NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a young star undergoing violent birth.
The star, named S106 IR, has a mass of about 15 times that of our sun and lies approximately 2,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. Formed from a cloud of gas and dust with more than 25,000 times the sun’s mass, the star is just about to mature and settle down to what astronomers call the main sequence portion of its life, where it will glow steadily like our sun.
But before it grows up, the star is releasing a fierce torrent of ultraviolet radiation, heating up the surrounding cloud to temperatures greater than 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes the hydrogen gas to glow blue. The cooler, red dust lane in the center partially hides the star from view but it can still be seen shining near the lower part of the image.
Most young stars blast tons of energy and dust, creating gigantic butterfly-wing lobes on their sides like the ones seen here. Within about a million years, the object will end this forceful stage and become a giant blue star, shining brightly as it burns hydrogen into helium.
While its birth has clearly been fierce, the end of its life will be marked by an even more violent explosion: a supernova that will outshine galaxies.
Image: NASA and ESA