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Hubble captures an awe-inspiring newborn star

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured an awe-inspiring image of a cosmic jet bursting from a cloud of gas and dust, marking the dramatic entrance of a newborn star into the universe

This observation was made as Hubble focused on FS Tau, a young multi-star system nestled within the Taurus-Auriga constellation, roughly 450 light-years away from Earth. This area is a cradle of star formation, filled with dark, dense molecular clouds that are birthing grounds for newborn stars and their more mature counterparts.

A pair of nascent stars

In this particular nebula, aged 2.8 million years, astronomers have identified a duo of nascent stars known as FS Tau A (also referred to as Haro 6-5A) and a newly detected star, FS Tau B. 

These stellar infants are enveloped in glowing clouds of gas and dust, remnants of the dense material from which they condensed and began their celestial journey.

Transition to a newborn star

The imagery of FS Tau B reveals it partially hidden behind a stark, vertical column of dust, indicative of the rim of a protoplanetary disk. This disk, rich in gas and dust, circles the young star and is expected to eventually merge to form planets. 

FS Tau B, still in the protostar phase, is in the midst of collecting mass from its environment. Upon reaching a critical mass, the core pressure will trigger nuclear fusion, converting hydrogen to helium, signifying the transition to a fully-fledged star.

Fast, energetic particle stream

Despite not yet initiating nuclear fusion, FS Tau B, like other protostars, radiates light due to the warmth generated from the initial collapse of its birth cloud and subsequent material accretion. 

Newborn stars frequently exhibit jets – fast, energetic particle streams – and FS Tau B exemplifies this with its notable, though uneven, double-sided jet. The jet’s unevenness, visible as a luminous blue streak, might stem from the star shedding mass at varying rates.

Bright patches of nebulosity associated with newborn stars

FS Tau B is also categorized as a Herbig-Haro object, defined by the visible, glowing areas formed when jets from newborn stars collide with surrounding gas and dust at high velocities. These collisions illuminate the nebulae that cradle protostars.

Transitioning from its current phase, FS Tau B will evolve into a T Tauri star, a precursor to becoming a main-sequence star, similar to the Sun in its youthful stage some 4.6 billion years ago.

More about newborn stars

Newborn stars, often referred to as protostars, are born in the vast, cold expanse of molecular clouds, also known as stellar nurseries. These clouds, rich in gas and dust, provide the essential ingredients for star formation. 

The process begins when a part of a cloud starts to collapse under its own gravity, which may be triggered by external forces such as the shock waves from nearby supernovae or the collision of galaxies.

Initial star formation

As the cloud collapses, it fragments into smaller, denser regions where individual stars begin to form. The material at the center of each fragment starts to heat up due to gravitational compression, forming a hot core. 

This core is the heart of a protostar, the very early stage of a star’s life cycle. Despite being stars in the making, protostars are not yet hot enough at their cores to initiate nuclear fusion, the process that powers stars and produces light and heat.

Accumulation of mass

Over time, the protostar continues to accrete material from its surrounding cloud, growing in mass and density. This period of accretion is tumultuous, marked by intense jets of gas being ejected from the poles of the protostar, clearing away the surrounding material and revealing a young star in the making.

Birth of a stable star

When the core temperature finally reaches about 10 million degrees Celsius, hydrogen atoms begin to fuse into helium, releasing vast amounts of energy. This marks the end of the protostar stage and the birth of a main sequence star, like our Sun. The star will spend the majority of its life in this stable phase, converting hydrogen to helium and shining brightly in the cosmos.

The process of star formation is both beautiful and complex, highlighting the delicate balance between gravity and pressure, material accretion and loss, and ultimately, the transformation of dust and gas into the luminous beacons we see scattered across the night sky.

Image Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope


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