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Hubble Finds 'Serpent Bearer' Cloud Of Dust, Gas And Rage (PICTURES)

12/08/2013 14:15 BST | Updated 12/10/2013 10:12 BST

The Hubble space telescope still has the capacity to surprise - sometimes because of the depth and utility of its data, other times because it's just found something really weird looking.

The latter is definitely the case with LDN 43, a dark cloud of gas discovered 520 light years from Earth in the constellation of Ophiuchus (aka the Serpent Bearer).

nasa

This strange, almost monstrous-looking cloud of particles, gas and dust is the stuff from which stars are eventually born, once gravity binds it together in a dense enough ball. In fact, LDN 43 is already hiding at least one star - RNO 91 - deep inside its clouds, although it is so young it hasn't yet started to burn hydrogen in its core.

Nasa explains:

The energy that allows RNO 91 to shine comes from gravitational contraction. The star is being compressed by its own weight until, at some point, a critical mass will be reached and hydrogen, its main component, will begin to fuse together, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process. This will mark the beginning of adulthood for the star. But even before this happens the adolescent star is bright enough to shine and generate powerful stellar winds, emitting intense X-ray and radio emission.

RNO 91 is a variable star around half the mass of the Sun. Astronomers have been able to observe the existence of a dusty, icy disk surrounding it, stretching out to over 1,700 times the distance from Earth to the Sun. It is believed that this disk may host protoplanets — planets in the process of being formed — and will eventually evolve into a fully-fledged planetary system.