From the Hubble Space Telescope
This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of small dense cloud in the Trifid Nebula 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 an ill-fated 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. Located about 9,000 light-years from Earth, the Trifid is in the constellation Sagittarius.
One of the intrinsically brightest stars in our galaxy appears as the bright white dot in the center of this image taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) was used to take the picture, because the star is hidden at the galactic center, behind obscuring dust. NICMOS' infrared vision penetrated the dust to reveal the star, which has a radiance of 10 million suns. This radiant star has enough power to blow off two expanding shells (magenta) of gas equal to the mass of several of our suns. The largest shell is so big (4 light-years) it would stretch nearly all the way from our Sun to the next nearest star. These outbursts are estimated to be only 4,000 and 6,000 years old, respectively. This extraordinary star may presently be 100 times more massive than our Sun, and may have started with as much as 200 solar masses, but it is violently shedding much of its mass. It is 25,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. Despite its great distance, the star would be visible to the naked eye as a modest 4th magnitude object if it were not for the dust between it and the Earth. This false-colored image is a composite of two separately filtered images taken with the NICMOS, on September 13,1997. The field of view is 4.8 light-years across, at the star's distance of 25,000 light-years. Resolution is 0.075 arc seconds per pixel (picture element).
Image Title: Brilliant Star in the Milky Way's Core
based on press release for PHOTO NO.: STScI-PRC97-33
Credit: Don F. Figer (UCLA), and NASA
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Last Modified On: Tuesday, December 19, 2000