What causes gas to condense in space?

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Alan Schein

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What causes gas to condense in space?
« on: 10/03/2011 11:30:03 »
Alan Schein asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi Nakeds,
On my last walk under the Golden Gate Bridge, I started thinking about star formation. We are told that stars condense to a point of density that increases the temperature so that nuclear ignition is obtained.
So what starts the process of condensation? To my mind, hydrogen atoms in space are as likely to bounce off or avoid each other as to be mutually attracted and condense. Something entropically-unfavourable (Is this assumption correct?). Perhaps radiant energy has some effect?
Moreover, if a collection of diffuse gas is spinning, that is, a star nursery is spinning, then there is an additional component of centrifugal force that would cause these atoms to fly off and become even more diffuse.
Clearly, some force has to be holding this assembly of atoms together.
Here are my weird ideas.
1. All the surrounding galactic masses are gravitationally containing the mass of gas in a volume of space. That keeps it from flying off.
2. A wild guess: the process of condensation pursuant to star formation is precipitated by the formation of a gravitationally active micro black hole. Perhaps this black hole winks in and out of existence within quantum limitations - but there's a net gravitational effect that starts the process of rotation and in-falling toward a centre and then the process become self reinforcing. (I believe it is theorized that the non-zero point energy of atoms at absolute zero is a result of this quantum field).
Cheers and thanks,
Alan Schein

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 10/03/2011 11:30:03 by _system »


Offline yor_on

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What causes gas to condense in space?
« Reply #1 on: 11/03/2011 00:33:07 »

finding new states of energy, yes.
Compress under 'gravity', yes.

As for a gas spinning, assuming that there is matter around it there has to be a threshold for it 'holding together' I guess. depending on area and mass, and speed of spin relative its surroundings. As for micro black holes? 'Winking' at us you say? Naah, that should 'equalize itself' if at all there I think? If it didn't we would have a lot to worry about :) also their 'event horizons' is expected to be extremely small and localized. Outside those they will be as any other particle.

But I lose you there, how do you mean they condense?
Like evaporating maybe? Evaporating energy under gravity, reaching higher states of energy for the 'matter/particles left', and so condensing? It's one way of looking at it, but it makes me head spin :)
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