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Growing Huge Stars by Accretion

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How huge stars of greater than around 20 solar masses form has been a bit of a mystery. Small stars form by gathering in, or accreting, matter through gravity -- but the more massive stars produce so much light that the "radiation pressure" from those photons on the surrounding gas and dust pushes matter outward and prevents gravitational collapse. By taking into account gravitational and hydrodynamic instabilities likely in real systems, however, Krumholz et al. showed that massive star systems could indeed grow through accretion, as the instabilities channel gas onto the star system while allowing radiation to escape through thin "bubbles." Eventually, gravitational instabilities cause the growing disk of material to fragment and form a massive companion to the primary star. (The left-hand side of the movie shows the simulation in the equatorial plane; the right-hand side shows a projection perpendicular to the equatorial plane.)

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