Herschel Space Observatory discovers 15 youngest stars ever seen
"Herschel has revealed the largest ensemble of such young stars in a single star-forming region. With these results, we are getting closer to witnessing the moment when a star begins to form," said researcher Amelia Stutz, from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.
Dense envelopes of gas and dust surround the fledging stars known as protostars, making their detection difficult. The 15 newly observed protostars turned up by surprise in a survey of the biggest site of star formation near our solar system, located in the constellation Orion.
The discovery gives scientists a peek into one of the earliest and least understood phases of star formation.
Stars spring to life from the gravitational collapse of massive clouds of gas and dust. This changeover from stray, cool gas to the ball of super-hot plasma we call a star is
relatively quick by cosmic standards, lasting only a few hundred thousand years.
Finding protostars in their earliest, most short-lived and dimmest stages poses a challenge.
Astronomers long had investigated the stellar nursery in the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a vast collection of star-forming clouds, but had not seen the newly identified protostars until Herschel observed the region.
"Previous studies have missed the densest, youngest and potentially most extreme and cold protostars in Orion," said Stutz, lead author of the paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
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