New ways developed to see the formation of stars in the Milky Way

July 21, 2017, Adler Planetarium
New ways developed to see the formation of stars in the Milky Way
A representative color image of infrared light from an infant star cluster: Young stars predominantly show up as orange. Regions where gas is being heated by intense radiation from luminous young stars show up as white. Newly discovered jets from the young stars show up as blue in the image. Credit: Adler Planetarium

A research team led by Adler Planetarium astronomer Dr. Grace Wolf-Chase has discovered new evidence of stars forming in our Milky Way Galaxy. By using a telescope equipped to detect infrared light invisible to our eyes, this exciting new science is revealing how stars, including our very own sun, grow up within clusters and groups. The Astrophysical Journal has published a paper on the subject titled, "MHOs Toward HMOs: A Search for Molecular Hydrogen Emission Line Objects Toward High-Mass Outflows."

The team found huge gas clouds moving outward from areas where "baby" stars are forming, using a new way of disentangling these outflows from other processes in densely-populated stellar nurseries. These stellar nurseries can produce dozens or even hundreds of stars with different sizes and masses.

"The sun, though isolated from other stars today, is thought to have formed in a cluster with many other stars, so the environments we're studying can tell us a lot about the origin of our own solar system," said Wolf-Chase.

Stars form when cold, rotating clouds of gas and dust in space are pulled together by gravity into flattened "disks" that spin faster as they shrink, similar to what happens when twirling figure skaters pull their outstretched arms in toward their bodies. In order for a star to form at the center of a spinning disk, the rotation of the disk must slow down. This happens through powerful outflows of gas that are channeled into tight streams, known as "jets." Jets can span more than 10 trillion miles, even though the disks that launch them are "mere" billions of miles across (comparable to the size of our solar system).

Since planets can form in the disks, the presence of a jet can be a good indicator of a nascent planetary system, even when the disk isn't observed directly. Stars more than eight times as massive as the sun bathe their surroundings in that destroys their natal clouds quickly, so it's not clear if these develop disks and jets similar to stars like the sun.

The researchers used an instrument called NICFPS (which stands for Near-Infrared Camera and Fabry-Perot Spectrometer) on the Astrophysical Research Consortium (ARC) 3.5-meter telescope at the Apache Point Observatory (APO) in sunspot, New Mexico. NICFPS peered into 26 dusty clouds thought to be forming clusters containing massive stars. Using a combination of infrared filters that allowed them to distinguish jets from infant stars from other types of light produced by the radiation in these massive , they identified 36 jets across 22 of the regions. These results provide compelling evidence that, like their lower-mass siblings, massive also launch powerful jets. The jet shuts off shortly after radiation from the massive star begins to disrupt its environment.

Explore further: 'One size fits all' when it comes to unravelling how stars form

More information: Grace Wolf-Chase et al. MHOs toward HMOs: A Search for Molecular Hydrogen Emission-Line Objects toward High-mass Outflows, The Astrophysical Journal (2017). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aa762a

MHOs toward HMOs: A Search for Molecular Hydrogen emission-line Objects toward High-Mass Outflows. arXiv:

Related Stories

ALMA discovers dew drops surrounding dusty spider's web

July 1, 2016

Astronomers have spotted glowing droplets of condensed water in the distant Spiderweb Galaxy – but not where they expected to find them. Detections with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) show that ...

Cygnus OB2: Probing a nearby stellar cradle

November 8, 2012

(—The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster ...

Making Massive Stars

September 15, 2009

( -- 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.

T-Tauri Stars

June 13, 2016

A newborn star typically goes through four stages of adolescence. It begins life as a protostar still enshrouded in its natal molecular cloud, accreting new material and developing a proto-planetary disc. Slowly, stellar ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2017
this exciting new science is revealing how stars, including our very own sun, grow up within clusters and groups.

Since regions of higher matter density have a greater propensity to accelerate the production of new matter formed therein, largely from within the largest stars.
These results provide compelling evidence that, like their lower-mass siblings, massive stars also launch powerful jets.

These cluster regions then contain rapidly growing stars, that accelerate in growth as they grow bigger naturally from within. As they grow bigger, they eject more and more newly formed gas therefrom, forming the basis for new star growth.

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.