A newly discovered stellar nursery suggests that the Universe has a whole lot more gigantic stars than previously thought. The Tarantula Nebula (also known as 30 Doradus) is a star cluster located at about 180 thousand light years away in a neighboring galaxy and is teeming with stars that are ten times the mass of our Sun.
So far, scientists have been able to locate one thousand massive stars in the stellar group. The phenomenon is called “the starburst next door” and it’s a sight that was previously believed to have occurred only in the early stages of the Universe.
“There’s no place comparable to that in our own Milky Way,” states Fabian Schneider, an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford and co-author of the study “This whole region is just full of these extremes.
Schneider was part of an international team that made the discovery thanks to data collected from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope. They looked at a specific group of 247 stars from the Tarantula Nebula, all of which were 15 times as massive as the Sun. What is more interesting is that 30 percent more stars have higher masses that what was previously thought possible, from approximately 30 to 200 times the mass of our Sun. The study focused on the spectral properties of stars to determine how old and how big they were.
The discovery seems to suggest that smaller stars are a very common occurrence in today’s Universe. It is still unclear as to why the Tarantula Nebula has so many massive stars. Scientists claim that these behemoths burn hydrogen reserves faster and thus have shorter lifespans of a few million years. Once a star ends it course, it explodes and forms exotic objects such as neutron stars and black holes.
According to Schneider, 30 Doradus is a great point of reference for how the distant universe is able to form new stars. The distant universe, as the astrophysicist puts it, can’t be observed in such great detail and the Tarantula Nebula “therefore, bridges this gap”.
Details of the discovery have been published in the journal, Nature.
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