Study reveals magnetic fields as key to surprising behavior of Tarantula Nebula

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 08-06-2023 22:41 IST | Created: 08-06-2023 22:34 IST
Study reveals magnetic fields as key to surprising behavior of Tarantula Nebula
Credit: Background: ESO, M.-R. Cioni/VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit. Streamlines: NASA/SOFIA

A new study using NASA's retired Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) reveals the enigmatic nature of 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, is closely tied to its intricate magnetic fields.

Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, 30 Doradus is the brightest star-forming area in our galactic neighbourhood. The primary source of energy of this stellar nursery is a massive star cluster near its centre, R136, which generates numerous expansive shells of matter.

However, things are a bit weird near the nebula’s core, within approximately 25 parsecs of R136. More specifically, the gas pressure in this region defies expectations and the region's mass is unexpectedly smaller, raising concerns about the system's stability.

Utilizing SOFIA's High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera Plus (HAWC+), astronomers explored the interplay between gravity and magnetic fields within 30 Doradus. The researchers found that magnetic fields play a pivotal role in this perplexing phenomenon.

The study elucidates the complex and organized nature of the magnetic fields permeating the region. These fields exhibit significant variations in geometry that correspond to the vast expanding structures present within the nebula.

According to the new research, across most of the area, the magnetic fields exhibit immense strength. This robustness enables them to resist turbulent forces, allowing the fields to regulate gas motion and preserve the structural integrity of the cloud. Moreover, the magnetic fields are powerful enough to counteract gravity's pull, preventing the collapse of the cloud into individual stars.

However, certain areas within 30 Doradus display weaker magnetic fields, permitting gas to escape and inflate the colossal shells surrounding the region. As these shells accumulate more mass, the process of star formation persists, defying the hindrances imposed by the potent magnetic fields.

The findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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