ESA's Herschel space observatory is about to celebrate its first anniversary in space, and in anticipation the European Space Agency has given all of us a little gift. This colorful image of a giant bubble of gas and dust named RCW 120 was spotted by Herschel's infrared sensors, but it's not just the aesthetic aspect that's exciting. The small white bright spot at the bottom fringe of the cloud is a young massive star still in formation, and it could provide us with unique insights into exactly how massive stars come to be. The image was presented this week at the Herschel First Results Symposium in the Netherlands.
At just a few tens of thousands of years old, the star has not yet ignited into the massive ball of nuclear fission that it will eventually become. But it's eight to 10 times larger than our own sun, and with about 200 solar masses worth of gas and dust surrounding it, it promises to be cosmically beautiful birthing process. If it continues accreting like it is, it could well become one of the Milky Way's biggest stellar bodies.
Spotting this object at all is a kind of triumph for Herschel, as massive stars in their early phases of formation are tough to detect because the dust and gas that are the fuel of star formation also obscure the process from view.
But what's more, watching this baby star in RCW 120 could tell researchers a lot about how massive stars form, a process that is currently stuck in theoretical debate. Scientists know of celestial bodies that are 120 times the size of the sun, but many current theories on star birth have a hard time explaining how they can physically grow so massive.
Scientists now have a forming massive star to observe that will hopefully answer some long-standing questions. And you have a new wallpaper. The ESA has high-res images from Herschel here.
"At just a few tens of thousands of years old, the star has not yet ignited into the massive ball of nuclear fission that it will eventually become"
I thought stars were nuclear fusion not fission...has that changed recently? :)
nice catch caradoc
indeed, you are correct. It's Fusion.
Thought I was having a heart attack one day.
Turned out to be a giant gas bubble.
Boy were the people on the bus PO'ed when it let go...
it seems like theres so much stuff out there in the universe it stands to reason if we keep looking over time we will eventually see everything ,
Thank you to all the Astronomers that make these discoveries possible by always looking up and building new telescopes !
Question , is it still possible that we will discover a star that will supernova close to us and bath us in Gamma rays , if this new super massive star is short lived how short is short ?
Not your lifetime steve.
I've always been a huge fan of your site and magazine. No other source brings together new and exciting scientific and technological news and portrays it in a user-friendly summarized manner as well as you guys do! Keep up the good work!!
But, I have to mention...fission???? Come on!!!
I offer my services to proofread all of your newly written articles from my home before they're posted...for $30/hr.
...COME ON!! FISSION?!
Stellar Prediction Center for the preforming stars is hosting this weeks look at the life of Ricw Jr. and his ancient past and current contributions to the very patient astronomers(time well spent) observations forthcomming. SO be patient. These guys can break down the spectral chemistry of a good time....what did they mean by new wallpaper?