All stars are born through the collision of dust and gas clouds. However, stimulating star formation is a difficult process because these gas clouds might sit dormant for billions of years. A team of scientists has devised a precise method for triggering star formation in gas clouds. It involves a lot of collision.
When gas clouds collide, numerous things happen at once. The gas and dust entangle and cause tumultuous ripples to race through the newly united cluster. Shockwaves can also form and move through the pandemonium at their own pace. Cloud pockets can destabilize in any mess. When they do, they separate from the rest of the cloud and swiftly collapse as the gravitational force within them overwhelms any other type of support.
When this occurs, star clusters form. Astronomers have long thought that this narrative is true, but the intricacies of how a cloud of gas turns into stars remain a mystery. As a result, a pair of researchers dug deep into this. They investigated how the sizes and velocities of clumps of gas contribute to varying rates of star formation.
They discovered that the most important factor influencing star formation was not the features of the gas clouds themselves, but the environment they were in. For example, if two gas clouds merge together in a particularly dense environment, the gas clumps tend to generate more compact merger remains. This results in fewer but larger stars. If the gas clouds are largely isolated, they produce more stars but with lower masses.
This is just one piece of the greater puzzle of trying to understand the history of star formation and what kinds of stars our galaxy creates under what conditions.