Planet-destroying “death stars” lurk in Orion constellation

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The Orion Nebula is a gigantic gas cloud filled with hydrogen, dust, helium, and plasma.

If you’ve ever looked up at the twinkling of a glistening night sky, you know firsthand the amount of stars is overwhelming. It’s even harder to believe that about 4,800 new stars are born every second! However, according to new research, many of them are dying inside of the Orion Nebula – a giant, dusty gas cloud found in between stars.

In fact, the gases inside the Orion Nebula – such as hydrogen and helium – are the main ingredients for making a star. This is why the gas cloud is filled with protostars – stars that are barely beginning to form. When the protostars are surrounded by a disk of gas and dust, and take the shape of a teardrop, they are called proplyds. It’s very likely that planets can then form in these rings.

However, the Orion Nebula also contains very large bodies called O-type stars, which are more than 10 times larger than the Sun. It turns out the old celestial orbs are dying in massive supernovas – powerful stellar (starry) explosions. The force is so strong, that nearby proplyds are stripped of their disks and destroyed! What’s worse, is that any chances of creating planets are blasted away with them. Since it’s likely that Earth formed in a ring of dust around our baby Sun, this is a pretty devastating find.

There is some good news that comes with the destruction, however. Apparently, the explosions also cause a whole bunch of new proplyds to form, which could ultimately increase the number of planets in our Milky Way.

Featured image courtesy of ESO/L. Calçada on Wikipedia. Image of Orion Nebula courtesy of NASA.