Tuesday, 26 March 2013
Triggering the birth of stars
New stars are forming all the time in our Galaxy. Stars form in dense gas clouds such as this one known as the 'Elephant Trunk Nebula' in the constellation Cepheus, about 2400 light years away from Earth.
By measuring the ages of stars across this image, scientists found that the stars were younger the further they were from the massive star, with the youngest stars found deep within the 'elephant trunk' where only infrared light can be seen in this image. This suggests that the formation of these stars was 'triggered' by the ionization front that has slowly been moving across the gas cloud. This process is thought to be occurring across our entire Galaxy with the formation of new stars being continually triggered all the time.
References: Barentsen et al. 2011 and Drew et al. 2005.
Guest post by Dr Nick Wright, Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Fellow at the University’s Centre for Astrophysics Research