Scientific Programs and Opportunities

Star Formation

1Orion 2M16

"The rapid development of infrared, millimeter and sub-millimeter astronomy in the 1970s and 1980s led to the realization that stars form in the most obscured regions of interstellar space. Fortunately, the dust which causes the obscuration becomes transparent in the near infrared waveband and so young stars and their precursors, the protostars, can be studied uniquely in the infrared waveband. The process whereby the stars form is not understood and, in particular, the role of outflows, which are observed wherever protostars or young stars have been observed, remains a mystery. At 2.2µm, the Gemini telescopes will have an angular resolution of about 0.1 arcsec, corresponding to a physical scale of 10 astronomical units at the distance of the nearest star-forming regions - 1 astronomical unit (AU) is the distance from the Sun to the Earth. Imaging and spectroscopy with the new generation of infrared cameras and two- dimensional spectrographs will provide a completely new view of the structure and dynamics of these regions."

-Dr. Malcolm S. Longair, Chair of the Gemini Board 1994-1995

How do stars form and what conditions lead to protostellar collapse? Achievement of Gemini's resolution will permit the study of protostellar objects down to the scale of the diameter of Jupiter's orbit.

This is an example of a program that will require near-diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared wavelengths, where the telescopes will yield their highest resolution.

Image Credits: 1:NOAO 2:HST

Ruth A. Kneale / / February 27, 1998