If J.J. Abrams was producing yet another remake of “A Star is Born,” he might look for inspiration not in Hollywood but in Bonn, Germany, where astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy are studying detailed maps of the Milky Way to find the hidden birthplaces of massive stars.
Dr. Timea Csengeri of the institute reports in a new study on research using ATLASGAL (the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy) to find areas in the Milky Way hidden from other telescopes where stars begin their lives. These are the coldest places in the galaxy and the new stars are in dust cocoons so dense that they absorb their radiation, thus camouflaging them from visible and infrared wavelengths.
The 12-metre APEX telescope is in Chile and can make observations at the submillimeter wavelengths. Looking at ATLASGAL data which covers 97 percent of the inner Milky Way, Dr. Csengeri says the researchers were able to pinpoint the signatures indicating the location of these cold, dense star nurseries.
Our team has used the ATLASGAL data to generate the most comprehensive sample of the previously hidden birthplaces of massive stars. We found a large number of new potential locations where these stars are currently forming in our Milky Way.
It’s already known that the lifespan of massive stars is 1,000 times shorter than that of less dense stars the size of the Sun. The new data reveals that the star-birthing time for massive stars is also faster than that for smaller ones, a process taking on average only 75,000 years.