ESO scientists were stunned when they captured this brilliant image of a star's moment in the spotlight.
Scientists working with the European Southern Observatory, or ESO, have captured a breathtaking astronomical event. According to a report from Phys.org, an image of a young star lighting up a nearby nebula was captured by the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile.
The image shows a brilliant glowing region which is actually a reflection nebula called IC 2631. The nebula is made up of clouds of gas and dust that bounce light from a neighboring star off into space. The reflection of the star’s radiation on the nebula’s gas clouds creates the stunning light show captured by the ESO.
The star lighting up nebula IC 2631 is called HD 97300, and is one of the youngest and most massive stars in its region. The star is located in a relatively young part of space, with a very high level of star making activity. Dark nebulae also appear in the image below and above the glowing region, indicating that the area is full of the materials necessary to form stars.
HD 97300 is in its T Tauri stage, the youngest visible stage for tiny stars. As they develop and age, the stars will continue to lose mass and appear smaller in the sky. But during this phase, the gases making up the star’s core have not yet condensed into a more stable “sequence star” phase.
It won’t be until they begin to fuse hydrogen into helium that their cores become denser, but the surface temperature of HD 97300 is still similar to that of a star in its sequence phase. T Tauri-phase stars are like bigger versions of their future selves, generating about the same amount of heat as they would into adulthood.
The reflection nebula in the image may not last forever, but it offers insight into just how bright HD 97300 is at this point in its life. The hot ultraviolet light coming from the young star can even ionize the gases in the nebula, giving it its own hue. As HD 97300 matures, its effect on the reflection nebula will likely fade away.
A press release from the ESO describing the details of the recent discovery can be found here.