The vast Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud is the largest stellar nursery in the local universe and as such, an ideal laboratory for studying the birth and evolution of massive stars. This region on the outskirts of the Tarantula, known as LHA 120-N 150, features an exceptionally high concentration of massive suns. Theory suggests such stars should form within star clusters, but about 10 percent of those found in LHA 120-N 150 seemingly formed in isolation. Astronomers are using the Hubble Space Telescope to better understand whether the isolated stars truly formed alone or simply moved beyond the clusters in which they were born.
Around half of the star formation in the local universe arises from minor mergers between galaxies, according to data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Disruptions to the shapes of spiral galaxies, caused by interactions with their smallest neighbours, points to increased star formation. Evidence suggests that minor galactic mergers are therefore important drivers of galaxy evolution.
Using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), a team of astronomers has delved remarkably deep into the heart of a nearby elliptical galaxy to study the motion of a disc of gas encircling the supermassive black hole at its centre. These observations provide one of the most accurate mass measurements to date for a black hole outside of our galaxy.