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Hefty Stars Prompt Birth Debate.

A NEW STUDY FOUND more massive stars than expected in an intense region of star-formation, begging the question: Does the process of star formation always happen the same way?

As gas clouds collapse into stars, they fragment, producing many smaller stars and only a few bigger ones. Astronomers have long debated what factors might affect this process.

The Tarantula Nebula (30 Doradus) is the perfect testing ground. The windswept hub of giant stars-to-be is located more than 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, where conditions mimic those of the universe's early years.

Fabian Schneider (University of Oxford, UK) and colleagues used the FLAMES spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope in Chile to collect spectra for 800 of the nebula's stars. The team then calculated the region's initial mass function based on 247 single stars with at least 15 times the Sun's mass. The results appear in the January 5th Science.

To their surprise, Schneider and colleagues found more massive stars relative to low-mass stars than standard formulas predict. They also realized that the nebula had given birth to some behemoths: The birth weight of the largest star they observed was equivalent to 200 Suns, notably larger than previous observations, which had suggested that stars aren't born with more than 150 Suns' worth of mass.

It could be that the nebula's conditions allow relatively more massive stars to form. However, to prove that star formation really isn't universal, the team will have to replicate these same methods in other regions, cautions Nathan Bastian (Liverpool John Moores University, UK).

Caption: Schneider's team studied the bright, central regions of the Tarantula Nebula.

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Title Annotation:STARS
Author:Young, Monica
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Article Type:Brief article
Date:May 1, 2018
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