Three astronomers at the University of Toronto have found the most numerous batch of young, supermassive stars yet observed in our galaxy: hundreds of thousands of stars, including several hundreds of the most massive kind -blue stars dozens of times heavier than our Sun. The light these newborn stars emit is so intense it has pushed out and heated the gas that gave them birth, carving out a glowing hollow shell about a hundred light-years across.
These findings will be published in the December 20 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters. For the researchers, the next step is already clear: “By studying these supermassive stars and the shell surrounding them, we hope to learn more about how energy is transmitted in such extreme environments,” says Mubdi Rahman, a PhD candidate in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, who led the work with his supervisors, Professors Dae-Sik Moon and Christopher Matzner.
Such large nurseries of massive stars have been noticed in other galaxies, but were so far away that all stars are often blurred together on images taken by telescopes. “This time, the massive stars are right here in our galaxy, and we can even count them individually,” Rahman says.