Updated 12:50 PM EDT, Tue, Sep 22, 2020

Largest Stellar Birth in Milky Way Supports Global Collapse Star Formation Theory

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Deep in a dark cloud, some 10,000 light-years away, a monster so large it will be the biggest of its kind in the Milky Way is being born, and it's teaching scientists a thing or two about how stars form.

"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 center," said Dr. Nicolas Peretto, lead author of the study detailing the findings in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"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," he added.

Researchers using the world's most powerful radio telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile spotted massive protostar MM1 at the heart of the dark cloud SDC335. The birthing process of the star reveals that huge amounts of matter are being dragged into the MM1 by threads and filaments connected to the protostellar core. The observations support the theory that truly massive stars form from the inward collapse of a gas cloud.

"Our observations reveal in superb detail the filamentary network of dust and gas flowing into the central compact region of the cloud and strongly support the theory of global collapse for the formation of massive stars," co-author Professor Gary Fuller from the University of Manchester explained.

The researchers hope to continue looking into the births of massive stars using the ALMA telescope. 

"We managed to get these very detailed observations using only a fraction of ALMA's ultimate potential. ALMA will definitely revolutionize our knowledge of star formation, solving some current problems, and certainly raising new ones," Dr. Peretto said.

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