Star Birth in the Trifid Nebula

Star Birth in the Trifid Nebula
From the Hubble Space Telescope
This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of small dense cloud in the Trifid Nebula in the constellation Sagittarius, 9,000 light-years from the Earth,  reveals a stellar nursery being torn apart by radiation from a nearby, massive star. It also provides a peek at embryonic stars that are forming within a cloud of dust and gas, which is destined to be eaten away by the radiation from the massive neighbor. This stellar activity is a beautiful example of how the life cycle of stars like our Sun is intimately connected with their more powerful siblings. This cloud is about 8 light-years away from the nebula's central star, which is beyond the top of this picture.
A stellar jet, the thin, wispy object pointing to the upper left, protrudes from the head of a dense cloud and extends three-quarters of a light-year into the nebula. The jet's source is a very young stellar object that lies buried within the cloud. Jets such as this are the exhaust gases of star formation. Radiation from the massive star at the center of the nebula is making the gas in the jet glow, just as it causes the rest of the nebula to glow. The jet tells the history of one particular young stellar object that is continuing to grow as its gravity draws in gas from its surroundings. But within the next 10,000 years the radiation of the central, massive star will erode the nebula, and bring its growth to an end.
Another nearby star may have already faced this fate. The Hubble picture shows a "stalk" [the finger-like object] pointing from the head of the dense cloud directly toward the star that powers the Trifid. This stalk is a prominent example of the evaporating gaseous globules, or "EGGs". The stalk has survived because at its tip there is a knot of gas that is dense enough to resist being eaten away by the powerful radiation.
The images were taken through filters that isolate emission from hydrogen atoms, ionized sulfur atoms, and doubly ionized oxygen atoms. The images were combined in a single color composite picture. While the resulting picture is not true color, it is suggestive of what a human eye might see.
Image Title: Star Birth in the Trifid Nebula
based on press release for PHOTO NO.: STScI-PRC99-42

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Last modified on Sunday, December 17, 2000