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Space Science

Hubble Captures the Violent Birth of a Star 102

The Bad Astronomer writes "In what is one of the most staggeringly beautiful Hubble pictures ever taken, a newly-born massive star is blasting four separate jets of material into its surrounding cocoon, carving out cavities in the material over two light years long. But only three of the jets appear to have matter still inside them, and the central star is off-center. This may be a gorgeous picture, but the science behind it is equally as compelling."
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Hubble Captures the Violent Birth of a Star

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  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:36PM (#38390276) Homepage Journal

    Were the Vogons notified of this latest development? Were all the forms properly filled in, signed, stamped and approved?

    How many government forms does it take for a new star to be allowed to be born? There are all sorts of special interests that may not like this new star from appearing, it's new energy competition, there could be new life forms created, that would compete with the existing interests and it's obviously bad. []

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      Yes, but recycling as firelighters is awaiting fire safety board approval, so for now an exemption certificate has been authorized, signed and posted on Alpha Centuri.

      • Fine, but did they just have to claim imminent domain and destroy an existing free-space floating life forms in that quadrant?

        • by jd ( 1658 )

          No because the star was manufactured from said life-forms. It's thus filed under "recycling existing material" which only requires forms RX-2291 and KILL-101.

  • OOOOOLD (Score:5, Funny)

    by zill ( 1690130 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:46PM (#38390418)

    The Bad Astronomer writes

    Bad is quite the understatement here, considering that this story is over 2000 years old.

  • Stellar formation? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:49PM (#38390472)

    This may be a naive question (and will almost certainly be derided as such). I remember from Astronomy 101, many years ago, the prevailing idea about stellar formation. But I don't remember anyone ever explaining studies that verify the hypothesis is valid. What I'm saying is that it's pretty obvious this is a star surrounded by a cloud of material (gas or dust, I can't remember), but how do we know the star is forming rather than, say, dying? Or are we just supposed to take it on faith because we read it in a book?

    A related question-- this is an awesomely cool picture, but does it or does it not tell us much about how stars form?

    • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:57PM (#38390598)

      but how do we know the star is forming rather than, say, dying?

      You can tell because of the pixels.

    • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:08PM (#38390740) Homepage Journal

      We know from stellar nurseries we've seen elsewhere that the current model is largely correct. We know from spectrometry that the gas cloud is abundant in light elements and poor in elements that form in later-generation stars, and know also from spectrometry that the star itself is also very rich in light elements. Spectrometry, the the level of light given off, plus the estimated distance also tells us where in the sequence the star is, because the sequence is now very well known. We can further verify a few details -- the solar winds push gas away from the sun, but there are no solar winds before there's a sun to emit them. By measuring output and the degree of push, you can determine how long the gas cloud has been blasted at by the star. If this matches expectation, all's well. If the gas cloud shows evidence of more displacement than can be accounted for, there'd be problems. So far, all looks good.

      So although the exact details of stellar formation do shift from time to time, major changes aren't likely. Minor ones, on the other hand, are commonplace. For example, some stellar nurseries close to the galactic centre are being hammered by solar winds from supermassive stars in the region. Current models cannot account entirely for how the stars were able to condense at all under such conditions. (You wouldn't expect fog patches to form in gale force 9 winds for the same reason. If you see fog in such conditions, then there's some extremely freaky condition to explain it - a total lack of air currents or turbulence is possible if you've exactly the right environment, and therefore something similar must exist in these freak star formations. It's an addition to, though, rather than a replacement of existing models.)

  • by regular_guy ( 1979018 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @06:54PM (#38390550)
    That's the first image that immediately came to mind when I saw this picture. Not the awesomeness of the universe, but someone's bum. Tragic.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:20PM (#38390900) Journal
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's my understanding that the colorful photos that you see from the Hubble are only pretty because it's been 'shopped like nobody's business. Sure what you're seeing is really out there, but it doesn't actually look like that... and if you were to be at a point in space such that your normal field of vision only envelops roughly the same area as what the photo contains, you would surely see similarities... probably enough to even make a strong connection between them... but not the vibrant colors that space photos so often contain. It is like the difference between a decorated christmas tree, and a decorated christmas tree with many hundreds of lights.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Almonday ( 564768 )
      To continue the christmas tree analogy, what Hubble does for our eyes is a little like what some enterprising pixel-slinger might do for a person with some form of color blindness; sure, the viewer might not be able to distinguish between red and green (or blue and yellow) lights on the tree, but they can still be rendered using the available spectrum into something which conveys the beauty and complexity of the overall display.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mark-t ( 151149 )
        That's more or less my understanding. The hubble sees far more of the EM spectrum than we can with our own eyes... and so they take the invisible frequencies and assign them to colors in the visible spectrum to produce a visually pleasing image, whereas if you were to actually see it with your own eyes, instead of the vibrant colors that you saw in the photo, it would probably look very dull and grey.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Different frequency are given different colors. SO when you look at it you can see what is going on.

