Unprecedented dive into the “ice clouds” where stars are born

Unprecedented dive into the “ice clouds” where stars are born

For the first time, NASA’s Webb Space Telescope is probing the interior of these dark, frozen regions within our galaxy.

It’s a story of ice and fire: it is paradoxically in the frozen mists that the stars light up. When the density of gas and microdust of an interstellar cloud reaches a certain level, the radiation from the surrounding stars struggles to pass through it. These areas of the cloud then cool at the same time as they contract. Molecular hydrogen (or dihydrogen: two hydrogen atoms “welded” together) is then formed, but that’s not all. The slower atoms also manage to cling to the fine dust, gradually forming a coat of ice which thickens: we are witnessing the birth of the first complex molecules.

Because they partly determine the composition of stars and their discs of matter where planets form, scientists ask themselves many questions about the chemistry of these “celestial fogs” whose temperature does not exceed -250° vs. But because they…

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