A bright newborn star is seen bathing in its nebula's glowing blue light. The star, HD 97300, lies roughly 500 light-years away from Earth, and is seen in the Chamaeleon Complex, located in the southern constellation of the Chamaeleon.
The nebula in which the star is being formed, called IC 2631, is the brightest of such structure in the complex of stellar nurseries.
The light emitting from the nebula is actually from high-frequency energy produced by the young stars encased within the cloud. On either side of the nebula are dark clouds so dense, starlight cannot penetrate through their masses.
The young, bright star illuminating its birthplace is a T Tauri star, the youngest type of stellar bodies that can be seen in visible wavelengths. Stars like this contain significantly more mass than they will have during most of their lives. These bodies have not yet started to fuse hydrogen into helium, but produce energy from the contraction of their masses, as gas falls into the rapidly-collapsing stellar body.
"These fledging stars already have surface temperatures similar to their main sequence phase and accordingly, because T Tauri-phase objects are essentially jumbo versions of their later selves, they look brighter in their oversized youth than in maturity," European Southern Observatory (ESO) said.
As this process takes place, the light produced by the young stars is scattered by surrounding gas, some of which is reflected to Earth, where it is seen by astronomers as a reflection nebula. Hotter stars are capable of ionizing the gas in which they are found, lighting the stellar nursery up into an emission nebulae.
The HD 97300 star seen in the photo will never grow bright enough to ionize the gas within IC 2631. ESO said that the young stellar body does not have enough power to emit the light on its own, nor even expected to last.
The stellar photograph of the process was captured using the MPG/ESO 86-inch telescope in Chile.