New study reveals that stellar winds scatter star-forming material

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Posted August 20, 2013

New study reveals that stellar winds scatter star-forming material (w/ Video)

A University of Alberta astrophysicist’s 3-D computer animation is helping an international research team get an unprecedented look at star-forming gases escaping from a nearby galaxy.

Erik Rosolowsky, who recently joined the U of A as an assistant professor of astrophysics, created the animation as part of a new study featured in the journalNature.

Since 2011, Rosolowsky has been a member of an international collaboration (led by Alberto Bolatto of University of Maryland in College Park) that used the new and powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile to discover billowing columns of cold, dense gas fleeing the disk of nearby starburst galaxy NGC 253, also known as the Silver Dollar Galaxy.

Why aren’t more stars born?

Located 11.5 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor, this galaxy affords astronomers a rare and fortuitous view of several super star clusters near its centre. These clusters denote areas where new stars are forming—and also mark the point of departure for material being ejected from the galaxy.

The cosmic fireworks that characterize a starburst can abruptly fizzle out after only a relatively brief period of star formation. As a result, far fewer high-mass galaxies are evident, and astronomers want to know why.


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