Research Highlight

Milky Way signatures tell of star birth and death

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.105 Published online 27 July 2021

A survey of the Milky Way galaxy is providing new insights into the life of stars.

© Ramit Dey

An extensive radio-telescope-based survey of the Milky Way has homed in on previously unseen signatures that provide new insights into how stars form and die1.

The survey, by an international team of astronomers, helped detect new supernova remnants (SNRs) – structures that are born from the explosive death of massive stars and contribute to star formation in our galaxy.  

SNRs are known to contribute to star-forming processes by heating up the interstellar medium, the star-forming regions of gas and dust between stars. Such remnants, rich in elements heavier than iron, have fuelled the birth of myriad stars and even the Solar System with its rocky planets.

To hunt down the star-forming regions, the scientists, including researchers from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in Trivandrum, scanned the Milky Way using two powerful radio telescopes located in the US and Germany.

The survey, known as GLOSTAR (Global View on Star Formation in the Milky Way), confirmed the presence of previously discovered SNR candidates and reclassified a few that were misidentified.

The team, which included Indian scientists Nirupam Roy and Jagadheep D. Pandian, captured radio emissions from methanol molecules in a nearby large star-forming region called Cygnus X2. They also detected dense pockets of ionised hydrogen, which indicates the presence of massive young stars3.   

The telescopes picked up a wide range of radio signals from star-forming regions, bringing us a step closer to getting a complete picture of star formation in the Milky Way, the researchers noted.


1. Brunthaler, A. et al. A global view on star formation: The GLOSTAR Galactic plane survey - overview and first results for the Galactic longitude range 28◦ < l < 36◦. Astron. Astrophys. 651 (2021) Doi: 10.1051/0004-6361/202039856

2. Ortiz-Leon, G. N. et al. A global view on star formation: The GLOSTAR Galactic plane survey - 6.7 GHz methanol maser survey in Cygnus X. Astron. Astrophys. 651(2021) Doi: 10.1051/0004-6361/202140817

3. Nguyen, H. et al. A global view on star formation: The GLOSTAR Galactic plane survey - radio continuum detections of young stellar objects in the Galactic Centre region. Astron. Astrophys.651 (2021) Doi: 10.1051/0004-6361/202140802