by Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Assistant Managing Editor
A giant radio telescope in Chile has captured amazing baby photos of what will eventually be a colossal star 11,000 light-years from Earth. Even more shocking: It's still growing, scientists say.
The giant star, which scientists billed as a "monster star," is forming inside a vast cloud of interstellar dust that has 500 times the mass of the sun. It was discovered by astronomers using the huge Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter array telescope, or ALMA, in Chile's high Atacama Desert.
"The embryonic star within the cloud is hungrily feeding on material that is racing inwards," officials with European Southern Observatory, a partner in the ALMA telescope, explained in an announcement today (July 10). "The cloud is expected to give birth to a very brilliant star with up to 100 times the mass of the sun."
The details of the process of star formation are murky, and the new observations could help scientists understand how stars like this one come to be. One leading theory suggests large clouds of gas collapse inward, with the material at the center eventually forming one or more stars. Another theory, however, posits that large clouds first break up into smaller clouds that each give rise to smaller cores that form stars.
The new results strongly support the first, global collapse theory, rather than the fragmentation theory, researchers said. ...more