Glossary term: Star Formation

Description: The birth of a star results from gravitational collapse of cold and dense regions called cores within giant molecular clouds, which are mostly found in the spiral arms of galaxies. Star formation involves complex physical processes, occurring at different scales, resulting from the effects of gravity, pressure, radiation, magnetic fields, turbulence, chemistry, etc., some of which are still not well understood. Depending on the mass of the parent cloud and accretion processes during the formation stages, the mass of the star can range from 0.08 to a few hundred solar masses. Most stars do not form in isolation but as part of a cluster of stars. During the formation stages, a protostellar disk builds up around the central star, which eventually provides the building material for planets to form.

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Term and definition status: This term and its definition have been approved by a research astronomer and a teacher

The OAE Multilingual Glossary is a project of the IAU Office of Astronomy for Education (OAE) in collaboration with the IAU Office of Astronomy Outreach (OAO). The terms and definitions were chosen, written and reviewed by a collective effort from the OAE, the OAE Centers and Nodes, the OAE National Astronomy Education Coordinators (NAECs) and other volunteers. You can find a full list of credits here. All glossary terms and their definitions are released under a Creative Commons CC BY-4.0 license and should be credited to "IAU OAE".

Related Media

A dark cloud blocks out background stars. Infront, two jets of material shoot in opposite directions from a central object

Witnessing the birth of a star

Caption: A combination of radio and visible light imaged with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and European Southern Observatory's New Technology Telescope (NTT) revealing birth of a star forming the Herbig-Haro object HH 46/47. ALMA observations shown in orange and green unveil the energetic jet from the central protostar otherwise hidden at visible wavelength due to dust obscuration and dense gas. NTT observations in pink and purple highlight the visible light from the jet emitted towards the observer.
Credit: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/H. Arce. Acknowledgements: Bo Reipurth credit link

License: CC-BY-3.0 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported icons

Young stars form along a ribbon of gas

Stellar birth environment

Caption: Snapshot of the formation of multiple protostars in the Orion Molecular Clouds with a closer look at each of them with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and Very Large Array. Such an image provides unique insights of the process and early stages of star formation as well as the influence of the parent cloud in which they form.
Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. Tobin; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; Herschel/ESA credit link

License: CC-BY-3.0 Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported icons