The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured part of the wondrous Serpens Nebula, lit up by the star HBC 672. This young star casts a striking shadow -- nicknamed the Bat Shadow -- on the nebula behind it, revealing telltale signs of its otherwise invisible protoplanetary disc.
The Serpens Nebula, located in the tail of the Serpent (Serpens Cauda) about 1300 light-years away, is a reflection nebula that owes most of its sheen to the light emitted by stars like HBC 672 -- ?a young star nestled in its dusty folds. In this image the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has exposed two vast cone-like shadows emanating from HBC 672.
This image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the Serpens Nebula, a stellar nursery about 1300 light-years away. Within the nebula, in the upper right of the image, a shadow is created by the protoplanetary disc surrounding the star HBC 672. While the disc of debris is too tiny to be seen even by Hubble, its shadow is projected upon the cloud in which it was born. In this view, the feature -- nicknamed the Bat Shadow -- spans approximately 200 times the diameter of our own Solar System.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI
These colossal shadows on the Serpens Nebula are cast by the protoplanetary disc surrounding HBC 672. By clinging tightly to the star the disc creates an imposing shadow, much larger than the disc -- approximately 200 times the diameter of our own Solar System.
The disc's shadow is similar to that produced by a cylindrical lamp shade. Light escapes from the top and bottom of the shade, but along its circumference, dark cones of shadow form.
The disc itself is so small and far away from Earth that not even Hubble can detect it encircling its host star. However, the shadow feature -- nicknamed the Bat Shadow -- reveals details of the disc's shape and nature. The presence of a shadow implies that the disc is being viewed nearly edge-on.
Whilst most of the shadow is completely opaque, scientists can look for colour differences along its edges, where some light gets through. Using the shape and colour of the shadow, they can determine the size and composition of dust grains in the disc.
The whole Serpens Nebula, of which this image shows only a tiny part, could host more of these shadow projections. The nebula envelops hundreds of young stars, many of which could also be in the process of forming planets in a protoplanetary disc.
Although shadow-casting discs are common around young stars, the combination of an edge-on viewing angle and the surrounding nebula is rare. However, in an unlikely coincidence, a similar looking shadow phenomenon can be seen emanating from another young star, in the upper left of the image.
These precious insights into protoplanetary discs around young stars allow astronomers to study our own past. The planetary system we live in once emerged from a similar protoplanetary disc when the Sun was only a few million years old. By studying these distant discs we get to uncover the formation and evolution of our own cosmic home.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.
Image credit: NASA, ESA
* Images of Hubble - http://www.
* Hubblesite release - http://hubblesite.
ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Cell: +49 176 62397500
Mathias Jaeger | EurekAlert!
UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion
16.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire
NASA keeps watch over space explosions
16.11.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
19.11.2018 | Science Education
19.11.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
19.11.2018 | Life Sciences