On the outskirts of the Milky Way, about 14,000 light years from Earth, is a massive region highly conducive to star formation. But because it’s so far away and hidden behind clouds of dust and gas, astronomers have never been able to get a good look at it.
With a newly commissioned radio telescope, though, an international team of astronomers has now created a higher-resolution map of the area — and in the process, they found that one subregion is inexplicably far more efficient at star formation than the others.
According to a press release, the team’s research, which has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal, led to the discovery that the CTB 102 region has a star formation efficiency of between 5 and 10 percent — about the same as the Milky Way’s other giant molecular clouds.
However, one subregion of CTB 102 is far more efficient at forming stars, boasting an efficiency between 17 and 37 percent depending on how the team calculated the subregion’s mass.
Researcher Charles Kerton said in the press release that the team isn’t sure why this one subregion is so adept at forming stars — but they speculate it might have something to do with the kind of interstellar material within in. To find out for sure, though, they’d need to conduct further studies.
READ MORE: Astronomers take first, high-resolution look at huge star-forming region of Milky Way [Iowa State University]