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Hubble Views the Dawn of a Sun-like Star

Looking like a glittering cosmic geode, a trio of dazzling stars blaze from the hollowed-out cavity of a reflection nebula in this new image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The Triple-Star System

The triple-star system consists of the variable star HP Tau, HP Tau G2, and HP Tau G3. HP Tau is a T Tauri star, a young variable star that hasn’t yet begun nuclear fusion but is evolving into a hydrogen-fueled star similar to our Sun. T Tauri stars are typically younger than 10 million years old, while our Sun is around 4.6 billion years old. These stars often remain surrounded by the dust and gas clouds from which they formed.

Variable Brightness

HP Tau’s brightness changes over time due to both periodic and random fluctuations. The chaotic nature of a developing young star leads to instabilities in the accretion disk of dust and gas around the star, material falling onto the star, and surface flares. Giant sunspots rotating in and out of view also contribute to periodic changes.

Reflection Nebula

Curving around the stars, a cloud of gas and dust shines with their reflected light. Reflection nebulae do not emit visible light of their own but glow as nearby starlight bounces off the gas and dust, akin to fog illuminated by car headlights.

Location

HP Tau is approximately 550 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. Hubble studied HP Tau as part of an investigation into protoplanetary disks, the material around stars that coalesces into planets over millions of years.

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