New Theory Needed On How Star Clusters Form

New Theory Needed On How Star Clusters Form

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Up until recently it was thought that star clusters formed when giant gas clouds collapsed. The collapse of the gas increased the density of the gas and eventually stars were born from this. This theory would mean that the first stars to form would be at the centre of the cloud as this is the densest place. However, recent data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a paradox. The oldest stars, and therefore the first stars, are actually found on the outskirts of the gas clouds. This has lead to a rejection of the basic model as to how star clusters form. 

Three theories have been proposed. The first is that the outskirts of the gas cloud would lose its density more quickly and so, star formation would end sooner. The centre of the cloud would continue to produce stars which would appear younger. The second theory is that the older stars have had longer to drift away from the centre of the gas clouds. The third theory suggests that young stars are formed in filaments of gas as opposed to a cloud of gas. The filaments would then fall toward the centre of the gas cloud putting the younger stars in the centre.

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Image credit:

X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/K.Getman, E.Feigelson, M.Kuhn and the MYStIX team; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

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