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Incredible video shows how stars are born

Published May 18th, 2021 7:32PM EDT
star simulation
Image: NASA, ESA, and G. Piotto (Università degli Studi di Padova); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

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You probably don’t think about stars all that often. Sure, the world revolves around one of them but other than the Sun we don’t really have a nice close-up view of any others. As far as stars go, the Sun is pretty great, and it’s the reason life on this planet is able to exist so we should probably respect that, but just like all living things on Earth will one day die, so will our Sun. The good news is that for every star that dies, new ones are being born, and the process is pretty incredible.

In a new video, researchers from multiple institutions use an incredible tool called STARFORGE (short for Star Formation in Gaseous Environments) to simulate how huge clouds of matter in space eventually form stars. The resulting animation is an incredible look at what is believed to be the most realistic model of star formation.

The video’s description reads as follows:

This is a movie of the first numerical simulation of star formation in a massive (20,000 solar mass) giant molecular cloud with individual star formation and a comprehensive treatment of feedback, from protostellar jets, radiation in 5 frequency bands, stellar winds, and core-collapse supernovae. This makes it the first full STARFORGE simulation. This particular cloud has been nicknamed the “Anvil of Creation”.

Stars are born out of gas, dust, and other material that is pulled into one central point by gravity. As the sphere gathers more material its gravitational pull also grows, pulling in more and more gas and whatever else is within its grasp. Once it reaches a certain size, the incredible pressure inside the sphere generates incredible amounts of heat.

Stars require an immense amount of mass in order to sustain nuclear reactions, but once that happens, things light up fast. Eventually, other material that doesn’t make it into the heart of the star itself may become planets, asteroids, moons, and other objects that end up orbiting the much larger central sphere.

This new STARFORGE model may be the most accurate representation of what actually happens in huge clouds of gas in space that eventually forms stars and planets. Time moves pretty fast in the video, covering millions of years in just a minute, but it’s a real treat to watch.

“People have been simulating star formation for a couple of decades now, but STARFORGE is a quantum leap in technology,” Michael Grudić, co-author of the study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, said in a statement. “Other models have only been able to simulate a tiny patch of the cloud where stars form—not the entire cloud in high resolution. Without seeing the big picture, we miss a lot of factors that might influence the star’s outcome.”