An international team of scientists presented the most detailed map of the birthplaces of stars. It turned out that they are very different from each other.
The areas of space in which stars are born turned out to be much more diverse than astronomers assumed. This became known from a new study. Astronomers of the PHANGS project have systematically surveyed more than 100 thousand areas in 90 galaxies and found that each of them is much more unique than previously thought.
The formation of stars can take tens of millions of years: they emerge from swirling clouds of turbulent dust and gas, after which they turn into softly glowing protostars, and then materialize into giant balls of plasma, powered by thermonuclear fusion, like the Sun. But how quickly this process will deplete the reserves of gas and dust in the nursery, and how many stars can subsequently form in a given location, depends on the location of the stellar nursery in the galaxy.
The five-year study used the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope located in the Chilean Atacama Desert. By investigating in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, rather than in the optical, astronomers were able to focus on the faint glow of dust and gas from dark and dense molecular clouds, as opposed to the visible light of young stars.
“We used to think that all stellar nurseries in every galaxy should look more or less the same, but this study showed that this is not the case, and the stellar nursery changes depending on the location,” the researchers noted. “They are responsible for the formation of galaxies and the creation of planets, and they are an important part of our development history.”