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Video: Surf's Up for Massive Stars


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Credit: Berné et al., Nature

Just as wind whips up waves in the ocean, high velocity gas emanating from massive stars can give rise to ripples in the surrounding cloud of gas and dust. That's what astronomers have found from studying periodic ripples observed at the surface of the gigantic Orion molecular cloud, which is located about 1500 light-years away. Using a combination of new radio observations and old infrared images, the researchers have been able to map the wavelike formations that develop in the cloud, they report online today in Nature. From these detailed images, the researchers conclude that the ripples are likely formed when gas spewing out at high velocities from newly formed massive stars blows over the more sluggish gas of the molecular cloud, in the same way that wind gusts traveling at high speeds cause waves to form at the ocean surface. In the video above, the KH arrow indicates the position of the waves in the molecular cloud.

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