NASA Releases Stunning Image of Infant Star Taking Shape

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope has captured an mesmerizing image of a young infant star and the striking outflow of material blowing away from it. The stellar offspring, called IRAS 05491+0247, is a protostar — a star in the mode of formation that's derived from the gravitational collapse of a massive molecular cloud of gas and dust.

In the mesmerizing image, the protostar is seen nearly edge-on, affording astronomers an unprecedented look at the uncanny outflow of plasma racing away from the youngstar. The image shows the column-shaped jet of material aligned with the disk cavity that's being blasted out by ultraviolet radiation from the protostar, which is about 500,000 lightyears away from our Sun.

The outrageously bright glow at the center of the image is caused by the protostar itself, while the shaded clouds are the surrounding ejected material cooling down after being expelled. Though the expelled material blows outward in the form of a cone, it becomes clearer and easier to observe as it spreads out from the star.

"The obscuring cloud is more dense and reflects more light toward us in the upper-left portion of the image, which causes that area to appear brighter," explained astrojackie of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, who processed the image. "The hottest areas, colored yellow in the image, are where most of the light is being reflected toward us by the cloud. Where the cloud is denser, the light is scattered more, and the image appears brighter to us on Earth."

NASA uses the powerful Hubble Space Telescope to study astronomical objects within our Milky Way Galaxy, as well as galaxies far, far away. The Hubble is ideally positioned to study astronomical objects that emit ultraviolet light, as these wavelengths are absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere and impossible to observe from the ground.

"These observations offer a unique — and rare — view of the material being ejected from a young star," said Alessandra Rotter, an astronomer at the European Space Agency (ESA) who led the observation with Hubble. "It's fascinating to see how the structure of the outflow fits so well with our theoretical understanding, and to see the effects of the protostar's ultraviolet radiation in action."

Rotter's research is aimed at shedding light on how young stars influence the gas around them during the formation process, and how this process shapes the formation of planets and planetary systems.

The latest image is a mosaic of Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), captured in near-infrared and ultraviolet light.

The WFC3 allows astronomers to inspect the remnants of the dust cloud surrounding the protostar, while the ACS aids in researching the stellar birth environment and the manner in which the young star affects the surrounding gases.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a joint project of NASA, ESA, and the European Space Agency. The Hubble celebrates its 30th anniversary of capturing breathtaking images from space this year, having launched on April 24, 1990.

Since becoming operational, the Hubble has completed over 1.4 million observations, with more than 28,000 scientific papers referencing its data. Notably, the Hubble is expected to be superseded by the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, slated for launch in December 2021.

Until the arrival of the James Webb, the Hubble will continue to be an indispensable scientific tool for astronomers worldwide, unraveling the mysteries of our universe one breathtaking image at a time.

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