Hubble has captured “a striking new image [of a] star in the process of forming within the Chamaeleon cloud […] throwing off narrow streams of gas from its poles.” Looks like the wings of an angel or a scene from Star Trek, with the Enterprise about to enter the frame.
The object is known as HH 909A and it is just 500 light-years away from Earth. From the Hubble side:
These speedy outflows collide with the slower surrounding gas, lighting up the region.
When new stars form, they gather material hungrily from the space around them. A young star will continue to feed its huge appetite until it becomes massive enough to trigger nuclear fusion reactions in its core, which light the star up brightly.
Before this happens, new stars undergo a phase during which they violently throw bursts of material out into space. This material is ejected as narrow jets that streak away into space at breakneck speeds of hundreds of kilometres per second, colliding with nearby gas and dust and lighting up the region. The resulting narrow, patchy regions of faintly glowing nebulosity are known as Herbig-Haro objects. They are very short-lived structures, and can be seen to visibly change and evolve over a matter of years — just the blink of an eye on astronomical timescales.
The image was processed by Judy Schmidt and is part of the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition.