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Dr. Hua-bai Li

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg

Phone: +49 6221 528-459

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Prof. Dr. Thomas Henning

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg

Phone: +49 6221 528-200
Fax: +49 6221 528-339

Dr. Markus Pössel

Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg

Phone: +49 6221 528-261

Original publication

Astronomy

Stellar midwives

Magnetic fields play a key role in channeling matter to form denser clouds and produce new suns

November 16, 2011

Stars and their planets are born when giant clouds of interstellar gas and dust collapse. What exactly happens in such cosmic delivery rooms?  What are the processes that lead to this collapse? Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have measured the large-scale alignment of magnetic fields within huge gas and dust clouds for the first time. They discovered that magnetic fields apparently play a key role in setting the stage for the birth of new stars.
Image of the Triangulum Galaxy M33, which presents astronomers with a bird’s eye view of its disk. The pink blobs are regions containing newly formed stars. Zoom Image
Image of the Triangulum Galaxy M33, which presents astronomers with a bird’s eye view of its disk. The pink blobs are regions containing newly formed stars. [less]

At the beginning there are gas and clouds. Concentrated in molecular clouds they build the reservoir for new stars and planets. The clouds consist mainly of hydrogen molecules. And if one traces the distribution of clouds in a spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way galaxy, one finds that they are lined up along the spiral arms.

 
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