Violent star formation in the Tarantula Nebula


Astronomers have discovered new details about the star-forming region 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, using observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

In a high-resolution image released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and including data from ALMA, the nebula is seen in a new light, with clouds of diffuse gas giving a glimpse of how massive stars shape this region.

“These fragments may be the remnants of clouds that were once larger and were shattered by the enormous energy given off by young stars and massive, a process called feedback,” says it’s a statement Tony Wong, who led the research on 30 Doradus presented today at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting and published in ‘The Journal of Astrophysics’.

Initially, astronomers thought the gas in these areas would be too thin and overwhelmed by this turbulent feedback to be pulled together by gravity to form new stars. But the new data also reveals much denser filaments in which the role of gravity remains important.

“Our results imply that, even in the presence of very strong returns, gravity can exert a strong influence and lead to further star formation“, adds Wong, who is a professor at the University of Illinois, in the United States.

Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, the Tarantula Nebula is one of the brightest and most active star-forming regions in our galactic neighborhood, located approximately 170,000 years ago. -Earth light.

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 clouds of gas collapse under gravity to form new stars.

“What makes 30 Doradus unique is that it is close enough for us to study star formation in detail, yet its properties are similar to those found in distant galaxies when the Universe was young. — explains Guido De Marchi, a scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA) and co-author of the article–. Thanks to 30 Doradus, we can study how stars formed 10 billion years ago, when most of them were born.”

Although most previous studies of the Tarantula Nebula have focused on its center, astronomers have long known that massive star formation also occurs elsewhere.

To better understand this process, the team made high-resolution observations covering a large region of the nebula. Using ALMA, they measured the light emission of carbon monoxide. This allowed them to map the nebula’s large, cold gas clouds collapsing to give birth to new stars, and how they change when these young stars release huge amounts of energy.

“We expected the parts of the cloud closest to young massive stars to show the clearest signs that gravity is being overwhelmed by feedback,” Wong says. “Instead, we found that gravity remains significant in those feedback-exposed regions, at least in the parts of the cloud that are sufficiently dense.”

In the image released by ESO, the new ALMA data is overlaid on an earlier infrared image of the same region showing bright stars and light pink hot gas clouds, taken with Earth’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). ESO and ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope. for astronomy (VISTA).

The composition shows the distinctive cobweb-like shape of the gas clouds of the Tarantula Nebula that gave the Spider its name. The new ALMA data includes the bright red-yellow bands in the image: very cold, dense gas that could one day collapse and form stars.

The new research contains detailed 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 dataset, and we make it public to encourage other researchers to conduct further research“, he concludes.

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