Milky Way
An expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0 is left behind after a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, as seen in this undated NASA handout image released January 23, 2015. Reuters/NASA/CXC/SAO

Astronomers have spotted a young star, almost 11,000 light years away, that can help scientists understand how massive stars in our Universe form. The young star is still gathering materials from its parent molecular cloud and is currently 30 times the mass of the sun. When it finally reaches adulthood, it will be even more massive.

The University of Cambridge researchers identified a key stage in the birth of the huge star. They said that these kinds of stars form in a very similar way, from a rotating disc of dust and gas, to that of smaller stars like the sun. The study has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and will be presented at this week’s Star Formation 2016 conference held at the University of Exeter.

It is very difficult to study massive stars as they live fast and die fast too. The ones difficult to study have a mass at least eight times greater than the Sun. Moreover they are quite rare in our galaxy Milky Way that has more than 100 billion stars and they are faraway, making them all the more difficult to study.

The study’s lead author, Dr. John Ilee from Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, said in a press release that average stars like the sun take a few million years to form where as gigantic stars take only around 100,000 years to form. They also burn their fuel faster and have short life-spans. This makes it harder for scientists to catch them during their infancy.

The protostar recently spotted resides in an infrared dark cloud. It is a perfect cosmological nursery as the region is very cold and dense. However, as the young stars are surrounded by thick clouds of gas and dust, conventional telescopes cannot provide good views. Hence, the researchers used the Karl G Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico and Submillimeter Array (SMA) in Hawaii to see through the cloud.

“Our theoretical calculations suggest that the disc could in fact be hiding even more mass under layers of gas and dust. The disc may even be so massive that it can break up under its own gravity, forming a series of less massive companion protostars,” said Dr. Duncan Forgan, also from St Andrews and lead author of a companion paper.