NASA’s SOFIA explains how interstellar gas cloud collapses to become stars

New Delhi,Oct6: The universe and its evolutionary secrets have forever enticed scientists who are making tireless efforts to understand the enigma.
Considered one of the pioneers in space discoveries, NASA has always been on the forefront with all its achievements.

Now, adding another feather to its cap, researchers on board NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have observed something extremely interesting – the collapse of portions of six interstellar clouds on their way to becoming new stars that will be much larger than our sun.

NASA explains the phenomenon saying that, when a gas cloud collapses on itself, the cloud’s own gravity causes it to contract and the contraction produces heat friction. Heat from the contraction eventually causes the core to ignite hydrogen fusion reactions creating a star.

This research has evidently caused a lot of excitment among astronomers because previous direct observations of a collapse motion have been less in number.

According to NASA, these SOFIA observations have enabled scientists to confirm theoretical models about how interstellar clouds collapse to become stars and the pace at which they collapse. Actually observing this collapse, called “infall,” is extremely challenging because it happens relatively quickly in astronomical terms.

“Detecting infall in protostars is very difficult to observe, but is critical to confirm our overall understanding of star formation,” said Universities Space Research Association’s Erick Young, SOFIA Science Mission Operations director, NASA reported.

Using the observatory’s GREAT instrument, the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, scientists searched for this developmental stage in nine embryonic stars, called protostars, by measuring the motions of the material within them. They found that six of the nine protostars were actively collapsing, adding substantially to the previous list of less than a dozen protostars directly determined to be in this infall stage.

The results were from observations made in the Southern Hemisphere in 2015, and were published in Astronomy and Astrophysics earlier this year.

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