Atomic Gas: New Component In Star Formation

First Posted: Nov 10, 2015 12:33 PM EST

Astronomers have identified atomic gas as an essential ingredient in star formation. Atomic gas is found in the distant spaces between galaxies and it aids in the formation of stars during various conditions, according to a study at University of Edinburgh.

"We were analyzing the atomic gas data for these galaxies when the results about their molecular gas deficiency were announced. We pieced together all the information, and found that stars may in fact form out of atomic gas, which was previously believed to be impossible," Dr. Michal Michalowski, lead author of the study, said in a news release.

Atomic gas is found in space, specifically in empty areas that do not consist of stars or planets, according to the researchers.

This is the first study to provide evidence that atomic gas aids in star formation. The researchers unexpectedly made the discovery while they were studying the explosions of massive stars, known as gamma-ray bursts. The researchers used a radio telescope in Australia to measure the amounts of atomic gas in the galaxies. They found that large amounts of atomic gas were present during gamma-ray bursts.

The astronomers concluded that the atomic gas operates as a fuel for star formation.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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