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Emerging Star RY Tau

The image reveals tremendous detail in the wispy remains of the gas cloud that formed the bright star at bottom/center. This system is approximately 140 parsecs (450 light years) away, and spans about 2/3 of a light year. The central star is a variable star that ranges between visual magnitudes 9 and 11 over an irregular period of time.

The object, known as RY Tau is part of a class of objects known as T Tauri stars. These stars represent the very youngest of low-mass stellar specimens that have only recently emerged from the cocoon of gas and dust in which they formed. The new Gemini image of RY Tau displays a striking array of wispy gas filaments that glow from scattering caused by radiation from the nearby star. Over the next few million years this gas will be blown away by the central star leaving a normal star and perhaps a family of planets that also formed from gas and dust in the cloud.

This star-birth process is similar to the one observed in McNeil's nebula, which was photographed before, during, and after a star's emergence.