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ALMA Shows Massive Young Stars Forming in “Chaotic Mess”

27 April, 2021 / Read time: 1 minute

This video shows an illustrative simulation of the atypical formation process of 3 very young and massive stars in the W51 nebula, located in the constellation of Aquila, about 17,000 light-years from Earth. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) was used in its widest configuration, by moving the antennas as far away from each other as possible. This made it possible to obtain images 10 times sharper than on previous occasions.

The images shown highlight in blue and red the chaotic pattern of the surrounding material of the stars. At the end of the video, an animation is shown that allows to better understand the mechanics of the process, and to see graphically the differences with the known standard process, which is shown at the beginning of the video.

Previously, it was hypothesized that the process of massive star formation was the same as other smaller stars, only on a larger scale. However, computer simulations showed an unknown chaotic process. Now, following this observation, we have evidence to support those simulations.

Credit: Goddi, Ginsburg, et al., S. Dagnello, B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF.