Reflections of Starlight Captured by Hubble Space Telescope

Credit: NASA, ESA, and K. Stapelfeldt (Jet Propulsion Laboratory); Processing; Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

This Hubble Space Telescope image captures a portion of the reflection nebula IC 2631, which contains a protostar, the hot, dense core of a forming star that is accumulating gas and dust. Eventually, the protostar may gravitationally gather enough matter to begin nuclear fusion and emit its own energy and starlight.

Reflection nebulae are clouds of gas and dust that reflect the light from nearby stars. The starlight scatters through the gas and dust like a flashlight beam shining on mist in the dark and illuminates it. Because of the way light scatters when it hits the fine dust of the interstellar medium, these nebulae are often bluish in color.

Hubble observed this nebula while looking for disks of gas and dust around young stars. Such disks are left over from the formation of the star and may eventually form planets.

AstronomyHubble Space TelescopeNASA