Herschel Captures the Birth of a Giant Star

The Universe is so large that you can look around and see events so rare that they only happen once in the course of millions of years. TG Daily reports:

Photo: European Space Agency

ESA’s Herschel telescope has snapped an embryonic star likely to turn into one of the biggest and brightest in our galaxy within the next few hundred thousand years.

The star-forming cloud RCW 120 already contains eight to ten times the mass of the Sun, and is still surrounded by an additional 2,000 solar masses of gas and dust from which it can feed further.

“This star can only grow bigger,” says Annie Zavagno of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille. But, she says, “According to our current understanding, you should not be able to form stars larger than eight solar masses.”

This is because the fierce light emitted by such large stars should blast away their birth clouds. Now that Herschel has observed one of these ‘impossible’ stars near the beginning of its life, astronomers can investigate why this doesn’t seem to happen.

Another new image shows stellar embryos first appearing inside filaments of glowing dust and gas draped across the galaxy.  These form chains of stellar nurseries, tens of light-years long.

Herschel has also been surveying deep space in the infrared. Each galaxy appears as just a pinprick, but its brightness allows astronomers to determine the rate of star birth within it.

[Read more at TG Daily]