Tarantula’s Cosmic Web

Tarantula’s Cosmic Web

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have revealed intricate details of 30 Doradus, a star-forming region also known as the Tarantula Nebula. In high-resolution images released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) containing ALMA data, we get a new look at the nebula, whose gas clouds show us how massive stars shape the region.

These fragments may be remnants of previous large clouds that were torn apart by the enormous energy released by massive young stars, in a process we call feedback,” said Tony Wong, who led the research on 30 Doradus, which was presented today at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting and published in the journal. astrophysical journalAstronomers initially thought that the gas in these regions was too dispersed and overwhelmed by this turbulent feedback for gravity to hold it together to form new stars. However, the new data also revealed very dense filaments in which the role of gravity is important. “Our results show that even in the presence of very strong feedbacks, gravity can have a powerful effect, allowing star formation to continue,” added Wong, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Located in our Milky Way’s satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Tarantula Nebula is one of the brightest and most active star-forming regions near our Milky Way, some 170,000 light-years from Earth. At its center are some of the most massive stars known, more than 150 times the mass of the Sun, making the region an ideal place to study how clouds of gas collapse under gravity to form new stars.

30 Doradus is unique in that it is close enough to us that we can study how stars form in great detail, but it has properties similar to those found in very distant galaxies when the universe was young,” explained Guido De Marchi, a scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA) and co-author of the paper presenting the results.”Thanks to 30 Doradus, we can study how stars formed 10 billion years ago, when most stars in the universe were born.

While most previous studies of the Tarantula Nebula have focused on its central region, astronomers have long known that massive star formation occurs elsewhere as well. To better understand this process, the team performed high-resolution observations covering a large area of ​​the nebula. With the help of ALMA, the researchers measured emissions of gaseous carbon monoxide to map out the giant clouds of cold gas in the nebula that collapse to form new stars—and to see how they changed as the massive cloud grew. A lot of energy is being released by these novae.

We expect to find that the parts of the nebula closest to massive young stars show the most obvious signs of gravity being overtaken by feedback,“Instead, we found that even in regions of the nebula that are very susceptible to feedback — at least in sufficiently dense parts, gravity still plays an important role.” “

In an image released today by ESO, we see new ALMA data superimposed on an infrared image of the same region, showing bright pink stars and clouds of hot gas previously acquired with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and visible and infrared Photographed by telescope. Astronomical Telescope (VISTA), all from ESO. The composite image shows a distinct web-like shape in the Tarantula Nebula’s gas clouds, which is how it got its name. The new ALMA data matches the bright red and yellow streaks we see in the images: very cold, dense gas that could one day collapse and form stars.

The new study gives us important clues about how gravity behaves in the star-forming region of the Tarantula Nebula, but the work is far from over. “There’s still a lot of work to be done on this dataset, which is why we’re making it public so other researchers can do their own research,” Wang concluded.

European Southern Observatory

Published within the framework of the “Culture, Science and Technology in the News” programme promoted by the Portuguese Press Association.

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