Scientists have recorded powerful radioactive radiation emitted by young stars in the Orion Nebula

Newborn stars (protostars) in the Orion Nebula emit bright radioactive radiation because they are actively feeding on the surrounding gas and dust necessary for growth. The Spitzer Space Telescope of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has discovered an unusual phenomenon in the Orion Nebula, the star-forming region closest to Earth.

Orion Nebula. Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Protostars emit radioactive radiation at the initial stage of development, when their age does not exceed 100,000 years. The study also showed that bright flares occur approximately every 400 years. This behavior is a sign that stars are actively ‘feeding’, absorbing material from their clouds of gas and dust as they accumulate mass.

“While observing star formation, you can see gas clouds collapsing to form a star. The results of the research could be a significant advance in understanding the physics of the early life of stars, including how young stars gain mass at a rapid rate. This period of stellar evolution is shrouded in mystery because young stars are hidden in clouds of cool molecular gas and dust, which are the building blocks of stars,” said one of the study’s authors, astronomer Tom from the University of Toledo. . Megeat.

Within dense clouds of gas and dust, protostars less than 100,000 years old, classified as “class 0 protostars,” produce outbursts that are difficult to observe with ground-based telescopes. Despite the fact that the first such outbreaks were recorded about 100 years ago, since then they have been extremely rare. Between 2004 and 2017, the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope helped astronomers peer behind the veil of gas and dust clouds, capturing the glow of protostars in the Orion Nebula, located in the constellation of the same name. The mission of the space telescope lasted 16 years and ended in 2020.

Observing previously unknown class 0 protostars, scientists discovered three radioactive flares, two of which had not been reported before. During the research, it was found that explosions during which radioactive emission occurs in young stars occur approximately once every 400 years. Note that protostars have a higher outburst frequency than older stars that are still in their development phase. Scientists estimate that one such outbreak lasts about 15 years.

The findings could also improve scientists’ understanding of how the consumption of gas and dust can affect the formation of planets around stars. Scientists believe that radioactive explosions can affect the material surrounding protostars. For example, this phenomenon can affect the appearance of molecules and crystals, which can coalesce to form larger structures that resemble planets. This could mean that more than 4.5 billion years ago, before the Earth formed, the Sun was one of these protostars that periodically emitted powerful radioactive explosions.

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