Surprise twist suggests stars are developing competitively

A study of star-forming activity in the Orion Nebula cluster has revealed similar mass distributions for newborn stars and dense gas nuclei, which can evolve into stars. Counterintuitively, this means that the amount of gas a nucleus increases as it grows, and not the initial mass of the nucleus, is the key factor in deciding the final mass of the nucleus. star produced.

The Universe is populated with stars of different masses. Dense nuclei in interstellar gas clouds collapse under their own gravity to form stars, but what determines the star’s final mass remains an open question. There are two competing theories. In the nucleus collapse model, larger stars form from larger nuclei. In the competitive accretion model, all nuclei start at roughly the same mass but accumulate different amounts of environmental gases as they grow.

To distinguish between these two scenarios, a research team led by Hideaki Takemura at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan created a map of the Orion Nebula cluster where new stars are forming, based on data from the American CARMA interferometer and the Nobeyama 45-m from the NAOJ. Radio telescope. Thanks to the map’s unprecedented high resolution, the team was able to compare the masses of newly formed stars and dense nuclei that collapse under gravity. They found that the mass distributions are similar for the two populations. They also found many smaller nuclei that don’t have gravity strong enough to contract into stars.

One would think that similar mass distributions for prestellar nuclei and newborn stars would favor the nucleus collapse model, but in fact, because it is impossible for a nucleus to transmit all of its mass to a new star , this shows that the continuous influx of gas is an important factor. factor, by promoting the competitive accretion model.

The team will now expand their map using additional data from CARMA and the 45m radio telescope at Nobeyama to see if the results from the Orion Nebula cluster are valid for other regions.

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