A European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescope captured rare glimpse of fleeting nebula around teen star in Chamaeleon constellation. The Chile-based MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope recently took a snapshot of a reflection nebula surrounding a young star called HD 97300.
Reflection nebulae are clouds of dust and gas, i.e. stellar nurseries, that are lit up by background light coming from their stellar denizens. Many of these nebulae are quite spectacular and HD 97300’s IC 2631 nebula is no exception.
In fact the newly spotted nebula is the brightest in the Chamaeleon constellation, a tiny constellation near the South Pole. The Chamaeleon Complex is known by scientists for years as a place with very dense clouds of cosmic particles where young stars dwell or new stars are being born. The stellar nursery is located 500 light-years from our planet.
Astronomers explained that HD 97300 has the largest mass and brightness in the Complex. Plus, the nebula that envelops it is framed by dark nebulae which can only be observed by a keen eye above and below it in the recent snapshot. Dark nebulae are clouds of cosmic dust that lack any illumination because their material is so dense that it doesn’t allow starlight to pass.
Astronomers also noted that HD 97300 is a T Tauri star, which is the earliest version of such a small star that can be seen from Earth. Scientists explained that as T Tauri stars grow older they lose mass and become even smaller. But at this stage of their lives they haven’t shrunk yet to the size that they will keep as fully-developed stars.
T Tauri stars are also as bright as mature stars since their large size creates an optical illusion tricking the eye into believing that they are as bright as or even brighter than their later selves. Scientists said that these young stars’ cores haven’t yet started to convert hydrogen into helium like mature stars do. Instead, they release heat due to their contraction.
Unlike other types of nebulae, reflective nebulae such as IC 2631 only reflect the light generated by nearby stars. So, the light show is quite dim and fleeting. Emission nebulae on the other hand are dotted by extremely energetic young stars that can ionise the surrounding dust clouds, forcing them to emit their own light. Such nebulae are homes of young stars that can be watched across thousands of light-years. Because HD 97300 is not as energetic, we should enjoy its light show before it fades away.
Image Source: ESO