Science & Tech

Young star caught speeding

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Moving 40 times faster than a speeding bullet

Findings linking a speeding star to its birthplace provide direct observational support of theoretical simulations predicting that protostars can be tossed out of a young cluster. This is the first time that such a fast-moving young star has been seen outside of a cluster or binary system. Astronomers Alyssa Goodman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and Héctor Arce (Caltech) announced Jan. 5, 2004 at the 203rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society that they have caught a newly formed star in the act of speeding. PV Ceph, located about 1,400 light years away in the constellation Cepheus, is whizzing through space at a speed of 40,000 miles per hour-some 40 times faster than a speeding bullet. And like a bullet, it left an exit wound when it ripped out of the star cluster where it formed. The discovery has significant implications for calculations of star formation efficiency — how many stars of what sizes are likely to form from a given molecular cloud. Modeling that process correctly is critical to understanding how galaxies everywhere turn gas into stars.