A star is born: Hubble captures baby solar systems

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PostTue Dec 15, 2009 7:41 pm » by bugmenot


A star is born: Hubble captures baby solar systems emerging from stellar womb :look: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... -womb.html

It looks like a beautiful watercolour painting, but this picture reveals a collection of 30 baby solar systems bursting into life in the Orion Nebula.

The stunning images were captured by the Hubble Telescope, which is run by Nasa and the European Space Agency.

The highly sensitive observatory orbits Earth and is the only one able to take such detailed pictures in visible light.

Image
Nebula

Hubble trained its cameras on the Orion Nebula - a local stellar nursery just 1,500 light years from Earth. It found modest blobs surrounding new stars that are thought to be young solar systems in the making.

As newborn stars emerge from the nebula's mixture of gas and dust, protoplanetary discs, or proplyds, form around them.

The centre of the spinning disc heats up and becomes a new star, but remnants around the outskirts of the disc attract other bits of dust and clump together. Scientists believe these are the building blocks of planets.

Hubble has found more than 150 proplyds inside the Orion nebula with 42 discovered in the most recent survey. The sheer number suggests the formation of star systems is fairly common in our universe

Image
The Orion Nebula is home to tens of what could be fledgling planetary systems. In this image, six of these modest 'smudges' with big potential are highlighted

Researchers have identified two different types of proplyds in Orion - glowing ones heated by the brightest star in the cluster (called Theta 1 Orionis C), and dark silhouettes that lie further away and receive less energetic radiation.

Dramatic shock waves are formed when the stellar wind from the massive Theta 1 collides with the gas in the nebula, sculpting boomerang shapes or arrows.

Astronomers are paying special attention to the darker discs as they are easier to study in relation to the dust grains thought to bind together to form planets.

For more information visit the European Hubble website http://www.spacetelescope.org/index.html

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