13.7: Cosmos And Culture
The Slow Glory Of Star Formation
Originally published on Tue June 26, 2012 1:48 pm
Here is something from the research my group runs here at the University of Rochester. The formation of stars remains a hot topic of research across the globe. In collaboration with Fabian Heitsch of UNC, we here at the UR have been using our big, honking supercomputer simulation code AstroBEAR to study how star forming clouds can emerge out of the collision of two large streams of gas in the galaxy.
The simulation above shows two views of such a collision. On the right you see the view from the side as the two gas streams collide and splatter (white means very dense gas, black means very tenuous gas, blue means in-between densities).
Gas gets heated in the collision and the emission of photons then cools the gas allowing it to form dense clumps. Gravity eventually gets hold of the these clumps and initiates a process of collapse that will eventually form stars. The view on the left shows the process looking face on. In both cases you see those dense clumps form.
The beauty of these simulations is that you can watch processes that take millions of years and stretch across many lightyears happen right before your eyes. They also show that space is anything but quiet and orderly. Its a beautiful mess out there and it led directly to the beautiful mess that is us!
This work was done by my graduating grad student Jonathan Carroll.