Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why aren't there more stars?

Date:
August 20, 2012
Source:
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences
Summary:
Astronomers may have found the answer to a universal question: Why aren’t there more stars?

Magnetic field strength map of the galactic gas and dust cloud. Field strengths rise up to 30 micro-Gauss in this pseudo-color rendering. The seven 'magnetic cores' are circled and numbered. The gray, dashed curve locates the cloud 'spine.' The cloud is nearly 120 light-years long, contains nearly 17,000 solar masses of gas and dust, and is ready to form new stars.
Credit: R. Marchwinski et al., APJ

Boston University undergraduate researcher Rob Marchwinski and his colleagues in BU’s Astronomy Department may have found the answer to a universal question: Why aren’t there more stars?

Related Articles


A possible answer to that question presented itself to Marchwinski while he, graduate student Michael Pavel and Professor of Astronomy Dan Clemens used new data from the Galactic Plane Infrared Polarization Survey (GPIPS) to create the first complete map of magnetic field strength in a large, interstellar gas cloud. (The GPIPS is being conducted by BU astronomers on the 1.8-meter Perkins telescope, which is shared by Boston University and Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.)

Stars form when large clouds of interstellar gas and dust nucleate or form centers, eventually consolidating into dense cores, which in tum collapse under the force of gravity. While the steps in the star formation process have become better understood in recent years, the rate at which new stars form has remained something of a mystery. Indeed, most models predict there should be up to ten times more stars forming than are observed. What is preventing stars from forming at faster rates?

Working with more than 3000 infrared polarization measurements—out of the roughly one million gathered by the GPIPS—Marchwinski was able to identify the very weak magnetic field present in a gas cloud located about 6000 light-years away in the constellation Aquila. The huge cloud, spanning an area of 30 by 120 light-years, contains more than 17,000 times the mass of the Sun in diffuse gas and dust. However, despite its enormous size, the BU researchers have measured an average magnetic field strength of just over five micro-Gauss—about one hundred thousand times weaker than the magnetic field on Earth.

They also found seven dense cores within the cloud, with average masses of one hundred times that of the Sun. These cores, which eventually will develop into new stars, are also sites of somewhat stronger magnetic field strengths that are just strong enough to prevent gravitational collapse. "It is surprising that magnetic fields as weak as these can disrupt star formation, but it seems to be the case in this cloud," said Marchwinski.

The BU findings, representing the first complete and detailed map of the magnetic field strength in an interstellar cloud, was published Aug 20 in The Astrophysical Journal. This study and the GPIPS project were made possible by support from the National Science Foundation and Boston University’s partnership with the Lowell Observatory.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robert C. Marchwinski, Michael D. Pavel, Dan P. Clemens. Resolved Magnetic Field Mapping of a Molecular Cloud Using GPIPS. The Astrophysical Journal, 2012; 755 (2): 130 DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/755/2/130

Cite This Page:

Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Why aren't there more stars?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820110734.htm>.
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. (2012, August 20). Why aren't there more stars?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820110734.htm
Boston University College of Arts & Sciences. "Why aren't there more stars?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120820110734.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Video Shows Stars If They Were as Close to Earth as Sun

Video Shows Stars If They Were as Close to Earth as Sun

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Russia&apos;s space agency created a video that shows what our sky would look like with different star if they were as close as our sun. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) walks us through the cool video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Dog-Loving Astronaut Wins Best Photo of 2015

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Retired astronaut and television host, Leland Melvin, snuck his dogs into the NASA studio so they could be in his official photo. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) shows us, the secret is out. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

NASA Holds Memorial to Remember Astronauts

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) NASA is remembering 17 astronauts who were killed in the line of duty and dozens more who have died since the agency&apos;s beginning. A remembrance ceremony was held Thursday at NASA&apos;s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Asteroid's Moon Spotted During Earth Flyby

Rumble (Jan. 27, 2015) Scientists working with NASA&apos;s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California discovered an unexpected moon while observing asteroid 2004 BL86 during its recent flyby past Earth. Credit to &apos;NASA JPL&apos;. Video provided by Rumble
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins