First Internet

Infrared observations see ‘baby stars’ further than ever before

Observing young stars using the UK Infra-Red Telescope has allowed astronomers to see some that have never been witnessed before, by effectively seeing through the dust and gas of the Milky Way.

Using optical filters near infrared, false-colour images of several of these proto-stars have been created and published by the University of Kent.

They show how the pressure of radiation in molecular clouds in space can be enough to trigger star formation, and how these new stars – even if the star itself is still completely invisible to telescopes – can be observed by the supersonic jets of gas they drive at their poles.

Dr Dirk Froebrich of the University’s Centre for Planetary Science said: “We will ultimately have much better statistics, meaning we will be able to investigate the physical mechanisms that determine the jet lengths, as well as their power.

“This will bring us much closer to answering some of the fundamental questions of star formation.”

And interpreting the data in a visual sense requires the use of optical filters near infrared to transform wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye into colours like red, green or blue.

The redder the image, the cooler the star, making it easier for a layperson to appreciate these distant galactic events at a glance