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The Slow Glory Of Star Formation

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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Adam Frank was a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. A professor at the University of Rochester, Frank is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and currently heads a research group developing supercomputer code to study the formation and death of stars. Frank's research has also explored the evolution of newly born planets and the structure of clouds in the interstellar medium. Recently, he has begun work in the fields of astrobiology and network theory/data science. Frank also holds a joint appointment at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, a Department of Energy fusion lab.

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