Strange Baby Star Flashes Mysteriously

Hubble image of LRLL 54361 a glowing baby starThis infrared image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows an image of protostellar object LRLL 54361.

Photo: NASA, ESA, and J. Muzerolle (STScI)

The bright red glowing mass of gas and dust in the picture here is actually a two baby “proto” stars, just growing up.NASA released a time lapse video of the star, taken from the Hubble space telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope between Dec. 3, 2010 and Dec. 26. We’ve giffed it for you, below.

They noticed that every 25.34 days, the object, designated LRLL 54361, lets out a burst of light which travels through the surrounding dust and gas, lighting it up. The light echos through the gas cloud, looking as if it is moving outward from the centre.

This is an extremely rare event — researchers have only seen it twice before. And this one is the most powerful yet. They aren’t sure exactly what is causing the strobe-light effect, but think it could be an interaction between two new stars in the region.

The stars would be pulling material into their cores. Because of the way their gravity and orbits interact, the researchers think there are times when a large clump of this material grows between the stars, but eventually is sucked into one. This releases an explosion of radiation that lights up the gas and dust around it.

“This protostar has such large brightness variations with a precise period that it is very difficult to explain,” study researcher James Muzerolle of the Space Telescope Science Institute, said in a statement from NASA.

Photo: NASA

glowing baby star LRLL 54361 and its surroundingsThis infrared image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows an image of protostellar object LRLL 54361 and its rich cosmic neighbourhood, a region called IC 348.

Photo: NASA, ESA, and J. Muzerolle (STScI)

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