Using new observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a team of astronomers has revealed intricate details about the star-forming region 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula. In a high-resolution image released today by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) that includes data from ALMA, we see the nebula in a new light, with faint clouds of gas giving a glimpse of how massive stars shape this region.
“These fragments may be the remnants of once larger clouds that have been torn apart by the enormous energy released by young massive stars, a process called feedback.“says Tony Wong, who led the research on 30 Doradus presented today at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting and published in The Astrophysical Journal. Originally, the team thought that in these areas the gas would be too thin and too agitated by turbulent feedback for gravity to pull it together and create new stars. But the new data also reveals much denser filaments where the role of gravity remains important. “Our results imply that even in the presence of a very strong feedback, gravity can exert a powerful influence and lead to continued star formation.adds Wong, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.
Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way, the Tarantula Nebula, about 170,000 light-years from Earth, is one of the brightest and most star-forming regions. most active in our galactic neighborhood. At its heart are some of the most massive stars known, some with more than 150 times the mass of our Sun, making the region perfect for studying how gas clouds collapse under the effect of gravity to form new stars.
“What makes 30 Doradus unique is that it’s close enough for us to study star formation in detail, yet its properties are similar to those found in galaxies far, far away when the Universe was young.says Guido De Marchi, scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA) and co-author of the article that presents the new research. “Thanks to 30 Doradus, we can study how stars formed 10 billion years ago, when most stars were born“.
Although most previous studies of the Tarantula Nebula have focused on its core, the astronomical community has long known that massive star formation also occurs elsewhere. To better understand this process, the team made high-resolution observations that covered a large region of the nebula. Using ALMA, they measured the light emission of carbon monoxide. This allowed them to map the large clouds of cold gas in the nebula that collapse to give birth to new stars, and how they change when these young stars release huge amounts of energy.
“We expected that the parts of the cloud closest to the massive young stars would show clearer signs of feedback-overwhelmed gravity.Wang said.Instead, we find that gravity remains significant in those feedback-exposed regions, at least for those parts of the cloud that are sufficiently dense.“.
In the image released today by ESO, we see the new ALMA data overlaid on an earlier infrared image of the same region showing bright stars and clear pink clouds of hot gas, taken with the Very Large Telescope. (VLT) of ESO and the Visible and ESO’s Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA). The composition shows the distinctive web or web shape of the Tarantula Nebula’s gas clouds, which gave rise to its name Spider. The new ALMA data includes the image’s bright red and yellow streaks: very cold, dense gas that could one day collapse to form stars.
The new research contains important clues about how gravity behaves in the star-forming regions of the Tarantula Nebula, but the work is far from done. “There is still a lot to do with this fantastic data set, and we are posting it to encourage the rest of the community to continue their research.Wong concludes.
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