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Space Telescope Reveals Weird Star Cluster Conundrum 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the weird-space dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "We thought we had star formation mechanisms pinned down, but according to new observations of two star clusters, it seems our understanding of how stars are born is less than stellar. When zooming in on the young star clusters of NGC 2024 (in the center of the Flame Nebula) and the Orion Nebula Cluster, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory teamed up with infrared telescopes to take a census of star ages. Conventional thinking suggests that stars closest to the center of a given star cluster should be the oldest and the youngest stars can be found around the edges. However, to their surprise, astronomers have discovered that the opposite is true: 'Our findings are counterintuitive,' said Konstantin Getman of Penn State University, lead scientist of this new study. 'It means we need to think harder and come up with more ideas of how stars like our sun are formed.'"
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Space Telescope Reveals Weird Star Cluster Conundrum

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2014 @12:42AM (#46946555)

    A couple of billion years ago, stars *did* form from the gravitational collapse of vast clouds of dust and gas. But around that time, the Tenctonese in Andromeda went through their 3D printing revolution and ever since then, most stars are 3D printed. It's the future, and only Luddites would think otherwise.

  • "That's funny..." (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hazem (472289) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:14AM (#46946669) Journal

    This reminds me of one of favorite Isaac Asimov quotes:

    The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka" but "That's funny..."

    I hope this leads them to go get more data in addition to thinking harder and coming up with ideas.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This reminds me of one of favorite Isaac Asimov quotes:

      The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka" but "That's funny..."

      In engineering that usually means that something is about to blow up into someones face.

      Whenever I hear someone say "That's funny" I take a step back.

      • by Rob Riggs (6418)

        In engineering that usually means that something is about to blow up into someones face.

        It takes an engineer to make a scientist's work truly dangerous.

      • Science figures it out. Engineers figure out how to use it without burning our fingers.
  • +1 Punny (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2014 @01:56AM (#46946791)

    it seems our understanding of how stars are born is less than stellar.

    A shining example of +1 Punny.

    • by liamoohay (765499)

      it seems our understanding of how stars are born is less than stellar.

      A shining example of +1 Punny.

      Nah. Whoever wrote that wasn't very bright.

  • Sounds logical to me, after all, we aren't talking about solar system formation.

    Cue the electric universe people to come tell us their magnetic-dynamo repulsion theory.

  • old news! (Score:5, Funny)

    by cripkd (709136) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @03:15AM (#46947001) Homepage
    Of course they need to re-evaluate how our sun was formed. It' 5000 years old!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can we have one science article that doesn't essentially say "everything we ever knew is wrong"... stop sensationalizing this crap. It's more than just annoying, it's anti-intellectualist

    • by mbone (558574)

      Can we have one science article that doesn't essentially say "everything we ever knew is wrong"...

      Based on experience, no.

  • If I have a spinning thing, and objects form near the center then get spun out I would observe both affects discussed here.
    A) objects form near the center
    B) older objects are toward the outside (younger objects near the center)

    Since we've been observing expansion of the galaxy it would be logical to assume "these things expand in general". I don't see a problem.

    So in conclusion, the assumption that older objects would be in the center was the flawed logic.
    • by hubie (108345)
      If you read TFA they eventually go beyond the breathless statements highlighted earlier in the article and repeated in the summary above ("everything we thought was wrong!") and talk about other possibilities. I don't see how this makes one need to reevaluate what we've thought before. A gas cloud is not uniform and has density perturbations in it. It is most likely that newer stars will form in the center where the densities are higher, but it doesn't mean that they can't form on the outside.
  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Thursday May 08, 2014 @08:13AM (#46947949)
    I have always wondered if we would find out we are wrong about star mechanics. If this is enough of a problem that the process of star birth ends up being heavily revised, I am left wondering if we will also have to revise our theories on the properties of a main sequence star, and star death. It is said that the current estimate for the sun's ability to sustain life on Earth is around a billion years and that it will puff up and finally go nova in about five-billion years. It would be disappointing to find out that the life of our sun is overestimated by five-billion years.

    Anyway, I am really not qualified to even have that thought, but at least it would probably make for a good science-fiction story.
    • I doubt it. While there is many things we will learn the basic reaction of gravity ~ heat + hydrogen to helium is well understood by quantum mechanics. We have billions of examples of stars to cross check this. Comparing mentality of stars against their evolution.

      On the bright side, even if we only have 1 million years left, if we haven't left earth by then its only because we have already killed ourselves.

      • by wjcofkc (964165)
        I am equally in doubt. I do understand the body of science that says things are as they are and it's pretty much indisputable. I was merely musing. It would be quite a surprise after all. I'm surprised I got a single mod point out of that. I sometimes ponder how humanity would react if we discovered that we had only a few hundred years to evacuate the planet, even the solar system.
  • by mbone (558574)

    Conventional thinking suggests that stars closest to the center of a given star cluster should be the oldest and the youngest stars can be found around the edges.

    Does anyone understand why this conventional wisdom took hold?

    These are open clusters. Over time, stars will leave the region of their birth. That would suggest to me that the oldest stars would be on the edges, and the newest, in the center, which was exactly what was observed. So why, exactly, was the prior belief the opposite?

  • I'm not going to push this too much as it's an astro heresy ... but I found it an interesting read:
    http://www.haltonarp.com/articles

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