Violent star formation in the Tarantula Nebula

Violent star formation in the Tarantula Nebula,w_635,h_357/v1/ici-info/16×9/nebuleuse-tarentule-image-composite-infrarouge-radi0.jpg” />

In the high-resolution image produced largely using data collected by the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) ALMA antenna array in Chile, it is possible to see the nebula in a new light, with clouds of gas that give insight into how massive stars shape this regionnote the scientists in a press release.

According to Professor Tony Wong of the University of Illinois, these clouds would correspond to the remnants of larger clouds that would have been shredded by the energy released by young massive stars in a process called double feedback.

Until now, it was generally believed that the gas in these regions was too dispersed and overwhelmed by this turbulent feedback for gravity to pull it together and form new stars.

However, the new data reveal much denser filaments in which the role of gravity is still significant.

Our results imply that even in the presence of a very strong feedback, gravity can exert a strong influence and lead to star formation. »

A quote from Tony Wong, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Did you know?

The web-like structure of the gas clouds in this nebula has led astronomers to give it the name of a spider. The star birth rate is higher there than in any region of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

A composite image

The image is an overlay of several photos. The background image, taken in the infrared, is itself a composite image born from the combination of two shots captured from the instruments of two other telescopes of theESO. It shows bright stars and light pink clouds of hot gas.

This image shows the Tarantula Nebula, in radio wavelengths, as observed by ALMA. The bright red-yellow streaks reveal regions of cold, dense gas where new stars may appear.

Photo: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Wong et al.

This photo is superimposed on the image from radio observations made by ALMA, revealing bright red-yellow bands that correspond to regions of cold, dense gas that have the characteristic of collapsing and forming stars.

This infrared image shows the star-forming region 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, highlighting its bright stars and light pinkish clouds of hot gas.

Photo: ESO, M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey

A star-creating region

Additionally, the Tarantula is home to some of the most massive stars on record, some of which have a mass more than 150 times that of the Sun. This area of ​​the sky, relatively close astronomically, is therefore ideal for studying how gas clouds collapse under the effect of gravity to create stars. Especially since it shares many characteristics with very distant galaxies formed when the Universe was rather young.

We can study how stars formed 10 billion years ago, when most stars were born. »

A quote from Guido De Marchi, co-author of the article and astronomer at ESA


  • Located approximately 170,000 light-years (ly) from Earth, the Tarantula is also known as 30 Doradus and NGC 2070.
  • This nebula is certainly the most spectacular structure of the Large Magellanic Cloud, the third galaxy in terms of proximity to our Milky Way, after the dwarf galaxy of Sagittarius (80,000 ly) and the dwarf galaxy of the Big Dog (42,000 ly) .
  • The bright glow of the Tarantula Nebula was first described by French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751.
  • The nebula is visible to the naked eye outside the light pollution of large cities.

Image of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of our closest galactic neighbors, captured by ESO’s VISTA telescope.

Photo: ESO/VMC Survey

Surprising seriousness

Until recently, sightings of the Tarantula have mostly focused on its center, since star formation is abundant there.

To get a better picture of the entire nebula, scientists performed high-resolution observations using ALMA covering a large region of the nebula, which mapped large, collapsing clouds of cold gas. to give birth to new stars, but also how they change when huge amounts of energy are released by star birth.

We expected the parts of the cloud closest to young massive stars to show the clearest signs of feedback-crushed gravity.explains Tony Wong.

Rather, we found that gravity is still important in those regions exposed to feedback — at least for parts of the cloud that are dense enough. »

A quote from Tony Wong, professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Our work contains detailed clues as to how gravity behaves in the star-forming regions of the Tarantula Nebulanote the authors, whose detailed work is published in The Astrophysical Journal (New window) (in English).

There is still much to do with this fantastic data set, and we are making it public to encourage other researchers to carry out further investigations.notes Tony Wong.

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