Most massive stars in the universe can and do form essentially anywhere, including in near isolation and very small clusters, and they don't need a large stellar cluster nursery, a new study finds.
The scientists zoomed in on eight of the monstrous stars, which range from 20 to 150 times as massive as the Sun. The stars they looked at are in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that's one of the Milky Way's nearest neighbors.
Their results showed that five of the stars appeared as isolated stars. The remaining three appeared to be in tiny clusters of ten or fewer stars.
The study supports the theory that these massive stars can form more randomly across the universe - including in isolation and in very small clusters, as opposed to a theory that the mass of a star depends on the size of the cluster in which it is born.
Our findings don't support the scenario that the maximum mass of a star in a cluster has to correlate with the size of the cluster, associate professor Sally Oey from the University of Michigan said.
Explaining the significance of the findings, doctoral student Joel Lamb said: My dad used to fish in a tiny pond on his grandma's farm. One day he pulled out a giant largemouth bass. This was the biggest fish he's caught, and he's fished in a lot of big lakes. What we're looking at is analogous to this. We're asking: 'Can a small pond produce a giant fish? Does the size of the lake determine how big the fish is?' The lake in this case would be the cluster of stars,
Our results show that you can, in fact, form big stars in small ponds.
They don't need a large stellar cluster nursery, the scientists concluded, while acknowledging the possibility that all of the stars they studied might not still be located in the neighborhood they were born in.