Nature 437, 109-111 (1 September 2005) | doi:10.1038/nature04011; Received 25 May 2005; Accepted 28 June 2005

A disk of dust and molecular gas around a high-mass protostar

Nimesh A. Patel1, Salvador Curiel1,2, T. K. Sridharan1, Qizhou Zhang1, Todd R. Hunter1, Paul T. P. Ho1,3, José M. Torrelles4,7, James M. Moran1, José F. Gómez5,6 & Guillem Anglada6

  1. Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, MS78, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  2. Instituto de Astronomia, UNAM, Apartado Postal 70-264, 04510 Mexico DF, Mexico
  3. Academica Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taipei, Taiwan
  4. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-IEEC, Gran Capita 2-4, E-08034 Barcelona, Spain
  5. Laboratorio de Astrofísica Espacial y Física Fundamental, INTA, Apartado 50727, E-28080 Madrid, Spain
  6. Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucia, CSIC, Apartado 3004, Camino Bajo de Huetor 50, E-18008 Granada, Spain
  7. †Present address: UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Royal Observatory Edinburgh, Blackford Hill, Edinburgh EH9 3HJ, UK (J. M. T.)

Correspondence to: Nimesh A. Patel1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to N.A.P. (Email: npatel@cfa.harvard.edu).

The processes leading to the birth of low-mass stars such as our Sun have been well studied1, but the formation of high-mass (over eight times the Sun's mass, Mcircle dot) stars remains poorly understood2. Recent studies suggest that high-mass stars may form through accretion of material from a circumstellar disk3, in essentially the same way as low-mass stars form, rather than through the merging of several low-mass stars4. There is as yet, however, no conclusive evidence5, 6. Here we report the presence of a flattened disk-like structure around a massive 15M circle dot protostar in the Cepheus A region, based on observations of continuum emission from the dust and line emission from the molecular gas. The disk has a radius of about 330 astronomical units (au) and a mass of 1 to 8 Mcircle dot. It is oriented perpendicular to, and spatially coincident with, the central embedded powerful bipolar radio jet, just as is the case with low-mass stars, from which we conclude that high-mass stars can form through accretion.


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