The Orion Molecular Cloud 1 is dense, active cloud of gas near the Orion Nebula where many stars are formed. A star is born when a huge section of the cloud collapses under its own gravity and ignites to form a protostar. These protostars drift around within the densest regions of the cloud, where they may sometimes brush up against other baby stars.
The photo above shows the result of one such run-in between two protostars, which released as much energy as the Sun emits in 10 million years. These colossal streamers of gas and dust, captured by astronomers at the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array in the desert of northern Chile, extend almost a light-year from one end to the other. By studying distribution and motion of the streamers, the astronomers hope to understand the original collision in more detail.
Despite the streamers’ massive size, they are fleeting on an astronomical scale: within mere centuries they will have dissipated into the dusty background of the molecular cloud.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.