Hundreds of Protostars Unveiled in Orion #SpaceSaturday
One of the greatest places in the San Francisco Bay Area is the Morrison Planetarium at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. On a brisk San Francisco day (which is every San Francisco day) it’s possible to walk from the Pacific, past a Dutch windmill, across a field of buffalo, through a botanical garden, past a white bandshell, into a natural history museum, and into an enormous dome filled with the infinite night sky.
The constellation that always caught me first was Orion, holding up his bow in his eternal hunt for the red-eyed bull Taurus. The names of the stars in Orion are like incantations: Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel, Saiph. And it turns out that in among those ancient stars are hundreds of baby stars on their way to making constellations of their own.
For this new research, astronomers pointed both the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) to a region in space where many stars are born: the Orion Molecular Clouds. This survey, called VLA/ALMA Nascent Disk and Multiplicity (VANDAM), is the largest survey of young stars and their disks to date.
Very young stars, also called protostars, form in clouds of gas and dust in space. The first step in the formation of a star is when these dense clouds collapse due to gravity. As the cloud collapses, it begins to spin – forming a flattened disk around the protostar. Material from the disk continues to feed the star and make it grow. Eventually, the left-over material in the disk is expected to form planets.
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