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Newborn star bathes cosmic clouds in blue light

The light of HD 97300 is reflected and scattered in the dusty clouds of IC 2631 "like a car headlight in enveloping fog."
By Brooks Hays   |   Feb. 11, 2016 at 10:50 AM

GARCHING, Germany, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- A cotton ball-like cloud cluster in the dusty star-forming region known as the Chamaeleon Complex has appeared a bit brighter as of late, thanks to the birth of HD 97300.

The star, one of youngest and brightest in the region, lies 500 light-years away and was recently photographed by the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile.

The young star's blue light has helped to illuminate IC 2631, the brightest nebula in the Chameleon Complex. But while it's currently one of the largest stars in the region, astronomers say HD 97300 will eventually shrink.

It's a T Tauri star, which spends its earliest days in an enlarged form. As it matures, HD 97300 will shed mass, shrink and dim slightly.

According to astronomers, HD 97300 and its similarly aged peers are just "starting to flex their thermal muscles." It has yet to begin fusing hydrogen into helium.

The appearance of nebulae, collections of clouds and dust influenced by the formation of stars, is largely dependent of the kinds of stars they surround.

IC 2631 is a "reflective nebula." The light of HD 97300 is reflected and scattered in the dusty clouds of IC 2631 "like a car headlight in enveloping fog."

Stars more powerful than HD 97300 can enable "emission nebulae," whereby high-energy radiation is absorbed by the dust particles, which then put out their own light. These powerful nebulae can be seen from much farther distances, and unlike HD 97300 -- which will eventually fade -- last much longer.

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