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New Star Shines in Stunning Colors in This Image

First Posted: Feb 10, 2016 08:44 PM EST

Astronomers have captured a stunning picture of a newly formed star. The star lights up the surrounding cosmic clouds made up of dust particles.

The glowing region in the new image is a reflection nebula, known as IC 2631. These objects are clouds of cosmic dust that reflect light from a nearby star into space, creating a stunning light show like the one capture in the new image. IC 2631 is the brightest nebula in the Chamaeleon Complex, which is a large region of gas and dust clouds that harbors numerous newborn and still-forming stars.

IC 2631 is lit up by the star HD 97300, which is one of the youngest stars in its neighborhood. The region itself is full of star-making material, which is made evident by the presence of dark nebulae, which are noticeable above and below IC 2631 in the picture. Dark nebulae are so dense with gas and dust that they prevent the passage of background starlight.

Despite its dominating presence, the heft of HD 97300 should be kept in perspective. It's a T Tauri star, which is the youngest visible stage for relatively small stars. As these stars mature and reach adulthood they will lose mass and shrink. But during the T Tauri phase, the stars have not yet contracted to the more modest size that they will maintain for billions of years as main sequence stars.

For more images, check out ESO's website here.

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