Observing the onset of outflow collimation in a massive protostar

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Science  03 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6230, pp. 114-117
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7216

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Young stars grow up and narrow their focus

Stars are thought to grow by gathering spirals of material from a disk. If this is the case, to balance angular momentum, gas should flow out rapidly along the disk's rotation axis. Carrasco-Gonzalez et al. now seem to have glimpsed the “before” and “after” stages of the onset of such an outflow, over the course of just 18 years (see the Perspective by Hoare). Radio monitoring of the massive protostar W75N(B)-VLA2 reveals a transition from a spherical wind to a collimated one, giving critical insight into what happens as a massive star forms.

Science, this issue p. 114; see also p. 44


The current paradigm of star formation through accretion disks, and magnetohydrodynamically driven gas ejections, predicts the development of collimated outflows, rather than expansion without any preferential direction. We present radio continuum observations of the massive protostar W75N(B)-VLA 2, showing that it is a thermal, collimated ionized wind and that it has evolved in 18 years from a compact source into an elongated one. This is consistent with the evolution of the associated expanding water-vapor maser shell, which changed from a nearly circular morphology, tracing an almost isotropic outflow, to an elliptical one outlining collimated motions. We model this behavior in terms of an episodic, short-lived, originally isotropic ionized wind whose morphology evolves as it moves within a toroidal density stratification.

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