June 27, 2014
New Evidence Explains How The ‘Pillars Of Creation’ Came Into Being
Gerard LeBlond for www.redorbit.com - Your Universe Online
[ Watch the Video: How The ‘Pillars of Creation’ Were Created ]
The 'Pillars of Creation' is one of the most famous images observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows cooler interstellar gases being eroded by intense radiation and wind from nearby massive stars. The image was photographed in 1995.
Scott Balfour, an astronomer from Cardiff University produced a similar simulation and suggests that the stars that make the structures, have very little to do with developing new star formations. Balfour presented his results at the National Astronomy Meeting in Portsmouth, UK.
O-type stars are 16 times heavier than our sun but live short lives. During the stable phase of their lives the surface temperatures reaches 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit or more with strong ultraviolet light and copious material that is discharged in a powerful wind. In comparison, our sun’s surface temperature is about 9,900 degrees.
The star heats the surrounding area of interstellar gases, creating bubbles that collect the colder material. Scientist believe O-type stars drive the formation of the new stars within the regions where gas is compressed.
Balfour tested this idea by simulating how the gas acts over a period of 1.6 million years. His simulation took several weeks to complete and he also explored what would happen when a massive star forms in a smooth cloud of gas that is collapsing in on itself.
As Balfour expected, the light from the O-type star created a bubble in the cloud. However, the outcome can be one of three different scenarios. It can expand forever; expand then contract a little and remain stationary or expand then contract back to the center of the cloud. The second scenario was the only one that could form stars, but only when specific conditions occur.
“If I'm right, it means that O-type and other massive stars play a much more complex role than we previously thought in nursing a new generation of stellar siblings to life,” the researcher stated.
The simulated model that Balfour created nearly reproduces the pillars and the bright rims that are naturally created as the bubbles break up, just as seen in the Hubble image.
“The model neatly produces exactly the same kind of structures seen by astronomers in the classic 1995 image, vindicating the idea that giant O-type stars have a major effect in sculpting their surroundings,” Balfour added.
The simulation image depicts an area of space 25 x 25 light years and .02 light years thick. A light year is approximately 63,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, or about six million million miles.