Young stellar clump discovered in distant Universe

Massive star-forming region uncovers new information on the birth of stars

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Observations of the young star-forming clump less than 10 million years old, discovered in a galaxy in the distant Universe
Credit: CEA/HST

A massive star-forming clump less than 10 million years old has been discovered in the distant Universe by the Subaru and Hubble Space Telescopes.

It is the first time such a young stellar clump has been observed in the distant Universe.

The discovery has revealed new information on how stars were born in distant galaxies, as well as evidence that newly-born clumps in such galaxies can survive stellar winds and supernovae feedback.

Contradicting the predictions of theoretical models, observations suggest that these young stellar clumps can live for a few hundred million years, eventually migrating towards the centre of their galaxy and contributing to the growth of the central supermassive black hole.

The birth-cry of the clump was observed by researchers from the Service d’Astrophysique-Laboratoire AIM of CEA-IRFU (Institute of Research into the Fundamental Laws of the Universe).

However, the clump has not yet evolved to the extent that its stars can be directly detected, meaning the team had to use radiation from the gas ionised by the young stars to confirm its existence.

The clump has a gas mass of around one billion times that of the Sun and forms stars at a rate of 30 solar masses per year, contributing up to half of the total star formation of the distant galaxy in which it resides.

The rarity of the star-forming clump makes it stand out from the 60 or so other galaxies observed as part of the study, which have displayed characteristics that correspond with more evolved stellar regions.

It also contradicts theoretical scenarios that predict the destruction of young clumps by feedback and winds from newly-formed stars, and implies they can survive long enough to evolve within their galactic disks. Then, it is suggested, they migrate inwards and contribute to the bulge and supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy.


Front image: Massive newborn star IRS4 emerging from star-forming region Sharpless 106 Nebula (S106)
Credit: CISCO, SUbaru 8.3-m Telescope, NAOJ
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