Count the stars


Counting stars ahead in the sky, was a favourite pastime and a lovely memory of all kids born before technology took over. The disappointment of losing the count, after reaching a figure bigger than hundred, can't be explained in words. Think of a scientist who looks at the sky to find something new every day and quite many times is empty-handed. Research is a field where competition may not be the driving factor, but passion is. How eager were we to count the stars again the next night? Similarly, the scientists keep on looking at the sky with a hope to find something new.

In one such research at Chile using Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), it was found that four distant galaxies were present having massive stars which were quickly formed and destroyed. The starburst galaxies are not very peaceful and offer a source to study cosmic history and formulate a theory of the formation of the universe.

The gases created in these starbursts due to supernova explosions can help in identifying the age of these stars. ESO – European Southern Observatory – has been working to find neighbouring galaxies and has started researching on those found. Using a technique which resembles carbon dating, the duration of the existence of these stars and galaxies can be known. While Oxygen levels are mapped in bigger stars, it is carbon monoxide (CO) which is studied in the case of smaller stars.

Our Sun is a medium sized star and hence will last longer as compared to those in the galaxies being observed. More massive stars are unstable because of vast volumes of gas and other unknown substances and therefore get broken down into smaller ones, hence forming a galaxy which is a component of only one single star. Studying these things in detail may lead to the understanding of some newer concept of the formation of our galaxy, but the two are not comparable as ours is a peaceful one, at least as of now. When massive stars are around, the threat of destruction is quite substantial.

The Large Magellanic Cloud is one such galaxy which is our neighbour and is a starburst galaxy having a massive star. It is showing similar results to those distant galaxies and can help understand the processes going on in the distant universe in a much detailed manner. Large telescopes have been set up in different observatories like the European Southern Observatory to study such starburst galaxies.