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Hubble Glimpses Fitful Infant Stars

N83B
Image: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

Like human newborns who keep their parents up all night, stellar infants can bend the parental gas cloud to their will. According to new observations from NASA¿s Hubble Space Telescope of a star-forming region in a nearby galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, intense radiation and powerful winds from massive, ultrabright baby stars have sculpted their environment, carving a large cavity in their natal nebula, N83B.

In the image at right, these massive stars are seen just as they emerge from the gaseous womb. (The opportunity for such observations is rare because the weighty newborns mature quickly and spend much of their youth hidden by dust.) Of particular interest is a star at the center of the nebula, just below the brightest region, whose intense light and furious winds appear to have driven out the local gas, forming a spherical void perhaps only 30,000 years ago¿quite recent, by astronomical standards. Neighboring stars in the nebula¿including one 45 times more massive than the sun¿are younger. The central star¿s fierce wind may have triggered their formation.

So far, about 20 bright young stars have been detected in N83B. But others may well exist both there and elsewhere in the Large Magellanic Cloud, kicking and screaming behind a veil of cosmic dust.

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