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Glimpsing the birth of a distant star

Courtesy: A Marston (ESTEC/ESA) et al., JPL, Caltech, NASA

By James Dacey

Our telescopes have delivered so many incredible snapshots of the universe that there is a danger of us becoming a bit blasé about new images.

Not so with this one. This image of a future star as it is been born out of a cloud of gas and dust reminds us of just how beautiful the universe can be.

With the rather less inspiring name of L1448-IRS2E, it is located around 800 light-years away in the Perseus star-forming region, and was captured by the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

It could well be the youngest known star, though it is still too dim to be classified as a true protostar by astronomers.

The discovery and characteristics of L1448-IRS2E are described in a recent paper in the Astrophysical Journal.

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  1. J L Hudson

    I hate to appear a bit of an ignoramus, but where exactly in the picture – which I’m happy to accept is ‘incredible’ when one bears in mind the technology by which it has come to us – is this pre-proto star that so captivates you, Mr Dacey? Please bear in mind that whilst some of us are much interested in these latest discoveries/pictures we may not have the technical expertise to immediately understand them in the way that you astronomers and astro-physicists do.

  2. P B Carol

    New stars are born in dense clouds of gas and dust. Have a look for very small black spots and I think that is what the author is referring to. I see about half a dozen of these black spots so I don’t know if the author is referring to a specific dark cloud (black patch on the image). I agree that plenty more labels are needed on some images.


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