The research appears in this week's issue of Nature.
Siphoning matter from a dust disk is the way smaller stars like the sun got their start. Scientists didn't know if big stars, 10 to 20 times more massive than the sun, could form the same way. Computer models and simulations show that a massive star's powerful radiation might keep dust at a distance. The most popular alternative theory is that small, developing stars bump into each other and combine to form more massive young stars.
"It was a problem to explain about how high-mass stars form," lead researcher Stefan Kraus, with the University of Michigan, told Discovery News.
Astronomers are on the hunt for other big baby stars still wrapped in dust cocoons, but massive young stars are relatively rare, quite distant and typically clumped together so that it is difficult to pick out individual objects in the tumultuous, complicated environment.
"For now, we can only talk about this object, where we found a disk, but it means in general it is possible for a disk to exist around stars with these properties," Kraus said.