ARIES astronomers spot hundreds of new stars in nearby Pacman Nebula including infants

As many as 228 new stars have been discovered in the Pacman Nebula (official name NGC 281) by the astronomers from the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Science (ARIES). Researchers, led by Dr Sneh Lata from ARIES, used the 3.6-metre Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT) set up in Uttarakhand’s Nainital to make the discovery, a Business Standard India report said. The study was part of ARIES's 'Search for Pre-Main-Sequence (PMS) Variability in Young Open Clusters (YOCs)'. The Pacman Nebula is relatively close by, at a distance of 9,500 light-years away from Earth.

The researchers began making observations of the field of view with the NGC 281 galaxy in October 2010, and continued till November 2017, according to a report. Through these observations, the team has found that as many as 81 of these stars are members of a star cluster. The report also says that 147 of the newfound stars could belong to the field population.

The cosmic cloud of gas and dust is located 1,000 light years above the plane of the Milky Way offering a clear view of the star-making process. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Some 51 'pre-main-sequence' (PMS) stars were discovered in the Pacman Nebula – stars that are gaining mass from dust and gas in their surroundings. This indicates that they are in their early stages of life. The remaining 177 newly-discovered stars were a part of the main sequence. These are stars that fuse hydrogen atoms to form helium atoms in their cores.

It was also found that the brightness and dullness of the star depended on its size. The amplitude of the star decreases based on the size of the star.

The amplitude of variability has also been found to increase with age in the weak-line T Tauri stars (WTTSs).

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