Dancing Newborn Stars

These swirling clouds of colourful spirals are supercomputer simulations showing a pair of stars being born. They were created by astrophysicist Daniel Price to simulate the effect that magnetic fields have on star birth. Price performed these simulations on the UK Astrophysical Fluids Facility Supercomputer whilst a researcher at Exeter University in the UK: “Magnetic fields are important for nearly every problem in astrophysics, including our own Sun, gas flow in the galaxy, the space between the stars, supernovae and many other problems,” he says. “Computer simulations mean that we can study processes which in reality take hundreds of thousands or even millions of years in a few months of supercomputer time.” The simulation begins with a turbulent molecular cloud of gas that collapses under its own gravity to form a pair of binary stars. The new stars continue to pull in surrounding gas to form spiralling clouds. In a weak magnetic field simulation, the system continues to form new stars, but in a strong magnetic field simulation further star formation is prevented and the binary stars collapse to form just a single star. Price was able to graphically show for the first time how magnetic fields influence the development of new stars: “These simulations of star formation will help us finally resolve some of the problems that have dogged star formation theory for decades,” he concludes.

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