Science

Stars adjust their mass during formation

Astrophysicists may have discovered that stars establish their own mass during star formation.

The discovery may finally solve the mystery of why stars that are born under vastly different conditions across the universe over billions of years have the same masses, despite the fact that it should be the other way around. This mystery has baffled scientists for decades.

The findings were found in the highest resolution 3D modeling of star formation ever created, which shows that stellar birth appears to be a self-regulating process with feedback from stars determining mass ranges.

Related: Stars: Star Formation Facts, History and Classification

The simulation is the work of the STARFORGE project, which was founded by astrophysicists from a number of institutions, including Northwestern University.

In addition to helping astrophysicists model the mass distribution of stars, also known as the initial mass function (IMF), the results could have important implications for understanding the life processes of stars and the evolution of galaxies.

“Understanding the function of a star’s initial mass is such an important issue because it affects astrophysics in every direction, from nearby planets to distant galaxies,” Northwestern astronomer and STARFORGE team member Claude-André Faucher-Giguere said in a statement. (will open in a new tab) “That’s because stars have relatively simple DNA. If you know the mass of a star, then you know almost everything about it: how much light it emits, how long it will live, and what will happen to it when it dies. “

Faucher-Giguere added that this means that the distribution of stellar masses is critical to understanding whether planets orbiting stars can potentially support life, as well as what distant galaxies look like.

Stars are born in regions of space filled with giant cold clouds of gas and dust when gravity causes dense clumps of material to form. As the matter in these clumps falls inward, it collides, releasing heat that creates a new star, or “protostar.”

Surrounded by spinning disks of dust and gas, these protostars are capable of forming planets, as happened in our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Whether the planets that form this protoplanetary disk can support life depends in part on the mass of their parent star.

On the subject: Giant galactic bubble promotes star formation, new study shows

This means that star formation and our understanding of this process is the key to finding out if life can exist somewhere else in the universe, and where this search should be focused in the future.

“Stars are the atoms of the galaxy,” University of Texas at Austin astronomer Stella Offner said in a statement. “Their mass distribution determines whether planets are born and whether life can evolve.”

However, modeling the IMF has been difficult for the researchers. This is partly because scientists have found that no matter where they look in the Milky Way, be it young star clusters or billions of years old, the same stellar mass ratio, IMF, remains the same.

Stars much larger than the Sun make up only one percent of newborn stars. Each of them has 10 stars with masses similar to the Sun, and 30 dwarf stars. This balance is the same in star clusters in our galaxy and in surrounding dwarf galaxies, although the conditions are very different. The IMF also needs to change radically, but it doesn’t. On the contrary, it seems to be universal.

“For a long time we asked why,” Gusheinov said. “Our simulations have followed stars from birth to the natural end point of their formation to unravel this mystery.”

STARFORGE simulations – the first to focus on and track the formation of single stars in giant gas clouds – show that stellar feedback in the form of light emission and mass loss due to stellar winds and jets allows young stars to interact with their surroundings. . This feedback acts to oppose gravity and shape the mass in the direction of the same distribution.

Other simulations have taken into account stellar feedback, but this is the first to simultaneously simulate star formation, evolution and dynamics, as well as the feedback and activity of nearby supernovae, to see how these individual elements affect star formation.

The team’s research is published in the latest issue of the Royal Astronomical Society’s Monthly Notices. (will open in a new tab)

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