Astronomers believe that this particular cloud, Barnard 68, together with some others in the same galactic neighbourhood, constitute the few resistent remains of a much larger cloud that has disappeared due to the influence of strong stellar winds and ultraviolet radiation from young and heavy stars as well as supernova explosions.
This first-ever, detailed characterization of a dark interstellar cloud that is currently in the stage immediately preceding collapse and subsequent star formation constitutes a very important step towards a better understanding of earliest phases of the stellar life cycle.
The astronomers suggest that Barnard 68 (and its neighbouring brethren, the dark clouds Barnard 69, 70 and 72) may be the precursors of an isolated and sparsely populated association of low-mass solar-like stars. However, where did these clouds come from?
Credit: ESO VLT ANTU/FORS1