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Violent star formation in the Tarantula Nebula

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In the high resolution image produced largely using data collected by the ALMA antenna array of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, you can see the nebula in a new light, with gas clouds giving an idea of ​​how massive stars shape this regionthe scientists note in a press release.

According to Professor Tony Wong of the University of Illinois, these clouds would correspond to the remnants of larger clouds that would be shattered by the energy released by the young massive stars in a process called double feedback.

Until now, it was generally believed that the gas in these regions was too dispersed and overwhelmed by this turbulent feedback for gravity to unite it and form new stars.

However, the new data reveals much denser filaments where the role of gravity is still significant.

Our results imply that even in the presence of very strong feedback, gravity can exert a strong influence and lead to star formation.

A quote from Tony Wong, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Did you know?

The cobweb structure of the gas clouds in this nebula has led astronomers to give it the name of a spider. The birth rate of stars is higher than in any region of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

A composite image

The image is an overlay of multiple photos. The background image, taken in infrared, is itself a composite image born from the combination of two shots captured by the instruments of two other telescopes of theESO. It shows bright stars and light pink clouds of hot gas.

This image shows the Tarantula Nebula, in radio wavelengths, observed by ALMA. The brilliant red-yellow streaks reveal regions of cold, dense gas where new stars can appear.

Photo: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO) / Wong et al.

This photo is superimposed on the image of the radio observations made by ALMA, revealing bright red-yellow bands that correspond to regions of cold and dense gas that have the characteristic of collapsing and forming stars.

This infrared image shows the star-forming region 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, highlighting its bright stars and slightly pinkish hot gas clouds.

Photo: ESO, M.-R. Cioni survey / VIEW of the Magellanic Cloud

A stellar region

In addition, the Tarantula is home to some of the most massive stars ever recorded, some of which have a mass greater than 150 times that of the Sun. This area of ​​the sky, relatively close from an astronomical point of view, is therefore ideal for studying how clouds of gases collapse under the effect of gravity to create stars. Mainly because it shares many characteristics with very distant galaxies formed when the Universe was quite young.

We can study how stars formed 10 billion years ago, when most of the stars were born.

A quote from Guido De Marchi, co-author of the article and astronomer at ESA

Reference points

  • Located approximately 170,000 light years (ly) from Earth, the Tarantula is also known as 30 Doradus and NGC 2070.
  • This nebula is certainly the most spectacular structure in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the third closest galaxy to our Milky Way, after the dwarf galaxy of Sagittarius (80,000 ly) and the dwarf galaxy of the Big Dog (42,000 ly).
  • The luminous glow of the Tarantula Nebula was first described by the French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751.
  • The nebula is visible to the naked eye outside the light pollution of large cities.

Image of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our closest galactic neighbors, captured by ESO’s VISTA telescope.

Photo: ESO / VMC survey

Surprising seriousness

Until recently, Tarantula sightings have mainly focused on its center, as star formation is abundant there.

To get a better picture of the entire nebula, the scientists performed high-resolution observations using ALMA covering a large region of the nebula, which mapped large clouds of collapsing cold gas to give birth to new stars, but also how they change. when they are huge amounts of energy they are released from the birth of the stars.

We expected the parts of the cloud closest to the massive young stars to show the clearest signs of gravity crushed by feedback.Tony Wong explains.

Rather, we found that gravity is still important in those regions exposed to feedback, at least for parts of the cloud that are sufficiently dense.

A quote from Tony Wong, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Our work contains detailed clues as to how gravity behaves in the star-forming regions of the Tarantula Nebulanote the authors, whose detailed work is published in The astrophysical diary (New window) (in English).

There is still a lot to do with this fantastic dataset and we are making it public to encourage other researchers to carry out further investigations.observes Tony Wong.

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