Only recently discovered by amateur astronomer Julian W. McNeil II, this
peculiar looking object is currently classified as a cometary-type reflection
nebula. The newborn nebula was found while processing a wide field image of
Messier 78 nebular region which was taken
from McNeil's suburban
backyard using a 3-inch refractor. Images taken of the area before September
of 2003 show absolutely no signs of the nebula nor its ruddy illuminating
star, which can be seen near the object's southern apex. Preliminary research
by Bo Reipurth (Univ. of Hawaii) reveals that the nebula was created when the
deeply imbedded fetal star previously catalogued as IRAS 05436-0007 somehow
erupted and went into outburst. The young star's sudden increase in
brightness consequently resulted in the surrounding cocoon
of gas and dust becoming
illuminated much like a lighthouse would light up a foggy harbor. To actually
capture such an eruption of a pre-main sequence star so early in it's
evolution is an extremely rare occurrence. Often regarded as FU Orionis or EX
Lupii type events, these sudden outbursts represent a very illusive stage
through which most stars are thought to pass as they make final adjustments
with their surroundings before settling down and becoming stable objects much
like our very own Sun.
Click on the top image for a larger picture. The bottom image shows the true color (raw RGB data) of the star and the gas it is illuminating.
|L R G B color production was used to create this image.|
Minimum credit line: Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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