Toddler stars tear up the nursery

NGC 6729

Baby stars (hidden behind thick clouds of dust) are ejecting gas at speeds as high as one million kilometres per hour, tearing up the clouds within which they were born.

THE DRAMATIC EFFECT newborn stars have on the gas and dust from which they formed is shown in a new image from the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope

Although the stars themselves are not visible, material they have ejected is colliding with the surrounding gas and dust clouds and creating a surreal landscape of glowing arcs, blobs and streaks.

The star-forming region NGC 6729 is part of one of the closest stellar nurseries to the Earth and hence one of the best studied.

Stars form deep within thick gas clouds, which means the earliest stages of their development cannot be seen with visible-light telescopes because of obscuration by dust.

In this image, there are very young stars hidden behind the gas and dust at the upper left of the picture. Although they can’t be seen, the havoc that they have wreaked on their surroundings is clearly visible.

High-speed jets of gas shooting out from the baby stars at velocities as high as one million kilometres per hour are slamming into the surrounding gas and creating shock waves. These shocks cause the gas to shine and form the strangely coloured glowing arcs and blobs known as Herbig–Haro objects.

This enhanced-colour picture was created from images taken using the FORS1 instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Images were taken through two different filters that isolate the light coming from glowing hydrogen (shown as orange) and glowing ionised sulphur (shown as blue).

Adapted from information issued by ESO.

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