Star formation could be much faster than previously thought, suggests a study

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Astronomers have long thought that it takes millions of years for a star like our sun to fully form. But recent observations with the world’s largest radio telescope, FAST, cast doubt on this long-held belief. The new study showed that stars could form much faster than previously thought. Scientists studied the magnetic field in a molecular cloud located 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. They chose the cloud called Lynds in 1544 because it was about to produce a star. Astronomers previously measured the magnetic field in the densest part of the cloud.

They also examined the thinner regions at the edges of the cloud using the Arecibo Observatory, which was built in Puerto Rico but unexpectedly collapsed in 2020. What they couldn’t examine was the intermediate region between the core and the outer layer. The FAST measurements focused on a region between the thin and dense regions. According to the researchers, these observations showed that the magnetic field at the new location was 13 times less than theoretical models suggested.

As a result, according to a report by Space.com, the magnetic field was insufficient to hold back falling matter, and nuclear fusion would occur much faster. Living stars like the sun are powered by nuclear fusion.

Di Li, FAST’s lead scientist who led the study, told Science.org that if standard theory were to work, the magnetic field would have to be much stronger to withstand a 100-fold increase in cloud density. But that didn’t happen.

Scientists believe that this finding could revolutionize the theory of star formation, if measurements of other star formation clouds provide similar results. FAST, the telescope installed in China, is significantly larger than Arecibo. FAST has a bowl diameter of 500 meters compared to Arecibo’s 305 meters. Arecibo held the record as the world’s largest radio telescope for more than five decades until 2016. China opened FAST to international scientists after the collapse of the Arecibo telescope.

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