A CONTINUOUS CYCLE OF STAR BIRTH
ON A GALACTIC TIME SCALE
IMAGE: Star-forming clouds in the galactic plane — wide range infrared image from ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory // Source: ESA/PACS and SPIRE Consortium, S. Molinari, Hi-GAL Project // Via News in Science (ABC Science)
The image was acquired as a part of Hi-GAL [the Herschel infrared Galactic Plane Survey], a survey mapping the entire plane of the Milky Way in a wide range of infrared light that Herschel was specially designed to detect.
- Normally invisible to our eyes, vast filaments of gas and dust fill the plane of the galaxy where stars like our Sun reside.
- As these cold clouds of interstellar material collapse, they get denser and denser until they eventually form stars, which then blaze with heat and light.
- The energy from these newborn stars blasts out into nearby space, illuminating the shrouds of material they were born in as well as ionizing them with shockwaves of radiation.
- These ionized ‘shock fronts’ also release light in wavelengths corresponding to the elements within the clouds, and can also eventually lead to the formation of yet more stars — a continuous cycle of star birth on a galactic time scale.