Astronomers capture stunning images of cosmic fireworks in our galaxy marking the birth of new stars

Astronomers caught the fireworks in action in a cluster located in the Carina region of the Milky Way using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope


                            Astronomers capture stunning images of cosmic fireworks in our galaxy marking the birth of new stars
(ALMA, Y Cheng et al; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S Dagnello and NASA/ESA Hubble)

Astronomers have captured cosmic fireworks in a star cluster within our home galaxy, about 8,000 light years away. The colorful explosion marks the birth of new stars, which are now at different stages of development, according to studies. All of these developing stellar bodies could take a million years to light up the skies. Most stars, including the Sun, take birth in star clusters. They provide star-forming raw materials — also called molecular gases. In other words, they act as stellar nurseries, feeding the new stars. But many aspects of star formation still evades human understanding.

Astronomers caught the fireworks in action in a cluster named G286.21+0.17, located in the Carina region of the Milky Way using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. They also observed how the swirling gas violently fell into the cluster, helping create individual stars.

"This illustrates how dynamic and chaotic the process of star birth is," co-author Jonathan Tan of Chalmers University in Sweden and the University of Virginia and principal investigator of the project, said in a statement. "We see competing forces in action: gravity and turbulence from the cloud on one side, and stellar winds and radiation pressure from the young stars on the other. This process sculpts the region. It is amazing to think that our own Sun and planets were once part of such a cosmic dance."

Hubble's infrared eyes spotted the glowing, hot dust. It is seen in yellow and red. ALMA shows the clouds of molecular gas in purple, according to the researchers. What is more, these stars have different masses. And the dense molecular gas still has some mass, indicating that it needs to collapse inwards to form stellar bodies. "Overall, the process may take at least a million years to complete," Yu Cheng of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, and lead author of two papers published in The Astrophysical Journal, said.

"The phenomenal resolution and sensitivity of ALMA are evident in this stunning image of star formation," said Joe Pesce, NSF Program Officer for NRAO/ALMA. "Combined with the Hubble Space Telescope data, we can clearly see the power of multiwavelength observations to help us understand these fundamental universal processes."

Another image of star formation in NGC 925 galaxy, where bursts of star formation are taking place in the red, glowing clouds scattered throughout it (KPNO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA)

Meanwhile, scientists said they found an old image of a starburst occurring in a different galaxy called NGC 925, about 20 million light-years away. The image is thanks to the Mayall 4-meter Telescope at Arizona's Kitt Peak National Observatory. 

"The cosmic firework at the center of this image, the spiral galaxy NGC 925, resembles a vast pinwheel, with a bright central bar and swirling spiral arms," the researchers wrote in a statement. "The red bursts strewn throughout NGC 925 are eruptions of star formation, which can be traced by observing conspicuous hydrogen-alpha emission."

The image displays only a part of the fireworks. Like the glittering swirls of stars and star birth in NGC 925, "the sky is full of transient events like supernovae — the explosive deaths of massive stars — and ultra-powerful bursts of energy from colliding neutron stars and black holes," they added.

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