Image: Wolfgang Steffen, Instituto de Astronomía, UNAM
By Michael Slezak
The violent birth of massive stars has been captured for the first time in dramatic before-and-after images, which are already overturning theories about how these planet-factories form.
Massive stars – those at least eight times the mass of our sun – are relatively rare in the universe. They act as factories that create the heavier elements required for the formation of planets and life.
But exactly how they grow so massive is a mystery. They emit so much radiation that it counters gravity, pushing away incoming material, so it’s difficult to see how they gather mass.
One way is if the outflow of radiation comes mostly from the poles of the forming star, allowing material to fall in around its equator. But all the star-formation models that work this way depend on the outflow being focused from the very beginning of the star’s formation, says Carlos Carrasco-González of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
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