      Also, there are taken in three different colors, and then blended. Since it's from a moving object, yes, you will need to be sure the picture are all aligned properly.

      It's no like there are shopping in Ice T.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      This is definitely true. And one of the reasons is that you don't see UltraViolet very well, or InfraRed, either. False color images are the only way to show the information.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        While I certainly agree it shows information that is otherwise invisible, the problem is that it presents an image that doesn't reflect what people expect when they see a photo - which is a duplicate of what they would see if they could see it with their own eyes.
        • the problem is that it presents an image that doesn't reflect what people expect when they see a photo - which is a duplicate of what they would see if they could see it with their own eyes.

          Yes, I hate it when I am flying through the galactic core, and I notice a super nova that I have a poster of, and I am like, OMFG, they totally shopped that photo.

          I am pretty sure nobody is going to be looking at this object with 'their own eyes' for a very long time, if ever.
          • I get the same feeling when I'm swimming in Lake Michigan, the amoeba I see are nothing like the dyed prepped slide photographs seen in textbooks. And don't even get me started on those ghastly black and white electron microscopic photos of insect faces, the real ones are cutely colored with much less harsh contrast.
        • that's not true, a photo does NOT show what the human eye would see. The lens' altering of perspective and depth of field are different, even the size of the picture is different. The film or array's response to brightness and color are different. All photographs are thus a distortion of what would be seen, so there is really no valid complaint to make other than that of degree.
          • by mark-t ( 151149 )
            You are being pedantic. Nonetheless, I did not say that a photo shows what a human eye would see... I said it was a normal expectation that this was the case... or at least approximately so. You are welcome to dispute this point, if you wish, but bear in mind that the fact you would point out the assorted technical deviations that a picture has from what you normally would see with your own eyes strongly suggests that you might not exactly be within a tolerable sigma of what most people think in the fir
            • actually, I'm just hobbyist photographer, and I sometimes use the 35mm lens on 35mm camera that approximates human perspective and field of view. sometimes I compare the picture with the reality for different lighting...amazing what our brain and memory accept as nearly identical
    • I'll bet it would look that sweet if you were wearing Geordi La Forge's [] visor...
  • What's with the shitty lens flare?

    • It's not lens flare (at least not in the classic sense)- it's diffraction around the internal supports for the secondary mirror.

    • Re:yuck (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @11:40PM (#38393584)

      that's not lens flare, that is a common artefact in Cassegrain cameras because the secondary mirror is usually held in place by wires, which introduce diffraction patterns in the image. I'm still disappointed that they didn't use a glass plate* to hold the secondary but there again that would kill a lot of bandwidth for detection, so I can understand the decision to use wire.

      *I have some camera lenses which are basically small Schmidt reflectors; they have secondaries held in place by corrective lens optics which reduce common mirror artefacts such as astigmatism, blooming, etc. I would use these as portable scopes but I don't have a full-frame DSLR body to hand... any donations greatly appreciated ;) and if anyone has an Olympus OM digital back with at least 16MP true resolution they'd like to just, like, give away, I'll have your babies!

  • The four flare lines out of each bright spot in the image are very distracting. Can't they be properly removed in postprocessing to give a truer image?
    • Sort of -- it would be possible to take them out, but as they saturated those pixels of the sensor, the only thing it would be possible to do would be to replace them with black, which isn't particularly more true than white. Anything else would just be Photoshop tricks, which are likewise not particularly true. As it is, they do provide some information, since their size is dependent on the brightness of the star.
  • But I don't quite see where the center or new star is. There is a bright star showing from a bit below the center but I think that is just a star behind it. Is there something I am missing that is obviously the "center"?
    • Yes. That bright star left and below centre is the new one. I guess it looks odd because of the angle we're seeing it at, combined with obscuring dust clouds.

  • I love how one can pick out an image that isn't there, but an Angel is what I saw... just not a happy one....

  • by Rashdot ( 845549 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @07:55PM (#38391288)

    Especially the 3D video:

    ahref= []>

  • Prettiest background jpeg ever.

  • Now obviously this happened 2000 years ago, but does anyone know how long it will last/has been going on for?

    In more general terms, I'd like to know whether they scan new parts of the sky periodically for changes, or whether they just concentrate on different parts of the sky and see what they see. For instance, if you could go back 2000 years (taking Hubble with you), would the image look similar? How static are these images?

    My first guess would be millions of years, so when astronomers look in the sky and

  • So who is to say that these stars are not alive in the real sense, and that like a buttefly, at this great size, ends up being a cocoon like beast that emerges a different entity in the end....I am sure when another alien life form looks at us as bags of almost pure water, they might wonder how we are alive as they could not accept us to be alive upon their definition, but likewise, we look at these stars and planets in orbit and think they are just things, yet they could actually be primitively intelligent

  • by djxl ( 2472764 )
    That appears to be the 2 meatballs and appendages of his noodly goodness...

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN