(See description below)
A Star Is Born
Only recently discovered by amateur astronomer Julian W. McNeil II, this peculiar looking object is currently classified as a cometary-type reflection nebula. The newborn nebula was found while processing a wide field image of Orion's Messier 78 nebular region which was taken from McNeil's suburban backyard using a 3-inch refractor. Images taken of the area before September of 2003 show absolutely no signs of the nebula nor its ruddy illuminating star, which can be seen near the object's southern apex (upper left). Preliminary research by Bo Reipurth (Univ. of Hawaii) reveals that the nebula was created when the deeply imbedded fetal star previously catalogued as IRAS 05436-0007 somehow erupted and went into outburst. The young star's sudden increase in brightness consequently resulted in the surrounding cocoon of gas and dust becoming illuminated much like a lighthouse would light up a foggy harbor. To actually capture such an eruption of a pre-main sequence star so early in it's evolution is an extremely rare occurrence. Often regarded as FU Orionis or EX Lupii type events, these sudden outbursts represent a very illusive stage through which most stars are thought to pass as they make final adjustments with their surroundings before settling down and becoming stable objects much like our very own Sun.
The picture sequence below shows the birth of the star.