A study led by Spanish astronomers shows that the mechanisms of formation of massive stars and Sun-like stars are very similar and that they take place in long interstellar gas fibers. The astronomers studied the Orion Nebula and observed that interstellar gas fibers have indeed an important role in forming both massive stars and Sun-like stars.
Orion Nebula is where new stars are formed
Orion is one of the most classic constellations of winter, and the nebula of the same name is one of the favorite space objects for all astronomers, both professionals, and amateurs.
This nebula, easily observable in the Orion constellation, is about 1,350 light-years away. The Orion Nebula is also known as Messier 42 and is one of the visible parts of the Universe where the most stars have formed.
Currently, astronomers think that in the Orion Nebula, more than 3000 stars have been born in the last two million years.
In this nebula, there is also the Trapezium Cluster, which is a swarm of young stars, some of which are 30 times more massive and 200,000 times brighter than our Sun.
These and other young stars illuminate the dense interstellar clouds of the region from which they have been created.
The long interstellar gas fibers from which the stars have formed
The astronomers have analyzed very detailed images of this dense gas. They have used two of the most powerful telescopes in the world for millimeter wave observation, the ALMA interferometer in Chile and the IRAM 30-meter radio telescope in Pico Veleta (near Granada).
When studying the structure the cold gas filaments, they found that each filament is formed by a skein of smaller structures called fibers. Up to 55 different fibers have been identified in the Trapezium Cluster in Orion Nebula.
Each fiber has a coherent structure of speed and, in each of them, the gas collapses under the force of its own gravity until it is sufficiently compressed to form a protostar (the precursor of a star).
The same interstellar gas fibers were observed in other constellations, as well, but there were forming only low-mass stars. On the other hand, the Orion Nebula is characterized by massive stars formation. Astronomers concluded that long interstellar gas fibers are involved in the formation of both massive stars and Sun-like stars.