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Young stars belch fiery gas in Hubble
time-lapse movies

Binary star movie
A hot gas bubble erupts from the binary star system XZ Tauri in this sequence of Hubble images  

(CNN) -- Astronomers on Thursday released time-lapse movies dramatizing the fiery behavior of two young star systems, observations that could shed light on the genesis of our solar system.

The nearby stars, less than a million years old, issue hot gas in blazing bursts of thick clouds or narrow jets, often so quickly that striking changes take place in weeks or months, Hubble scientists said.

Astronomers made the two movies, which show stellar gas plowing into space at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour, using sequences of photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope between 1995 and 2000.

"For young stars, these Hubble movies are the best ones I know of," said Karl Stapelfeldt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The fiery gas cloud that erupts from the XZ Tauri binary star system is only several decades old.

Watch video of the 'fountains of fire' in motion

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Cult 3D model of
Hubble Space Telescope

"The bubble is a unique and peculiar outflow that we have been lucky enough to spot in an early stage of development," Stapelfeldt said.

The mass being ejected from the XZ Tauri bubble is at least 10 thousand times greater than what the sun loses in a coronal mass ejection, a periodic discharge that can brighten auroras and vex electrical systems on Earth, according to Stapelfeldt.

An unseen disk around one or both stars supplies the gas for the outburst. A similar disk around the young star HH 30, however, is quite prominent.

It appears in the bottom of the image, edge-on, as a flattened, dark band of dust. The disk blocks light from the central star but reflects starlight in dust below and above the disk band.

Single star movie
A dark accretion disk provides fuel for twin jets streaming from star HH 30  

"The Hubble results on HH 30 provide the greatest image detail to date of an accretion disk," or ring of gas and dust commonly found around young stars, according to Stapelfeldt.

"With Hubble's great resolution, we are seeing the light move around an accretion disk for the first time."

The magnetic field around the star helps shape the long narrow jets that stream in opposite directions from the top and bottom of the star. A similar process influenced the gas outburst from XZ Tauri, Hubble astronomers said.

The snapshots of the two star systems could give astronomers a revealing glimpse into the past of another, more familiar one.

"We are looking here at images of what the sun was probably doing during the first few hundred thousand years after it formed," Stapelfeldt said.

"This dynamic behavior undoubtedly influences the conditions in the disk that determine when, where and how the planets form."

Managed by NASA and the European Space Agency, the Hubble Space Telescope began orbiting Earth in 1990 and has given scientists a view of the heavens with unprecedented visual clarity.

Nebulous 'Spirograph' astounds Hubble astronomers
September 11, 2000
Hubble watches cosmic 'butterfly' emerge
September 5, 2000
Hubble shows mystery object in new light
August 31, 2000
Hubble investigates mystery of a dying star
August 3, 2000

Space Telescope Science Institute
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Hubble Heritage Project
NASA Homepage
European Space Agency

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