Hubble Space Telescope Discovers Window Into Early Universe

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Hubble Space Telescope Discovers Window Into Early Universe
The massive star cluster NGC 346 in the Small Magellanic Cloud has long intrigued astronomers with its unusual shape. Using two separate methods, researchers now determine that part of the shape is due to stars and gas spiraling in a river-like motion toward the center of the cluster. Did. The red swirl enveloping NGC 346 tracks the movement of stars and gas toward the center. Scientists say this spiral motion is the most efficient way to direct star formation from the outside toward the center of the cluster. Photo credit: NASA, ESA, Andi James (STScI)

Scientists discover spiralling stars that may be feeding star formation in a nearby stellar nursery

Stars are the machines that shape the universe, but researchers still don’t know exactly how stars are formed. I understood the “baby boom,” like the star birth madness that happened early in the history of . This nearby galaxy has a simpler chemical composition than the Milky Way, so it resembles a galaxy in the young universe that was less abundant in heavier elements. As a result, it can act as a surrogate for the early universe.

Two of his studies, the first with the Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, recently came to the same conclusion. An independent team used a variety of techniques to discover a young star swirling at the center of a massive star cluster called NGC 346 in the Small Magellanic Cloud. This stream-like movement of gas and stars is an efficient way to drive star formation, astrophysicists say. The team’s results show that the process of star formation in the Small Magellanic Cloud resembles that of our own Milky Way.

The massive star cluster NGC 346 in the Small Magellanic Cloud has long intrigued astronomers with its unusual shape. Using two separate methods, researchers now determine that part of the shape is due to stars and gas spiraling in a river-like motion toward the center of the cluster. Photo credit: NASA, ESA, Andi James (STScI)

Finding Spiraling Stars by NASA’s Hubble Opens Window to Early Universe

From the whirlpools of hurricanes, to the pinwheel-shaped protoplanetary disks around newborn stars, to the vast number of spiral galaxies in the universe, vortices are ubiquitous in nature.

Now astronomers are baffled to find a young star swirling at the center of a giant star cluster in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

The outer arms of the whorls in this gigantic and oddly shaped star nursery, called NGC 346, could drive star formation in a river-like motion of gas and stars. Scientists say this is an efficient way to promote star formation.

The Small Magellanic Cloud has a simpler chemical composition than the Milky Way Galaxy. This is similar to galaxies found in the young Universe where heavy elements were scarce. Because of this, the stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud burn hotter than the Milky Way, and so they deplete faster.

The Small Magellanic Cloud can serve as a surrogate for the early universe, but it is also one of its closest galactic neighbors, only 200,000 light-years away.

The discovery of how stars form in the Small Magellanic Cloud is an insight into how star birth storms occurred during the “baby boom” early in the history of the universe. Offers a new twist (the universe is currently 13.8 billion years old). Year).

New discoveries show that star formation there is similar to that in our own Milky Way. NGC 346 has the mass of 50,000 suns despite being only 150 light-years across. Its interesting shape and rapid star formation rate have amazed astronomers. A combination of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has unraveled the behavior of this mysterious nest of stars.

“Stars are the machines that shape the universe. Without them there would be no life, but how stars form is not fully understood,” says a study from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Leader Elena Savi said. “We have multiple models making predictions, but some of those predictions are contradictory. We want to find out what regulates the process of star formation. These laws are , because it is a necessary law for understanding what we see in the early universe.”

Scientists have determined the motion of NGC 346’s stars in two different ways. Using Hubble, Sabbi and her team measured changes in the star’s position over her 11-year period. A star in this realm travels at an average speed of 2,000 miles per hour, and in 11 years he travels 200 million miles. This is about twice the distance between the Sun and Earth.

However, the cluster is relatively distant in a nearby galaxy. This means that the observed motion is so small from our point of view that it is difficult to measure. These highly accurate observations were made possible only by Hubble’s excellent resolution and high sensitivity. In addition, Hubble’s 30-year history of observations provides a basis for astronomers to track the movements of small celestial bodies over time.

His second team, led by Peter Zeidler of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) AURA/STScI, uses his VLT’s Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the ground to see objects approaching or retreating. We measured the line-of-sight speed to determine whether the from an observer.

“What’s really amazing is that we used two of his methods that were completely different on different systems and basically reached the same results independently of each other,” he says Zeidler. “With Hubble you can see stars, but with MUSE you can also see the movement of gas in three dimensions, supporting the theory that everything is swirling inwards.”

But why spiral?

“Whirlpools are a really nice, natural way to guide star formation from the outside into the center of a cluster,” explained Zeidler. “This is the most efficient way for the stars and gas that drives star formation to move toward the center.”

Half of the Hubble data for this survey of NGC 346 have been archived, with the first observations made 11 years ago. These observations have recently been repeated to track the star’s motion over time. Given the lifespan of the telescope, Hubble Data’s archive contains more than 32 years of his astronomical data, allowing for unprecedented long-term research. “The Hubble Archive is a real goldmine,” Sabi said. “There are so many interesting star-forming regions that the Hubble Space Telescope has observed over the years. This could greatly advance our understanding of star formation.”

The team’s findings are published today (September 8) in the Astrophysical Journal.

Reference: “Internal Gagnetism of NGC 346: Rotation of the Core Region,” Peter Seidler, Elena Sabi, and Antonella Nota, 8 September 2022, The Astrophysical Journal.

Observations by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope should be able to resolve the low-mass stars in the cluster, allowing a more holistic view of the region. While Webb is alive, astronomers will be able to repeat this experiment to measure the motion of low-mass stars. We can then finally see the full dynamics of this nursery by comparing massive and low-mass stars.

The Hubble Space Telescope is an international joint project of NASA and ESA. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland maintains the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is administered for his NASA by the Association of Astronomical Research Universities of Washington, D.C. operation.

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