A star is formed: Shari Breen named L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science 2015 Fellow

By Nicholas Kachel

9 September 2015

2 minute read

Twitter Shari Breen

Dr Shari Breen.

How are stars made?

It’s a heady question pondered by humans for as long as history has been recorded – each civilization has had their own creation myths explaining how the stars and the night sky came to be.

But for our astronomer, Shari Breen, it’s a question she takes a lot more literally: just how did stars form from nothing more than clouds of gas into their current state?

Shari’s been working on this question for eight years now, and her current area of focus is showing a lot of promise in helping to answer this universal question. What’s more, her star-studded studies are attracting some highly-esteemed recognition: Shari has just been named as a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow.

Along with three other outstanding female scientists, Shari was selected from a field of over 240 applicants and awarded a prize of $25,000.

Shari’s own star is undeniably on the rise, and we congratulate her on this amazing recognition of her work. But let’s return to that universal question: just how is a (celestial) star created?

Shari (third from left) with her award last night.

Shari (third from left) with her award last night.

According to Shari, one of the difficulties in understanding the process through which stars form (particularly high-mass stars) is the lack of ‘signposts’ in identifying different evolutionary stages. We know the ingredients that make up a star, but when were each of them added?

“My research focusses on providing an evolutionary timeline for high-mass star formation. The central idea is fairly simple – we know of many observable characteristics of young stars, and if we had a reliable evolutionary timeline for their formation, we can work out the sequence in which each characteristic was arising.”

The wonder of her work isn’t lost on Shari. “I always find it quite astounding that we don’t understand something as basic as how stars are forming. I really love the mystery aspect of it: I love that you can make a contribution to such a fundamental issue.”

We can’t wait to see what contributions Shari will make next.

To find out more about our astronomy research, check out our website.