Newly formed star creates a dazzling light show

JC Torres - Feb 11, 2016
Newly formed star creates a dazzling light show

Stars are wondrous and marvelous things, at least from a very safe distance of a few hundred light years away. Their birth, maturity, and death have always captured the interest of astronomers and scientists. Sometimes, however, they also capture the attention regular mortals like you and me, especially when they create a stunning light show. A newly formed star with a rather unexciting name of HD 97300 is doing exactly that, illuminating its neighboring nebula and creating a light display to remember.

Actually, the HD 97300 star isn't the only metaphorical star in this story. While it does provide the light, it isn't the one that is actually the center of attraction. The illuminated area above, captured by the MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope, is actually the IC 2631 nebula, which is really just one of the nebulas in the Chamaeleon Complex's neighborhood of gas and dust clouds, about 500 light years away. It also happens to be the brightest nebula. What makes the IC 2631 so shiny in this instance is the fact that it is a reflection nebula, a type that, as the name says, reflects the light of a nearby star into space, creating the light show we see above.

And here's where the HD 97300 comes in. At this point, at least in Earth time, it is the youngest, brightest, most massive star in its area, which helps make IC 2631 be so bright. That said, HD 97300 is just at the beginning of its life, one that will actually see its size and brightness drastically reduced over time. Stars like this, a T Tauri type to be precise, usually take the form of a jumbo version of themselves. During maturation, they shrink and keep that smaller size for millions of years.

The area occupied by HD 97300 and IC 2631 is full of material for making stars, to the point that gas-dense dark nebulae can be found above and below the shining nebula. That could potentially mean there will be another light show when a new star is formed. But probably not for a few hundred or even thousand years. For now, HD 97300 remains secure in being the star of the show, so to speak.

VIA: Astronomy Now