Colourful clouds of star-forming gas and dust host stellar nurseries

Dense clouds of gas and dust like those shown here near the plane of the Milky Way in the constellation Scorpius provide the raw material for star birth and host numerous stellar nurseries. In the orange smudge across the centre of this image is a massive young star known as G345.4938+01.4677 that is surrounded by a large ring of gas and dust and features a supersonic jet of material flowing away into space. Such hot young stars would normally be expected to generate torrents of ultraviolet radiation, pushing such material away and making the formation of discs and jets around such massive suns unlikely. But that is what the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array detected in 2014. This image from the 4-metre Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, or VISTA, at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile shows the region in context.

Image: ESO/VVV Team/A. Guzmán

The star in question can be seen in this VISTA infrared image below as a dim red spot at the center of the magnified view at lower left.

Image: Image: ESO/VVV Team/A. Guzmán