Friday, April 10, 2020

Piercing the Dark Birthplaces of Massive Stars with Webb


Piercing the Dark Birthplaces of Massive Stars with Webb

Release date: April 10, 2020

Scientists will study three mysterious, cold, dense clouds where high-mass stars form

While we know that high-mass stars often die as dazzling supernovas, their births are much more mysterious. They form in very dense, cold clouds of gas and dust that can have up to 100,000 times the mass of the Sun. Little is known about these regions, which are so dense that they often appear as big, dark blobs on the sky. Seemingly devoid of stars, the clouds are actually obscuring the light from background stars. These dark patches are so thick with dust that they even block out some wavelengths of infrared light, which can usually penetrate through dusty clouds. For this reason, they are called infrared-dark clouds. However, Webb's unprecedented sensitivity allows observations of background stars even through these very dense regions. By doing this, astronomers can probe the structure of the clouds, which is essential for understanding the star-formation process.

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