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The Sciences

Young Star

Hubble shows the violent birth of a massive star.


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A star ten times the mass of the sun will burn for only a few million years, but they will be tempestuous years. Such giants are typically 10,000 times brighter than the sun. This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the violent results of the birth of at least one massive star. The false-color image was taken with Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer, which penetrated the veil of dust surrounding the Orion nebula. The nebula, a giant interstellar gas cloud, is a stellar nursery. Because it is so close to Earth (just 1,500 light-years away), it's the best laboratory astrophysicists have for studying massive star formation. The red fingerlike projections are outflows of hydrogen, created by the winds of a newly forming star. (The green haze is ionized hydrogen; the blue bubbles, stars.) Researchers aren't sure of the exact location of the young star-or if there is more than one. The star, says astrophysicist Edwin Erickson of NASA's Ames Research Center, is probably a couple of light-years away from the hydrogen outflows. "We think the source is located a bit south, or down, from the blue empty region in the center of the outflow."

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