When gazing at the cosmos, do you ever wonder what a star’s birth is like? For every star that dies, new ones are born. How they are formed is as captivating as the stars themselves. The birth of a star takes place over millions of years. As reported in a paper published in the ‘Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society’, researchers used a tool called STAR FORmation in Gaseous Environments (STARFORGE) to simulate in just over a minute how huge clouds of matter in space ultimately form stars.
Cutting-edge computer simulation – a place where stars are born
Most stars are born inside great clouds of gas and dust called nebulas. STARFORGE accurately represents what really happens in huge clouds of gas in space that eventually forms stars and planets. A new video shows the first numerical simulation of star formation. Covering several millions of years in under 90 seconds, it’s considered the most realistic model to date. “People have been simulating star formation for a couple decades now, but STARFORGE is a quantum leap in technology,” commented lead author and theoretical astrophysicist Michael Grudić at Northwestern University in the United States in a news release. “Other models have only been able to simulate a tiny patch of the cloud where stars form — not the entire cloud in high resolution. Without seeing the big picture, we miss a lot of factors that might influence the star’s outcome.” To create STARFORGE, the researchers considered several physical elements, such as temperature, gravity, magnetic fields and gas dynamics. For over three months, they ran simulations on Frontera, one of the world’s largest and most powerful supercomputers. A star launches jets of gas along its poles when it forms. This keeps the star from growing too big. According to the findings, jets launched by new stars help to control how much material a star accumulates. In simulations without jets, normal stars were about 10 times the Sun’s mass – much larger than the realistic average star. In simulations with jets, the stars’ masses were less than half of the Sun’s mass – a much more normal size. “Jets disrupt the inflow of gas toward the star,” explained Dr Grudić. “They essentially blow away gas that would have ended up in the star and increased its mass. People have suspected this might be happening, but, by simulating the entire system, we have a robust understanding of how it works.”
Answering key questions about the universe
A better grasp of stars will lead us to learn more about the universe and our place in it, observed Dr Grudić. “If we can understand star formation, then we can understand galaxy formation. And by understanding galaxy formation, we can understand more about what the universe is made of. Understanding where we come from and how we’re situated in the universe ultimately hinges on understanding the origins of stars.” “How stars form is very much a central question in astrophysics,” stated senior author and Northwestern astrophysicist Claude-André Faucher-Giguère. “It’s been a very challenging question to explore because of the range of physical processes involved. This new simulation will help us directly address fundamental questions we could not definitively answer before.”
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