Astronomers Spot Massive Star In-Utero


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Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) this week revealed that they have spotted a massive star in the process of being born. Researchers hope the new information can help uncover just how massive (stars with more than 10 times the mass of the sun) stars form.

“The remarkable observations from ALMA allowed us to get the first really in-depth look at what was going on within this cloud,” said Nicolas Peretto, an astronomer at Cardiff University. “We wanted to see how monster stars form and grow, and we certainly achieved our aim. One of the sources we have found is an absolute giant - the largest protostellar core ever spotted in the Milky Way."

The most massive protostar was seen in a cloud called the Spitzer Dark Cloud 335.579-0.292, located 11,000 light-years from our solar system. It was spotted using the array's microwave scan capabilities. The core of the protostar is over 500 times more massive than the sun, with material from surrounding clouds still increasing its size. Astronomers believe it will, in the future, collapse into a star that could be 100 times more massive than the sun.

“Even though we already believed that the region was a good candidate for being a massive star-forming cloud, we were not expecting to find such a massive embryonic star at its centre,” said Peretto. “This object is expected to form a star that is up to 100 times more massive than the Sun. Only about one in ten thousand of all the stars in the Milky Way reach that kind of mass!”

(Image courtesy ESO)