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Astronomers witness birth of Milky Way’s most massive star

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Posted July 11, 2013
a) Mid-infrared Spitzer composite image. b) Herschel column density image of SDC335. c) ALMA 3.2 mm dust continuum emission of the central region of SDC335 where two cores are identified, MM1 and MM2. Credit: A&A 555, A112 (2013)

a) Mid-infrared Spitzer composite image. b) Herschel column density image of SDC335. c) ALMA 3.2 mm dust continuum emission of the central region of SDC335 where two cores are identified, MM1 and MM2. Credit: A&A 555, A112 (2013)

Scientists have observed in unprecedented detail the birth of a massive star within a dark cloud core about 10,000 light years from Earth.

The team used the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile – the most powerful radio telescope in the world – to view the stellar womb which, at 500 times the mass of the Sun and many times more luminous, is the largest ever seen in our galaxy.

The researchers say their observations – to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics – reveal how matter is being dragged into the centre of the huge gaseous cloud by the gravitational pull of the forming star – or stars – along a number of dense threads or filaments.

“The remarkable observations from ALMA allowed us to get the first really in-depth look at what was going on within this cloud,” said lead author Dr Nicolas Peretto, from 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!

“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. This cloud is expected to form at least one star 100 times more massive than the Sun and up to a million times brighter. Only about one in 10,000 of all the stars in the Milky Way reach that kind of mass.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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