Pillars of Creation in STARFORGE

360° narrowband map of a star forming cloud from the STARFORGE simulations, visit http://starforge.space to see more movies or learn about the project.

This 360° movie shows a massive (20,000 solar mass) star forming molecular cloud as it is being destroyed by newly born stars. This happens due to massive stars that are extremely bright (e.g., a star 30x as massive as the Sun shines 100 000x brighter) and launch powerful stellar winds, which both heat and push away the nearby gas. This “push” quickly expels low density gas, while the higher density regions coalesce into dense “pillars”, which take longer to push away. The destruction of the cloud prevents the formation of new stars. Eventually the expelled gas will form a new cloud elsewhere, restarting the cycle of star formation.

The video shows what observers would see from various vantage points using typical narrowband filters (like those on the Hubble Space Telescope). That essentially means that we look at light emitted in three different wavelengths (SII, Ha, OIII) by the gas as it interacts with starlight. This is extincted by dust between the camera and the source. The resulting images are combined into a single colored image using a Hubble-like color palette.

This work was supported by NSF Career grant 1748571, NSF AAG 2107942, and a Cottrell Fellowships Award 27982 from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. The simulations were run on TACC supercomputers, using allocations AST-190018 and AST21002.

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