Image: Multiple protostars within IRAS 20324+4057

April 14, 2014
Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and IPHAS

(Phys.org) —A bright blue tadpole appears to swim through the inky blackness of space. Known as IRAS 20324+4057 but dubbed "the Tadpole", this clump of gas and dust has given birth to a bright protostar, one of the earliest steps in building a star.

There are actually multiple protostars within this tadpole's 'head', but the glowing yellow one in this image is the most luminous and massive. When this protostar has gathered together enough mass from its surroundings, it will eventually emerge as a fully-fledged young star.

The intense blue glow is caused by nearby stars firing at IRAS 20324+4057, which also sculpts its tail into a long, wiggly shape. In total, this clump spans roughly a light-year from head to tail-tip, and contains weighing almost four times the mass of the Sun.

Framed against a background of distant stars, IRAS 20324+4057 is making its way through the Cygnus OB2 association, a loose cluster of stars some 4700 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus. This association is one of the largest clusters known, and is famed for its heavyweight members. It contains some of the hottest, most massive and most known, some of which are some two million times more luminous than the Sun.

The Tadpole is not alone in this interstellar pond. Just out of view to the bottom right of this image lies another curious object dubbed "the Goldfish" by astronomers. The Goldfish is about half the length of IRAS 20324+4057, and is also thought to be a globule of gas that is being both lit up and sculpted by radiation from cluster stars.

Completing this trio is a small clump of blue gas, informally nicknamed "the Wriggler" by some astronomers, visible in the bottom left of this Hubble image. All three objects have the same orientation in the sky and appear to be brighter on their northern sides, leading astronomers to believe they are being shaped by aggressive winds and radiation flowing from hot Cygnus OB2 towards the top right of the frame.

Explore further: Cygnus OB2: Probing a nearby stellar cradle

Related Stories

Cygnus OB2: Probing a nearby stellar cradle

November 8, 2012

(Phys.org)—The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations that each contain hundreds to thousands of hot, massive, young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster ...

Hubble sees a cosmic caterpillar

August 29, 2013

(Phys.org) —This light-year-long knot of interstellar gas and dust resembles a caterpillar on its way to a feast. But the meat of the story is not only what this cosmic caterpillar eats for lunch, but also what's eating ...

Young stars paint spectacular stellar landscape

November 13, 2013

Astronomers at ESO have captured the best image so far of the clouds around the star cluster NGC 3572. This image shows how these clouds of gas and dust have been sculpted into bubbles, arcs and the odd features known as ...

Image: Hubble catches detail of the Large Magellanic Cloud

March 7, 2014

(Phys.org) —This stunning new Hubble image shows a small part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the closest galaxies to our own. This collection of small baby stars, most weighing less than the sun, form a young stellar ...

Image: Hubble peers at the heart of NGC 5793

March 24, 2014

(Phys.org) —This new Hubble image is centered on NGC 5793, a spiral galaxy over 150 million light-years away in the constellation of Libra. This galaxy has two particularly striking features: a beautiful dust lane and an ...

Image: Star-forming region ON2

March 24, 2014

(Phys.org) —Massive stars are born in tumultuous clouds of gas and dust. They lead a brief but intense life, blowing powerful winds of particles and radiation that strike their surroundings, before their explosive demise ...

Recommended for you

Ceres image: The lonely mountain

August 25, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers).

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Dawn spacecraft sends sharper scenes from Ceres

August 25, 2015

The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the small world's features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres' tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tuxford
1 / 5 (3) Apr 14, 2014
'When this protostar has gathered together enough mass from its surroundings,'

Just more nonsense statements with nothing to back it up. Think. Does this structure appear more likely consolidative or dissipative? Think. Don't listen to astronomers. They are lost in fantasy. They don't even acknowledge the problem. Notice the bow shock front.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (4) Apr 15, 2014
Don't listen to astronomers. They are lost in fantasy


My ironometer just burst a spring.
shavera
5 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2014
Yes don't actually learn how things work and how to interpret physical data and understand the universe. Merely looking at a picture of a portion of a sky makes you far more equipped to say what's going on than actual understanding does. /sarc

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.