Massive 'Cosmic Caterpillar' Captured By Hubble Telescope

  @TreyeGreen t.green@ibtimes.com on August 31 2013 12:10 AM
Hubble-IRAS 20324+4057
The top, or “head,” of IRAS 20324+4057 is the region where the protostar is actually beginning to form some 4,500 light-years away from Earth. Reuters

A peculiar cosmic object has been brought into view with the help of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The caterpillar-shaped object is actually the eroded shell of a baby star, and it is located about 4,500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, according to Discovery News

Identified as IRAS 20324+4057, the cloud of dust and gas is being born in extremely violent form. What we see as the “tail” is formed by the strong winds coming off several huge stars. The really bright stars in the right of the photograph are these massive stars, which create powerful radiation pressure along with their stellar winds.

The top of IRAS 20324+4057 is the region where the protostar is actually beginning to form. Scientists are unsure just how big this area will be able to grow. Meanwhile, they believe the envelope of gas around the protostar is being eroded by the radiation from the other stars in the region, known as the Cygnus OB2 association.

“Only time will tell if the formed star will be a ‘heavyweight’ or a ‘lightweight’ with respect to its mass,” the Daily Mail quoted the Hubble team as saying. The protostars in the region usually form to be stars with final masses from one to 10 times that of the Earth’s Sun.

This particular image from Hubble’s Space Telescope Science Institute was created from data in green and infrared wavelengths that was collected by the Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2006, the Daily Mail said. The image also contains data collected by the ground-based Isaac Newton Telescope in 2003.

Join the Discussion