A mysterious cloud complex full of the turbulence of star formation is generating new head-scratching questions for researchers across the globe.
Analysis of gamma rays from the Ophiuchus star-forming complex led to additional evidence that short-lived radioactive elements of the early Solar System were the product of the supernova explosions of nearby stars when our Sun was still forming.
That confirms a fundamental enrichment model that made the object of speculation for many decades, providing scientists with helpful insight into the unique life cycle of stars.
Douglas N.C. Lin, an astronomer and astrophysicist of the University of California, Santa Cruz, stated:
“Our Solar System was most likely formed in a giant molecular cloud together with a young stellar cluster, and one or more supernova events from some massive stars in this cluster contaminated the gas which turned into the Sun and its planetary system.”
Douglas also explained that the scenario isn’t particularly new to the scientific community, as it was suggested in the past too. However, the highlight of the paper is using multi-wavelength observations plus a sophisticated statistical breakthrough to determine a somewhat precise measurement of the model’s probability.
Stars form when spinning pockets of dense gas in molecular clouds collapse due to their intense gravity.
Material from the gaseous cloud flattens out in the form of an accretion disk, feeding the perpetually growing star.
After the star finishes forming, the remaining disks form the rest of what is found in a planetary system – While elemental abundances can vary depending on each unique body. Interestingly, everything we see in a planetary system is made out of the same mold.
John Forbes, an astrophysicist of the Flatiron Institute, explained that the enrichment process they’ve observed in Ophiuchus is on par with what occurred during the formation of the Solar System roughly five billion years ago.
Observing how specific processes happen will help researchers from a model of the nearby star cluster that led to the formation of radionuclides that are currently present in gamma rays.