Young Stars Like IRAS 12196-6300 Display Prominent Emission Lines

With characteristics indicating the presence of specific atoms and molecules

Showcased at the centre of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is an emission-line star known as IRAS 12196-6300. Located just under 2300 light-years from Earth, this star displays prominent emission lines, meaning that the star’s light, dispersed into a spectrum, shows up as a rainbow of colours marked with a characteristic pattern of dark and bright lines. The characteristics of these lines, when compared to the “fingerprints” left by particular atoms and molecules, can be used to reveal IRAS 12196-6300’s chemical composition. Under 10 million years old and not yet burning hydrogen at its core, unlike the Sun, this star is still in its infancy. Further evidence of IRAS 12196-6300’s youth is provided by the presence of reflection nebulae. These hazy clouds, pictured floating above and below IRAS 12196-6300, are created when light from a star reflects off a high concentration of nearby dust, such as the dusty material still remaining from IRAS 12196-6300’s formation.
Showcased at the centre of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is an emission-line star known as IRAS 12196-6300.

Space news (April 01, 2016) – looking for the chemical fingerprints of atoms and molecules in the spectrum of a star 2,300 light-years from Earth –

The bright, young star near the center of the Hubble image above is IRAS 12196-6300, a star showing signs of infancy in the presence of smoky clouds of gas and dust seen floating above and below it. In this case, created as light from the star reflects off high concentrations of nearby dust leftover from its formation.

At just under ten million years old, IRAS 12196-6300 hasn’t started burning hydrogen at its core. The light from this star, when broken into a spectrum using a prism, breaks into hundreds, even thousands, of segments separated by dark gaps, or “lines”. Each dark gap is the result of a specific chemical element in the outer solar gasses absorbing light from the continuous, unbroken spectrum generated by the star.

The eventual strength of the dark gap (absorption line) – the amount of continuous solar spectrum absorbed – is directly related to the abundance of each specific chemical element in the outer solar gasses. By comparing characteristics of absorption lines and doing additional experiments astronomers are able to determine relative elemental abundances in the outer solar gasses of a star.

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