Do you want to be a star? Well, you’ll have a bit of work to do. First, you start as a cloud of interstellar gas and dust – a protostar – travelling through the cosmos. You’ll need to collect more gas and dust, all the while hoping that the harsh ultraviolet radiation from other stars doesn’t strip away too much of your material. Then, one eon, you may collapse into a hot, dense core… and become a star.
These are precisely the trials we’re currently watching protostar IRAS 20324+4057 face. In the approximate neighbourhood of the constellation Cygnus, gravity and light have begun their one-hundred-thousand-year battle to determine whether a star is born – and, if so, whether it will be the pitiful size of our own Sun or an explosive supernova.
There’s also the chance that this caterpillar-shaped phenomenon could end up as a butterfly-shaped nebula. How’s that for grand-scale metamorphosis?
Read more on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Website.