Observed by NASA's venerable satellite telescope as a stream of star and gas rushing towards the center of a large, oddly-shaped stellar nursery in the nearby Small Magellanic Cloud. There are so many formations to be observed in our universe that we are faced with new news every day.
As seen in a recently released image by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers believe that the outer arm of this stellar and gas spiral may be providing a river-like stream of gas that supports star formation in the stellar nursery known as NGC 346.
As the 13,8 billion-year-old galaxy is only a few billion years old and undergoes a stellar "baby boom" of intense star formation, the discovery may yield important clues to how stars are created.
Without stars, there would be no life on Earth, but we still don't fully understand how they formed, according to research leader and astronomer Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which oversees Hubble.
“We have a number of models that make predictions, some of which are inconsistent. Since these are the principles we need to interpret what we see in the early cosmos, we are interested in figuring out what controls star formation.
NGC 346 is only 150 light-years in diameter and consists of stellar matter with 50.000 solar masses. Astronomers were stunned by the region's rapid star production.
NGC 346 is located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, about 200.000 light-years from Earth.
This distance is information that can provide astronomers with information about the early universe. The observation of newer light compared to the light coming from a farther distance also contains information from different periods of our universe. However, the dwarf galaxy is similar to the first galaxies in several respects.
How Does Star Formation Occur?
The successive generations of stars turned into supernovae, exploded, and seeded space with the atoms they formed during their lifetimes. Similar to early galaxies not yet enriched with heavier elements, the Small Magellanic Cloud has a simpler chemical structure than the Milky Way.
Stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud are hotter than stars in the Milky Way due to their chemical simplicity and burn fuel faster, causing them to age faster than stars in our galaxy.
Still, the researchers found that despite these changes, star formation in the Small Magellanic Cloud continues similarly to that in the Milky Way.
Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in northern Chile to study star formation in the Small Magellanic Cloud in two different ways.
Hubble was used by Sabbi and his team to track changes in star positions across the galaxy over an 11-year period.
Because stars travel at roughly 2.000 miles (3.200 kph), they travel 11 million miles (200 million kilometers) or more than twice the distance from Earth to the sun in 320 years.
But that's still a very small distance from our perspective, 150 light-years away, so Hubble's power was needed to detect and resolve the small position changes of these stars.
The VLT's Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument was used by a second team of astronomers led by Peter Zeidler of the European Space Agency (ESA) to measure the radial velocity of stars, or how fast a star is moving.
A stellar spiral could be seen using both observing techniques as it entered the center of NGC 346, aided by gas for star formation.
In the same statement, Zeidler said, “What is really surprising is that we use two completely different methodologies with different possibilities and arrive at basically the same result independently.” "With Hubble you can see stars, but with MUSE we can also detect the velocity of third-dimensional gas, and this supports the idea that everything is spinning inward," says the researcher.
The importance of spiral development in the birth of stars was also discussed by Zeidler.
The spiral is a pretty good, natural mechanism for feeding star formation from the outside of the cluster to its core, he said. This is the most efficient way for stars and gas to migrate in that direction, causing more star formation.