Stars usually form in the company of siblings within dense stellar nurseries, but scientists have discovered a baby star that appears to be growing up alone, 1,000 light-years from the nearest star-forming region, and they're baffled as to how it became so isolated, reports NASA.
The star, which is incredibly young, is currently experiencing a growth spurt — a period of violent energy outbursts that only last a few years during a star's early development. Scientists don't believe it has existed for long enough to have been born in a more star-populated area and flung out into the void of empty space. It's unlikely that a star this immature could have gotten so far away so quickly.
"[This star] is both more intense and more isolated than any of these young outbursting objects that we've ever seen," said Joel Green, study co-author and researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
"We tried various interpretations for it, and the only one that makes sense is that this rapidly growing young star is forming in the middle of nowhere," added Chris Britt, lead author of the study.
So what's going on? It's possible that the star, labeled as CX330, is not actually alone, but surrounded by a group of faint stars that astronomers haven't detected yet. Until evidence is uncovered, however, this theory is mere speculation.
Interestingly, the lonely baby star might offer vindication for an obscure theory about star formation that, until now, had little observational evidence to support it. This theory suggests that it's possible for singular stars to be born alone when they are sparked by sudden turbulence in an interstellar cloud. Could this be what is going on with CX330?
If this turbulence theory pans out, it could mean that there are scores of other isolated stars out in the universe like CX330, hiding in regions that scientists may have previously dismissed as empty space.
So this baby star might be growing up all alone, but its solitude also makes it a beacon in the dark of space, perhaps reminding us that interesting things can be found throughout the universe, even in the unexpected places.