The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a star forming in the IC 2631 nebula in infrared light.
Stars are born from clouds of gas and dust that collapse under their own gravitational pull. When this happens, a dense, hot core forms, which begins to collect dust and gas, creating an object called a protostar.
The new infrared image of the Hubble telescope captures the protostar J1672835.29-763111.64 in the nebula IC 2631. It is located 500 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Chameleon, and is also part of the star-forming region of the same name.
Stars form as a result of gravitational instability in cold, dense molecular clouds. The stage of development of a star, characterized by compression and not yet having thermonuclear energy sources, is called a protostar (Greek protos “first”). Eventually, the core of the protostar becomes hot and dense enough for nuclear fusion to begin. From the remaining gas and dust, planets, asteroids, and comets can be formed.
The new image is part of the Hubble Survey, in which it photographs 312 protostars in molecular clouds previously identified by the infrared space observatories Spitzer and Herschel. Protostars are mostly visible in infrared light because they emit a lot of thermal energy and their visible light is obscured by dust. Hubble’s advanced infrared capabilities help distinguish protostars and investigate their structure, including accumulated gas and dust, as well as faint companion objects.