It is known that dense clouds of interstellar gas can collapse under mutual gravity, eventually sparking fusion and new stars. But in the turbulent wake of a galactic merger, star formation should be hindered, not accelerated. Turbulence should disrupt star forming regions, fragmenting the cloud. As these simulations prove, however, it is this turbulence that actually accelerates star birth, driving starburst galaxies.
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The researchers were able to compare the two simulations, showing that in the collision model, violent turbulence makes interstellar gases ripe for compression (and not dispersion), accelerating star birth.
"This is a big step forward in our understanding of star formation, something only made possible by the similarly major and parallel advances in computing power," said lead researcher Florent Renaud of the AIM institute near Paris. "These systems are helping us unlock the nature of galaxies and their contents in ever more detail, helping astronomers to slowly assemble their complete history."
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Like the recent supercomputer simulation that was used to model the evolution of our Universe, this example once again proves that despite the incredible complexities that underlie astrophysical processes, computing power is rapidly becoming more capable, allowing us a high-resolution glimpse at what drives the inner dynamics of starburst galaxies.