Nav: Home

Hubble reveals cosmic Bat Shadow in the Serpent's Tail

October 31, 2018

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.

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.
-end-
More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Image credit: NASA, ESA

Links

* Images of Hubble - http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/archive/category/spacecraft/

* Hubblesite release - http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2018-40

Contacts

Mathias Jäger
ESA/Hubble, Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Cell: +49 176 62397500
Email: mjaeger@partner.eso.org

ESA/Hubble Information Centre

Related Nebula Articles:

Scientists detect crab nebula using innovative gamma-ray telescope
The prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (SCT)--developed by scientists at the Columbia University in collaboration with researchers from other institutions--is part of an international effort, known as the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA), which aims to construct the world's largest and most powerful gamma-ray observatory, with more than 100 similar telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres.
On the origin of massive stars
This scene of stellar creation, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, sits near the outskirts of the famous Tarantula Nebula.
Astrophysicists link brightening of pulsar wind nebula to pulsar spin-down rate transition
Astrophysicists have discovered that the pulsar wind nebula (PWN) surrounding the famous pulsar B0540-69 brightened gradually after the pulsar experienced a sudden spin-down rate transition (SRT).
The highest energy gamma rays discovered by the Tibet ASgamma experiment
The Tibet ASgamma experiment, a China-Japan joint research project, has discovered the highest energy cosmic gamma rays ever observed from an astrophysical source - in this case, the 'Crab Nebula.' The experiment detected gamma rays ranging from > 100 Teraelectron volts (TeV) to an estimated 450 TeV.
Hubble celebrates its 29th birthday with unrivaled view of the Southern Crab Nebula
This incredible image of the hourglass-shaped Southern Crab Nebula was taken to mark the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's 29th anniversary in space.
Lifting the veil on star formation in the Orion Nebula
Writing in 'Nature', an international research team including astronomers from Cologne describe their discovery that stellar wind from a newborn star in the Orion Nebula is preventing more stars from forming nearby.
Hubble reveals cosmic Bat Shadow in the Serpent's Tail
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured part of the wondrous Serpens Nebula, lit up by the star HBC 672.
Ultra-close stars discovered inside a planetary nebula
An international team of astronomers have discovered two stars in a binary pair that complete an orbit around each other in a little over three hours, residing in the planetary nebula M3-1.
Stars vs. dust in the Carina Nebula
The Carina Nebula, one of the largest and brightest nebulae in the night sky, has been beautifully imaged by ESO's VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.
Discovery of a structurally 'inside-out' planetary nebula
The Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) in Spain, the Laboratory for Space Research (LSR) of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), and an International team comprising scientists from Argentina, Mexico and Germany have discovered the unusual evolution of the central star of a planetary nebula in our Milky Way.
More Nebula News and Nebula Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Falling
There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.