Hubble telescope sees distant glowing 'cosmic caterpillar' of dust/gas

Aug. 30, 2013 at 6:26 PM

BALTIMORE, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Bright stars blasting ultraviolet radiation at forming stars have created a cosmic "caterpillar" captured by the Hubble space telescope, U.S. researcher say.

This caterpillar-shaped knot of dust and gas, called IRAS 20324+4057, is a protostar in a very early evolutionary stage, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, reported Thursday.

Cosmic winds of radiation blasting out from 65 of the hottest, brightest known type of stars, classified as O-type stars, located 15 light-years away from the protostar towards the right edge of the Hubble image, are responsible for the stretched-out shape of its surrounding cloud of dust and gas, they said.

While the protostar is busy collecting material from an envelope of gas surrounding it, the envelope is being eroded by the radiation from the nearby bright stars, they said.

The central star within IRAS 20324+4057 is still collecting material quite heavily from its outer envelope, hoping to bulk up in mass, the astronomers said, but only time -- and the eroding action of its stellar neighbors -- will tell if the formed star will be a "heavy-weight" or a "light-weight" with respect to its mass.

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