(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers have discovered that too many supernovae can not only slow down star formation, but also stop it.
Interstellar winds can interrupt or completely stop the process of star birth. It was this phenomenon that a team of astronomers in New Mexico discovered when they studied the galaxy M33.
They also found that cosmic rays play a huge role in propagating these winds through interstellar space.
Astronomers have long known that winds from supernova explosions and jets of matter emanating from the cores of galaxies can slow down star formation. In essence, they deprive protostars of the gas and dust they need to form.
Now for an unexpected twist.
When supernovae occur, they release large amounts of cosmic rays. The more supernovae appear, the more cosmic rays are emitted. They then have a greater effect on interstellar winds, which eventually destroy stellar nurseries.
“We have seen galactic winds driven by cosmic rays in the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, where the rate of star formation is much lower,” said Fatema Tabatabaei of the Institute for Basic Science Research in Iran.
The processes of star formation and the formation of galaxies are closely related. Simply put, galaxies start out as small clusters of stars that form in hydrogen-rich clouds.
Stars continue to form in clouds of hydrogen gas and dust scattered throughout the galaxies. Starbursts consume available gas and dust, and this affects the shape of the galaxy.
As a team of astronomers led by Tabatabai discovered, the most massive stars at the end of their lives generate cosmic rays that form winds in interstellar space and interact with magnetic fields.
A large number of cosmic rays form a pressure front that crashes into a stellar nursery filled with gas and dust.
The wind breaks the clouds and carries away the building materials necessary for star formation. In general, cosmic rays set in motion winds that dampen star formation.
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