Researchers in Germany and Austria have built a powerful new star formation model. The model simulates the birth of massive stars, offering new insights into the phenomenon.
Despite their importance to the understanding of galactic evolution, the formation of massive stars is a difficult process to study. The thick cocoon of gas and dust surrounding giant stars shield them from even the most powerful telescopes and observatories.
“This opaque envelope makes it difficult to directly observe the birth process even with modern telescopes,” Rolf Kuiper, the leader of the Emmy Noether Research Group for Massive Star Formation, said in a news release. “In other words, we see the cradle in which these stars are born, but we can’t detect the stars themselves.”
Kuiper and his colleagues decided to turn to computers — big and powerful supercomputers — to study the principles of stellar formation among the largest of stars.
Researchers described their new model in a paper published this week in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.
Like all stars, massive stars begin as a collapsed cloud of gas and dust. The initial implosion triggers the formation of a rotating accretion disk, which feeds stellar material to the newly formed core.
The new simulation suggests high-density clumps coalesce during the formation of large stars. These clumps slowly make their way toward the accretion disk and become incorporated by the growing stellar mass.
“Like throwing logs into a fireplace, these episodes of clump consumption produce violent luminosity outbursts outshining the collective effect of one hundred thousand Suns,” explained researcher Eduard Vorobyov.
Violent bursts of luminosity have previously been associated with the formation of the universe’s earliest stars, as well as low-mass stars like the sun.
“It is amazing to see these similarities, as if star formation on all scales and epochs is controlled by a common DNA forged in the early universe,” added Dominique Meyer, first author of the new study.
The research team believes the clumps predicted by their simulation may also explain the formation of Solar-type companions, which are sometimes found partnered with massive stars.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense