This photo of the birth of a star -- newly captured by the Hubble Space Telescope -- is so beautiful that it seems unreal, like a picture-perfect matte painting for a science-fiction movie. But there's no fiction in here -- it's all science.
This new Hubble image shows IRAS 14568-6304, a young star that is cloaked in a haze of golden gas and dust. It appears to be embedded within an intriguing swoosh of dark sky, which curves through the image and obscures the sky behind.
IRAS 14568-6304 is special because it is driving a protostellar jet, which appears here as the "tail" below the star. This jet is the leftover gas and dust that the star took from its parent cloud in order to form. While most of this material forms the star and its accretion disc -- the disc of material surrounding the star, which may one day form planets -- at some point in the formation process the star began to eject some of the material at supersonic speeds through space. This phenomenon is not only beautiful, but can also provide us with valuable clues about the process of star formation.
I seriously can't think of any star captured by Hubble that is more beautiful than this.