Questions about how and when stars are formed continue to tug at human curiosity. Star formation is governed by gravity and heat. Gravity causes molecular clouds to collapse and eventually form stars and planetary systems, but to complete the process, heat needs to be continuously removed from the cloud. Hence, ionized carbon and neutral oxygen—the two major coolants of the interstellar medium (ISM)—are the best indicators of star-forming regions. New technology is being developed that will allow spaceborne telescopes to make high-resolution multi-pixel maps of the universe, which will help scientists understand why star and planet formation is common in some regions of the universe, while other regions are dormant.
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