Intense ultraviolet radiation from newly formed stars can ionise surrounding hydrogen gas, stripping away electrons and causing the gas to emit a faint pinkish glow. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, using the FORS instrument, captured that glow in an emission nebula known Gum 26, a star-forming region some 20,000 light years away in the southern constellation Vela. By catching such stars “pink handed,” ESO says in a statement, astronomers can learn more about the conditions in which stars form and how such stellar nurseries influence their environments. This image of Gum 26 was captured as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme to produce images of especially captivating objects for education and public outreach.
Surrounded by an envelope of dust, the subject of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a young pre-main-sequence star known as HBC 1. The star is in an immature and adolescent phase of life, hence its classification — most of a Sun-like star’s life is spent in a stage comparable to human adulthood dubbed the main sequence.