Simulating the Birth of Massive Stars

Mar 09, 2010
New computer simulations of the flow of ionized gas around a massive young star appear to explain successfully some of the classical puzzles associated with massive star formation. The colors are coded to represent the velocity of an ionized wind, with red for gas moving away from the viewer and blue for gas moving towards the viewer. The star itself is located at the mark. Credit: ApJ, and Peters et al., 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers have made great strides recently in understanding how modest stars - those like the sun or smaller -- are formed.

It has been much harder, however, to sort out the processes involved in the birth of massive stars, those with more than about eight solar masses of material. These stars are critically important in the cosmic ecosystem because, among other things, they end up as which enrich the cosmos with elements essential to life.

The particular difficulties understanding massive arise in part because massive stars mature much more quickly than do low mass stars, tend to form in groups, and are accompanied by a wider range of more vigorous activities including hot gas in ionized regions, accretion of material, and strong winds. Stars form from giant clouds of gas and dust in space as the matter in these clouds comes together.

Some assert that massive stars form when smaller stars coalesce early in their lives. Other models indicate that individual large stars fragment out of huge clumps of collapsing matter, and that the distribution of stellar sizes is determined very early in this fragmentation process. Sorting out which scenario actually occurs in nature, if either, is one of the goals of modern astronomy research.

SAO astronomers Roberto Galvan-Madrid and Eric Keto, together with three colleagues, have just published the first of the formation of massive stars that allow for structures to develop in full three-dimensions (rather than with imposed spatial symmetries), and that include effects of the ionizing radiation produced by . Their conclusions are significant. Many conventional models had predicted that stars would stop growing (that is, stop accreting new material) because of outward pressure from the ionizing radiation.

The team found that the does not stop accretion. Instead, what happens is that the dense environment prompts the formation of multiple new stars, and these other stars halt the accretion onto the main star by capturing the material themselves. The authors call this process "fragmentation-induced starvation," and it, together with other results of their simulations, appears to offer realistic answers to many of the outstanding puzzles of massive star formation in clusters.

Explore further: Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

Related Stories

Turbulence May Promote the Birth of Massive Stars

Feb 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- On long, dark winter nights, the constellation of Orion the Hunter dominates the sky. Within the Hunter's sword, the Orion Nebula swaddles a cluster of newborn stars called the Trapezium. These stars are ...

Making Massive Stars

Sep 15, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Our understanding of star formation leans heavily on observations of stars like the sun, namely, those that are modest in mass and that are born and evolve at a relatively leisurely pace. ...

New study resolves mystery of how massive stars form

Jan 15, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Theorists have long wondered how massive stars--up to 120 times the mass of the Sun--can form without blowing away the clouds of gas and dust that feed their growth. But the problem turns ...

The Stars behind the Curtain (w/ Video)

Feb 03, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESO is releasing a magnificent VLT image of the giant stellar nursery surrounding NGC 3603, in which stars are continuously being born. Embedded in this scenic nebula is one of the most luminous ...

Young Star Clusters

Oct 12, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Most stars form in clusters. Recent studies of nearby star forming regions find that about three-quarters of their young stars are located in groups with ten or more members. The formation ...

Recommended for you

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

Apr 18, 2014

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday. ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Apr 18, 2014

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Exoplanets soon to gleam in the eye of NESSI

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. Exoplanets are planets ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.