As scientists continue to investigate humanity’s cosmic origins, they deploy more and more supercomputer simulations. A team of researchers at the European Space Agency, for example, wants to build a digital twin of Earth to better understand our planet’s history. Now, another team of scientists is developing an initiative to study star formation in the digital realm. And, amazingly, they call the endeavor STARFORGE.
Science News reported on STARFORGE—an acronym for “STAR FORmation in Gaseous Environments”—and its incredible simulations. The “starsmiths” who make up STARFORGE recently outlined how they’re able to simulate the formation of stars, publishing a paper in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
“We sort of know the basic story of star formation…but the devil is in the details,” Mike Grudić, a starsmith told Science News. “If you really want to get the full picture, then you really have to just simulate the whole thing,” the theoretical astrophysicist at Northwestern University added.
“Simulating the whole thing,” as Grudić and his colleagues show, is quite spectacular. In the video up top, which STARFORGE refers to as “The Anvil of Creation,” the team models how stars take shape in a molecular-gas cloud 20,000 the mass of our Sun. The simulation shows how pockets of the cloud collapse into stars with nuclear-fusion cores. As well as how the protostars unleash giant “protostellar” jets of glowing gas into space.
Grudić et al. believe that these protostellar jets are, in fact, key to early star formation. In simulations without the cosmic phenomena, the “typical” stars they produced were far too heavy; approximately 10 times the mass of the Sun. But in simulations with them, the stars were exactly inline with the size the scientists would expect. “As soon as you add this jet feedback to your simulation, stellar masses start coming out more or less right on the dot for what they’re observed to be,” Grudić told Science News.
As for what the starsmiths are up to next, people should keep an eye on Grudić’s YouTube channel. The astrophysicist says The Anvil of Creation is going to have a sequel video. One that’ll have a lot more “fireworks” as the simulation of the star-forming cloud continues to blow itself apart.
Feature image: Mike Grudić