The largest birth of a star expected to grow 100 times bigger than the Sun has been caught by Manchester and Cardiff University scientists documenting the spectacularly rapid birth of a rare stellar womb.
The team used the powerful Atacama Large Millimetre Array telescope (ALMA) in Chile to view the birth which, at 500 times the mass of the Sun and many times more luminous, is the largest ever seen in the Milky Way.
The research, to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, revealed how matter is dragged into the centre of a huge gaseous cloud by the gravitational pull of the stars along a number of dense threads or filaments.
Lead author Dr Nicolas Peretto, from Cardiff University, said: “The remarkable observations from ALMA allowed us to get the first really in-depth look at what was going on within this cloud.
“We wanted to see how monster stars form and grow, and we certainly achieved our aim. One of the sources we have found is an absolute giant, the largest protostellar core ever spotted in the Milky Way!
“This cloud is expected to form at least one star 100 times more massive than the Sun and up to a million times brighter. Only about one in 10,000 of all the stars in the Milky Way reach that kind of mass.”
The findings support the theory that the entire cloud core begins to collapse inwards, with material raining in towards the centre to form one or more massive stars.
Co-author Professor Gary Fuller, from The University of Manchester, said: "Not only are these stars rare, but their births are extremely rapid and childhood short, so finding such a massive object so early in its evolution in our Galaxy is a spectacular result.
“Our observations reveal in superb detail the filamentary network of dust and gas flowing into the central compact region of the cloud and strongly support the theory of global collapse for the formation of massive stars.”
Dr Peretto added: “We managed to get these very detailed observations using only a fraction of ALMA’s ultimate potential. ALMA will definitely revolutionise our knowledge of star formation, solving some current problems, and certainly raising new ones.”