Ever wonder, exactly, how stars form from molecular gas and dust? So do scientists.
One of the great challenges for astronomy is to determine, in gory detail, how stars are formed from a mere cloud of molecular gas and dust. Although the general picture is simple, where gravitational collapse leads to protostars that ignite nuclear fusion in their cores, the actual environments where these stars are born have many competing factors at play. Gravitational collapse is only one of them, joined by thermal heating and radiative cooling, magnetic fields and hydrodynamics, as well as stellar winds, ultraviolet radiation, and feedback from a variety of sources.
Here to help us disentangle what’s important, where, and when is Ph.D. candidate Mike Chen, an astrophysicist specialized in the formation of stars at the University of Victoria.