Hubble Shows Torrential Outflows from Infant Stars May Not Stop Them from Growing

Stsci_2021-06a_1024

stsci_2021-06a March 18th, 2021

Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Habel and S. T. Megeath (University of Toledo)

Though our galaxy is an immense city of at least 200 billion stars, the details of how they formed remain largely cloaked in mystery.

Scientists know that stars form from the collapse of huge hydrogen clouds that are squeezed under gravity to the point where nuclear fusion ignites. But only about 30 percent of the cloud’s initial mass winds up as a newborn star. Where does the rest of the hydrogen go during such a terribly inefficient process?

It has been assumed that a newly forming star blows off a lot of hot gas through light-saber-shaped outflowing jets and hurricane-like winds launched from the encircling disk by powerful magnetic fields. These fireworks should squelch further growth of the central star. But a new, comprehensive Hubble survey shows that this most common explanation doesn’t seem to work, leaving astronomers puzzled.

Researchers used data previously collected from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Telescope to analyze 304 developing stars, called protostars, in the Orion Complex, the nearest major star-forming region to Earth. (Spitzer and Herschel are no longer operational.)

In this largest-ever survey of nascent stars to date, researchers are finding that gas clearing by a star’s outflow may not be as important in determining its final mass, as conventional theories suggest. The researchers’ goal was to determine whether stellar outflows halt the infall of gas onto a star and stop it from growing.

Instead, they found that the cavities in the surrounding gas cloud sculpted by a forming star’s outflow did not grow over time, as theories propose.

“In one stellar formation model, if you start out with a small cavity, as the protostar rapidly becomes more evolved, its outflow creates an ever-larger cavity until the surrounding gas is eventually blown away, leaving an isolated star,” explained lead researcher Nolan Habel of the University of Toledo in Ohio.

“Our observ

Provider: Space Telescope Science Institute

Image Source: https://hubblesite.org/contents/news-releases/2021/news-2021-006

Curator: STScI, Baltimore, MD, USA

Image Use Policy: http://hubblesite.org/copyright/

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Image Details

Image Type
Collage
Object Name
Orion Nebula
Subject - Milky Way
Nebula > Type > Star Formation

Distance

Universescale1
1,344 light years

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 5h 35m 17.3s
DEC = -5° 23’ 28.0”
Constellation
Orion

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Orange Hubble (WFC3/IR) Infrared (H) 1.6 µm
Spectrum_base
Orange
Stsci_2021-06a_1280
×
ID
2021-06a
Subject Category
B.4.1.2  
Subject Name
Orion Nebula
Credits
NASA, ESA, N. Habel and S. T. Megeath (University of Toledo)
Release Date
2021-03-18T00:00:00
Lightyears
1,344
Redshift
1,344
Reference Url
https://hubblesite.org/contents/news-releases/2021/news-2021-006
Type
Collage
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Hubble
Instrument
WFC3/IR
Color Assignment
Orange
Band
Infrared
Bandpass
H
Central Wavelength
1600
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
Reference Value
83.82208333, -5.39111111
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
Position
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
STScI
URL
http://hubblesite.org
Name
Space Telescope Science Institute Office of Public Outreach
Email
outreach@stsci.edu
Telephone
410-338-4444
Address
3700 San Martin Drive
City
Baltimore
State/Province
MD
Postal Code
21218
Country
USA
Rights
http://hubblesite.org/copyright/
Publisher
STScI
Publisher ID
stsci
Resource ID
STSCI-H-p2106a-f-4181x3630.tif
Metadata Date
2022-06-20T12:10:05-04:00
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

×
Universescalefull
1,344 light years