technology goes).
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) Jun 13, 2014
If one of the smart peoples who writes the papers of science proposes something that ...
@nofate
Whitney has a BS in Biochemistry, not astrophysics, and a Masters in Science Journalism... again, NOT astrophysics.
https://www.linke.../b41/566

http://whitneycla...blr.com/

now, perhaps you are peeved that she did not include this information, but this is a pop-sci article, not a publication for peer review, and given that this is not her field of expertise, then I would give her a little slack. She is getting people interested in science...

you CAN contact her and complain though... see the links above and talk to her at NASA JPL labs.
I actually thought the Physorg staffer covering the article might have thrown that in there, it is that stupid.
shall I pass this on to her?