Violent star formation in the Tarantula Nebula

On the high-resolution image, which was largely produced using data collected by the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) ALMA antenna array in Chile, it is possible to see fog in a new light, with gas clouds that provide insight into how massive stars shape this regionnotes the researchers in a press release.

According to Professor Tony Wong of the University of Illinois, these clouds would correspond to the remnants of larger clouds that would have been torn to pieces by the energy released by young massive stars in a process called double feedback.

Until now, it has been generally thought that the gas in these areas was too scattered and overwhelmed by this turbulent feedback for gravity to pull it together and form new stars.

However, the new data reveal much denser filaments where the role of gravity is still significant.

Our results suggest that even in the presence of a very strong feedback, gravity can exert a strong influence and lead to star formation. »

A quote from Tony Wong, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Did you know?

The network-like structure of the gas clouds in this nebula has led astronomers to give it the name of a spider. The birth rate of stars is higher there than in any region of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

A composite image

The image is an overlay of multiple photos. The background image, taken in the infrared, is itself a composite image created by a combination of two images taken from the instruments of two other telescopes inESO. It shows bright stars and pink clouds of hot gas.

This image shows the Tarantula nebula in radio wavelengths, as observed by ALMA. The bright red-yellow stripes reveal areas of cold, dense gas where new stars may appear.

Photo: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO) / Wong et al.

This photo is superimposed on the image from radio observations made by ALMA, and reveals bright red-yellow bands corresponding to areas of cold, dense gas that have the characteristic of collapsing and forming stars.

This infrared image shows the star-forming region 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, and highlights its bright stars and pink clouds of hot gas.

Photo: ESO, M.-R. Cioni / VISTA Magellanic Cloud Study

A star-creating area

In addition, the Tarantula is home to some of the most massive stars ever, some of which have a mass more than 150 times the mass of the Sun. This area of ​​the sky, relatively close to astronomical, is therefore ideal for studying how gas clouds collapse under the influence of gravity to create stars. Especially because it shares many characteristics with very distant galaxies that were formed when the universe was quite young.

We can study how stars came into being 10 billion years ago when most stars were born. »

A quote from Guido De Marchi, co-author of the article and astronomer at ESA


  • Located about 170,000 light-years (shelter) from Earth, the Tarantula is also known as 30 Doradus and NGC 2070.
  • This nebula is certainly the most spectacular structure of the Great Magellanic Cloud, the third galaxy in terms of proximity to our Milky Way, after the dwarf galaxy Sagittarius (80,000 ly) and the dwarf galaxy in the Great Dog (42,000 ly).
  • The clear glow of the Tarantula Nebula was first described by the French astronomer Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille in 1751.
  • The fog is visible to the naked eye outside the light pollution of big cities.

Image of the large Magellanic cloud, one of our closest galactic neighbors, taken by ESO’s VISTA telescope.

Photo: ESO / VMC Survey

Surprisingly serious

Until recently, observations of the Tarantula have mostly focused on its center, as star formation is abundant there.

To get a better picture of the entire nebula, the researchers performed high-resolution observations using ALMA, which covered a large area of ​​the nebula, which mapped large, collapsing clouds of cold gas, to give birth to new stars, but also how they change when they Huge amounts of energy are released during starburst.

We expected that the parts of the cloud closest to young massive stars would show the clearest signs of feedback-crushed gravity.explains Tony Wong.

Rather, we found that gravity is still important in the areas exposed to feedback – at least for parts of the cloud that are close enough. »

A quote from Tony Wong, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Our work contains detailed clues about how gravity behaves in the star-forming areas of the Tarantula Nebulanote the authors whose detailed work is published in The Astrophysical Journal (New window) (English).

There is still a lot to do with this amazing dataset and we are publishing it to encourage other researchers to do further research.notes Tony Wong.

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