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A rare find! Scientists catch a baby monster growing in space

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Astronomers have captured one of the most elusive phenomenons in the galaxy - a star in the process of formation. A British team using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have imaged a cloud of dust and gasses condensing into a protostar.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The star, when it finally ignites, will be at least 100 times the mass of our sun, a 1 in 10,000 chance according to astronomers. More importantly, astronomers have caught the star in its infancy, before it switches on by means of nuclear fusion in its core.

Stars form when clouds of dust and gas coalesce, by means of gravity, into rapidly spinning balls of mostly hydrogen gas. As these protostars gain mass, they attract ever more dust and gas to themselves and grow until the gravitational pressure in their core grows enough to cause nuclear fusion. That fusion causes the star to ignite, making it glow with heat so that it becomes visible to observers in the visible spectrum.

The force of that ignition also blows away most of the dust and gas around the star, solidifying its size and mass for the first part of its lifespan, which can last millions to billions of years. Larger stars live shorter lives.

However, because the event is so rare, it is difficult to locate and observe. In this case they have located a star that is very massive and therefore easy to measure. 

By observing a cloud of dust and gas 11,000 light years away, they managed to locate a pocket of gas that is presently condensing into a massive star. Further observations with other telescopes have confirmed their find.

It's hard to find stars in the process of formation because the process happens relatively quickly in astronomical terms. A star can coalesce out of a cloud of dust and gas within the space of tens of thousands of years to just tens of millions of years. In astronomical terms, this is practically overnight, which makes the phenomenon observed in this case hard to find.

The observations will likely be used to conform a theory on how stars actually from out of their parent nebulae.

The star, once it ignites, which will probably happen within the next several million years, will have a short lifespan, measured in the tens of millions of years. It will rapidly burn all of its hydrogen fuel, then explode into a massive supernova, spewing heavy elements, fused in its core, across space while the core of the star will collapse inward until it forms a point of mass so dense that it turns into a black hole.

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