Crocs Uncover

Bizarre Species

jueves, 11 de junio de 2009

Violent Galactic Core

The baby stars at the center of the galaxy had their first pictures taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists announced at the American Astronomical Society meeting.

How stars could form at the center of the galaxy has been a mystery. Space is generally a pretty harsh environment, but the galaxy’s heart is particularly brutal. Fierce stellar winds, black holes and shock waves all make it a tough place to get your start on stellar life.

“It is amazing to me that we have found these stars,” said Solange Ramirez, head researcher at NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech. “The galactic center is a very interesting place. It has young stars, old stars, black holes, everything. We started mining a catalog of about 1 million sources and managed to find three young stars — stars that will help reveal the secrets at the core of the Milky Way.”

Using the infrared vision of the telescope, the team spotted three stars bearing the distinctive features of youth, namely the presence of acetylene, hydrogen cyanide and carbon dioxide, all generated as the newborn fusion power plants heat up the dust surrounding them.

The Milky Way’s center is densely packed with cosmic dust, so optical telescopes can’t penetrate the intense, mysterious region. It’s small, too. The galaxy is 100,000 light years across, while the center is a mere 600 light years across. Scientists are particularly interested in the area because it’s the only galactic core that we can get a good peak at. N equals 1, but that’s a lot better than nothing.

“The Milky Way galaxy is just one of more than hundreds of billions of galaxies in the visible universe,” said Deokkeun An of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech, and lead author of a paper on the work, which has been submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “However, our galaxy is so special because we can take a closer look at its individual stellar components.

With further study, the scientists hope to figure out more about how stars form in the toughest environments in the universe.

No hay comentarios: